January 2009

Volkswagen Golf 1.6 S 5DR

The new Golf gets the new corporate face

January 2009

picture of car from the frontpicture of car from the rearpicture of car interiorpicture of car in detail

Overall rating

4.0 out of 5 stars


  • Spacious interior
  • Decent equipment in base specification
  • Extremely refined
  • Highly efficient engine range


  • Options and spec can quickly rack up the price
  • Extremely sharp brakes take getting used to
  • Gear change a little on the firm side
  • Delayed introduction of Bluemotion and GTI variants

The definitive compact hatchback for more than three decades, the Golf is now in its sixth generation and still going strong. Building on the strengths of the outgoing model, the MkVI version has been on the end of some carefully considered changes to give the model an even wider appeal.

An expert in producing sensible family cars, Volkswagen has little opportunity to rest on its laurels as opposition manufacturers continue to turn out forward thinking and highly likeable cars in the ultra-competitive C-segment. The Golf has consistently been one of the top contenders in this arena for more than three decades and Volkswagen clearly has no intention of letting that change over the coming years.

As a result, the new version of Europe's most popular hatchback attempts to stretch its reach even further. By introducing huge improvements in terms of refinement, Volkswagen hopes to ensure the Golf not only continues to appeal to traditional C-Segment car buyers, but can also attract customers who traditionally drive larger vehicles and are keen to downsize to reduce running costs.

With this in mind, an ultra frugal line-up of engines has been made available to Golf buyers with the model relying heavily on the Volkswagen Group's 1.4-litre TSI turbocharged unit. Available in different outputs it maximises fuel efficiency, squeezing extremely impressive performance and economy from a small unit. More traditional are the 1.6-litre petrol and 2.0-litre diesel units - again both finely tuned to provide economy without sacrificing performance.

Available with a range of gearboxes including a seven-speed version of the twin-clutch DSG, it seems like a comprehensive line-up. However, with the sub-100g/km Bluemotion version and high performance GTI being introduced after the rest of the range, it's possible that the best is yet to come.

Our verdict on the Volkswagen Golf 1.6 S 5DR

Once again, Volkswagen has shown the way with the Golf. With a fresh face that retains the classic shape, strong equipment levels, excellent road manners and a practical and spacious interior, it's hard to find fault. Refinement and interior quality have taken big steps forward making the model a genuine competitor to more expensive executive cars.


With impressive economy from the entire range of engines the Golf represents a cost effective car to run. Insurance groupings are low thanks to good security and safety measures. The arrival of the Bluemotion version will see potential savings increase further, too. Although very reasonably priced in standard form, adding some of the impressive but expensive options can soon see asking prices escalate.

Space and practicality

A roomy interior makes the Golf one of the most practical cars in its class, particularly in five-door form. The boot is large and square with little wasted space, leg and in particular headroom is excellent in the rear and there's plenty of storage in the front. The glovebox is also chilled, a useful function for long road trips.

Controls and display

The Golf is very obviously a Volkswagen group product, and the new interior bears all the traditional hallmarks. That said, the dials have been repositioned and made clearer with permanent white backlighting and other improvements include the relocation of the steering wheel adjustment lever and electric window switches - tilted towards the occupants and made easier to reach. Central controls are neatly packaged, with a minimalist approach that works well.


Comfort and refinement was the main focus of the MkVI Golf development programme and big improvements have been made in both areas. Double window seals, improved sound damping including a modified windscreen and better aerodynamics all add up to a vast reduction in road and wind noise. Volkswagen as even gone to the lengths of damping the pedals to limit vibration inside the cabin. Supportive seats and standard semi-auto air-con even in base spec add to the comfort levels.

Car security

An immobiliser is standard equipment, as is an automatic speed sensitive door locking system that can be deactivated if required. Naturally, all models feature remote central locking and the lockable glovebox is an additional benefit. The hatchback body means items in the boot are concealed from view by the parcel shelf.

Car safety

A five-star safety rating comes as no surprise considering the impressive array of standard passive and active safety systems incorporated into the new Golf. A raft of airbags including one for the driver's knee, a whiplash restraint system and seatbelt fastening detection for the rear seats are all included. ABS with brake assist, an advanced ESP system with a differential lock and traction control and automatic hazard light activation ought to prevent many of the systems being tested, however.

Driver appeal

A wider chassis gives the Golf a more balanced approach to cornering and, as a result, even the less powerful models can be flung about with ease and confidence. The speed sensitive electric power steering offers excellent feedback and the firm chassis feels responsive and stable. The 1.6-litre engine offers a sensible mix of performance and economy and feels reasonably sprightly, although the turbocharged 1.4-litre unit offers amazing performance from its small capacity. A firm gear change and very sharp brakes take a little getting used to, but the Golf can be as lively or sedate as required and very pleasant to drive.

Family car appeal

An excellent family vehicle, the new Golf will slot into the role with ease. Spacious, practical, safe and easy to drive it's the ideal choice for families of five or less.

First car appeal

The Golf would be an extremely good choice for a first car if it wasn't for the excellent range of even smaller vehicles in the Volkswagen stable. However, if a larger vehicle is required, the Golf's easy nature makes it a sensible choice.

Quality and image

Volkswagen's Golf benefits from one of the finest reputations in the family hatchback market, built on five successful previous generations of the same model. Quality has taken another big stride forward in the MkVI version with refinement and road manners improved over the already impressive MkV. The Golf's popularity means drivers won't particularly stand out from the crowd, but they will stand out as smart cookies.


The new Golf is slightly lower than the outgoing model, but not enough to present any real problems in terms of access. Clearly, the five-door model makes accessing the rear seats easier, but doors open to a wide angle in all versions. The boot door is large and very wide, which means getting items in and out of the large boot is reasonably easy. A high sill does impede progress a little, however.

Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)

Standard equipment on the S trim level is a single slot MP3 compatible CD player and four speakers. Sound quality is acceptable if not groundbreaking but there's no iPod input. More powerful systems are available with the higher specifications and the options list includes touchscreen sat-nav, DVD player and multiple device connectivity, along with a rear view camera. Expect to pay for them though.

Colours and trim

Although there are eleven shades to choose from. colours choices are limited to variants of silver, grey, black, blue, white and red. Regardless, the model's familiar but distinctive shape looks good in all of them although it is the solid shades that seem to do it the most justice. Naturally interior trim improves with the selected trim level, but in base S form the Golf still has a quality feel, with modern fabrics on the seats and the same soft touch plastics as the rest of the range.


Parking the Golf is extremely easy thanks to its speed sensitive steering, good visibility and restrained shape. Volkswagen's ParkAssist system is available as an option - it will measure the size of spaces and operate the steering to reverse the car into them - which might appeal to city drivers.

Spare wheel

Steel space saver fitted as standard.

Range information

Petrol engine options - 1.4-litre (80bhp); 1.4-litre (120); 1.4-litre (157bhp); 1.6-litre (100bhp). Diesel engine options - 2.0-litre (108bhp); 2.0-litre (138bhp). Transmission options: five-speed manual gearbox, six-speed manual gearbox, six-speed DSG twin clutch automatic gearbox with switchable sequential manual mode, seven-speed DSG twin clutch automatic gearbox with switchable sequential manual mode. Trim levels: S, SE, GT.

Alternative cars

Ford Focus The Golf's biggest rival is roomy and drives well

Honda Civic Forward thinking and stylish family hatch

Vauxhall Astra A reasonably priced mainstay in the Golf's segment

Renault Megane All new Megane is a classier affair

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