Room with a view: Volkswagen Golf SV driven

21 August 2014

Volkswagen Golf SV side view

Volkswagen Golf SV
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Good: roomy, well built, better ergonomics than in the standard Golf
Bad: not very versatile, pricey, disappointing economy
Price: from £18,875 – the 1.6 SE TDI tested starts at £22,585
Volkswagen’s second attempt at inflating the Golf into a midi MPV looks less balloonish than its first. While the now obsolete Golf Plus resembled a kind of giant pufferfish on wheels, the incoming Golf SV might reasonably lay claim to sleek good looks. It’s certainly longer and more chiselled than the Plus, though the result is not quite as handsome or finely honed as the Golf hatchback.

The name Golf Plus has also been ditched, no doubt due to the old car’s sluggish sales. In marketing, you steer clear of a dud just as diligently as when lighting fireworks. As a result, VW has christened its new car Golf Sportsvan in Europe, truncated to Golf SV here in the UK. We don’t use the word minivan to describe people carriers, so the full name sounds odd when attached to something that isn’t a van. Or sporty.

Volkswagen Golf SV front view

Whatever it’s called, the enlarged Golf is pretty practical. With a wheelbase about 5cm longer than the Golf hatchback, 8cm longer from nose to tail and 3.6cm taller, the SV can offer noticeably more space for legs, heads and luggage in the back. And with seating, split 60:40, that can be slid to and fro by 18cm, the SV can allow some juggling between legroom and boot space, though the three-way split of some MPV rivals such as the Ford C-Max would be more versatile still.

At least the middle section of seat back can be flopped forward independently, while a folding front passenger seat is an option, for those times when you need to transport curtain poles, javelins or grandfather clocks.

Volkswagen Golf SV rear view

With seats up, the boot is big, cubic, and varies from 500 to 590 litres according to where the rear seats have been slid. That’s usefully more than the hatchback’s 380 litres, though not quite a match for the capacious Golf Estate and its 605 litres. But then the Estate is a good 22cm longer than the SV.

Don’t imagine that Golf SV will fall between the estate and hatch in terms of price, however. Equivalently trimmed, an estate costs £695 more than a five-door Golf hatchback, whereas the Golf SV is more expensive again, costing £1,245 over the hatch. Or about 5% more, model for model.

Volkswagen Golf SV boot

I suppose you do get at least 5% more car, but the hike still feels a little steep to me. But then I haven’t tried squeezing any baby buggies into the back of an ordinary Golf.

Behind the wheel, the SV’s interior mirrors the exterior in sharing only a vague resemblance to the Golf. You sit taller, high enough for a small drawer to fit under your seat. The centre console is flat faced, rather than angled towards the driver’s seat, and the electronic handbrake has migrated forward to sit alongside the gearstick, making way for a pair of generously sized cupholders between the front seats.

Volkswagen Golf SV driver's view

The middle airvents have also been pushed aside, allowing the standard-fit touchscreen to rise to the top of the centre stack. This puts the screen roughly level with the instruments in the Golf SV, much higher up than in the Golf hatchback and where it properly belongs.

Visibility is a little better than in the hatch, helped by a generous sweep of side glazing that cuts into the Golf’s normally chunky rear pillar. Big front quarterlights are also useful, though the screen pillars, further forward than in the ordinary Golf, do tend to get in the way when approaching a roundabout.

Volkswagen Golf SV gear lever

Interior materials, fit and finish match the high standard of the Golf, unsurprisingly, which means things that move generally glide smoothly, nothing rattles, and most surfaces feel as if they will weather heavy use.

One exception is the small storage bin on the top surface of the dashboard, which I’d advise reserving for things you don’t mind being without. The plasticky button that’s supposed to open the lid obliged only about once in every ten presses for me.

Volkswagen Golf SV dashboard cubby

On the move, the extra height of the SV results in noticeably more sway and body roll than in an equivalent ordinary Golf, though the sensation is never extreme and, for me at least, is preferable to staying rigidly upright while clattering over every lump in the road. Softly sprung versions of the Mercedes B-Class, which shares virtually identical proportions, move about in much the same way.

Body movements are probably exacerbated because my test car, equipped with a 1.6-litre TDI engine boasting 110 horsepower and 250Nm of torque, employs the simpler and lighter of two rear suspension designs. More powerful Golf SV models, with 125 horsepower or more, are fitted with a 15kg heavier but more sophisticated rear suspension. You can expect them to cope better with the conflicting demands of comfort and agility.

Volkswagen Golf SV on the move

The more powerful SV models can also be ordered with adaptable suspension as an option, supervised by a mode button next to the gear lever. You can cycle through the different settings by repeatedly stabbing the button, or hitting it once and choosing your preferred setup via the touchscreen. As well as Comfort, Eco and Sport options, there’s a configurable Individual mode that allows you to tick steering, aircon and engine boxes separately. Where fitted, an automatic gearbox’s keenness to shift can also be tailored.

The manual stick of my car offers just five forward gears, though they seem to be well chosen and the stick slips easily from slot to slot. There’s a gruff drone from the engine but it’s never overbearing, and at a steady cruise it’s the whoosh of wind whipping around the mirrors that dominates. Overall refinement is admirable, so unfortunately you will be able to hear every time someone in the back asks if you’re nearly there yet.

Volkswagen Golf SV driving mode options

There’s no curved interior mirror for keeping an eye on slumbering tots in the back, as seen in some rivals, though the SE trim level of my test car did include rear tray tables, plus a folding central armrest in the back with twin cupholders.

SE trim also brings 16-inch alloy wheels, rather than the 15-inch steelies of the base S edition. The upmarket GT trim boasts 17-inch alloys. There will also be a BlueMotion model of the SV, based on the 1.6-litre TDI in S trim but with various tweaks including eco tyres on 15-inch alloys and lowered sports suspension (in aid of cleaner aerodynamics rather than cornering pace).

Volkswagen Golf SV rear seating

The SE 1.6 TDI of my test is expected to be the best selling SV variant. It has a CO2 rating of 101g/km and a combined cycle score of 72.4mpg. On my particular test run, I saw mid 50s miles per gallon, though I was playing around with Sport mode for a time. The sprint to 62mph takes a reasonable 11.3 seconds, and there’s enough poke to overtake – though it’s worth switching out of the leisurely Eco mode before swinging out past a caravan.

The BlueMotion Golf SV, which I haven’t driven yet, is the only car in the line-up to slip below 100g/km. Achieving ratings of 95g/km and 78.5mpg, while preserving an 11.3-second sprint to 62mph, is good but not outstanding by today’s measures. The BlueMotion Golf hatchback sips along at 85g/km and 88.3mpg, and can reach 62mph in 10.6 seconds. Though arguably a better benchmark for the SV is the most economical Mercedes B-Class, which manages 98g/km, 74.3mpg and an 11.6 second sprint. It costs about the same as the BlueMotion SV too.

Overall, the new Golf SV feels a step ahead of the disappointing Golf Plus but not quite as persuasive a package as it might have been. It seems timid when compared to more versatile people carriers like Citroen’s impressive C4 Picasso, which is only a tiny bit bigger. But if all you hanker after is a Golf with a little more room, your wish is duly granted.

Volkswagen Golf SV front interior

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