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The engineers at VW won't leave their bestselling hatchback alone. Now they've gone and redesigned it again

Price from £16,330
MPG 57.6
Top speed 111mph

For almost 40 years, Volkswagen has been working on a single project: the creation of the perfect car. Not the fastest, not the most exciting, not even the most beautiful, but the one that is always just what you need it to be. It's the one that is cheaper than you'd expect and yet more luxurious than you'd hope. It's the one that feels small in the city, yet large in the country. It's the one that's a heavy-footed party in the fast lane, and a ballet dancer at the pumps… It's a car which, in less poetic terms, we call a Golf.

With unwavering self-belief, the German carmaker takes Europe's bestselling car – a multi-award-winning vehicle that has sold almost 30m around the world and which flies out of showrooms so effortlessly you suspect car salesmen have to rope them to their forecourts – and redesigns it again and again. VW's pointyheads won't leave it be. So far they've done this seven times and each time they edge a little closer to their transcendental vision of an omnipotent car.

Most of us would have stopped at Golf 2.0 or 5.0, but I suspect Golf 8.0 is already flickering into life in some secret bunker in Wolfsburg even as 7.0 makes its way on to our streets.

Despite being rebuilt seven times, the car's essential DNA has hardly changed at all. But as the engineers at VW might say: "The divine is in the detail." The 30-page press pack which arrives with the car lists the many tiny changes. An insight into the minutiae of these fine tweaks can be glimpsed when you read lines like: "The space between the accelerator and brake pedals has been increased by 16mm"; and "The track width has been increased by 6mm at the rear and 8mm at the front."

And yet when you put these infinitesimal changes together you get a whole new Golf which is slightly smoother and quieter and faster and safer and lighter and bigger and more fuel efficient and cleaner than the last one. It now has things like a clever 140bhp turbo petrol engine that can switch imperceptibly to two cylinders when the going is gentle, making the power unit more flexible and efficient. Later this year, a frugal-minded BlueMotion model will be added to the line-up that will deliver an astonishing 88.3 miles to the gallon.

Volkswagen has cleverly tip-toed along the fine line between change and continuity. Walter de Silva, the head of design at Volkswagen, says: "There are only a handful of cars with a design that has been refined, tweaked and enhanced down the decades and thus become timeless." The Golf is one of them. And Walter knows what he is talking about. He also happens to be the head of design at Audi, Seat, Skoda, Bentley, Lamborghini and Bugatti. I burst out laughing as I typed that out. What a job. I wonder which one he drives to work in?

Walter's right, a Golf really is timeless. I owned one more than 20 years ago. But driving this brand new one I felt instantly at home. Everything had changed and yet it felt as familiar and comfortable as sitting around my parents' kitchen table. It was only when I glimpsed my face in the rearview mirror, like an automotive Dorian Gray, that I realised just how much time had passed…

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Second chance saloon

The UK's largest buyer of second-hand cars has revealed a few interesting things about the changing consumer behaviour of those of us who prefer to buy "pre-loved" motors. Webuyanycar.com, which began operating in 2006, has analysed data from more than 410,000 cars purchased. The current "average" car sold in Britain is a five-year-old Vauxhall Corsa with 57,000 miles on the clock. The five most popular after the Corsa were a Ford Fiesta, a Ford Focus, a Renault Clio and a VW Golf. The online car buyer also discovered that in 2012 for the first time, more women than men sold second hand cars. Analysis of gender behaviour also reveals that men hang on to their cars longer than women, with more than a 5,000 mile discrepancy. The average man sells his car at 73,231 miles while the average woman sells at 67,724 miles. The research breakdown also reveals the average mileage of second-hand cars. Volvos were sold, on average, accumulating more miles than any other manufacturer. In 2012 the average mileage for Volvos reached 97,005 miles, while French microcar marque Aixam had the lowest average mileage 12,229.

Driverless cars

In the race to let our cars do the driving, some manufacturers are building a significant lead. But is it really a reality? Carloan4u.co.uk has put together this infographic to explain how it all works:


Martin Love

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source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2013/mar/17/volkswagen-golf-car-review


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