Aston Martin celebrates its 100th anniversary with a radical one-off concept car
Model: Volkswagen Golf SE 1.6 TDI
Bodystyle: Five-door hatch
Engine: 1.6-litre turbo four-cylinder, diesel
Transmission: Five-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Gallery: Volkswagen Golf
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What is it?
Finding things to criticise on the sixth generation Golf is tough but in the 'We don't like' section of our first drive last year we listed "limited diesel options" as one of the negative points.
That was true enough at launch, when the only option was the common-rail 2.0-litre TDI. A great engine with loads of power and superb refinement but pricey with it.
There was a stop-gap 110hp version but what the Golf really needed was a smaller capacity diesel and that's what it now has in the shape of VW's all-new 1.6 TDI.
This is a critical engine for VW - and its sister brands - and now brings the whole diesel engine range up to date with the latest common-rail injection and Euro 5 compatibility.
Where does it fit?
Available in 90hp and 105hp tune, this new engine replaces the venerable 1.9 PD diesel engine that was at the core of the VW, SEAT, Skoda and Audi ranges for years.
The fact this new 1.6 matches the 1.9 for power but is cleaner, more frugal and in a different league in refinement terms shows how quickly diesel technology is progressing.
At the core of the S and SE Golf ranges, the 1.6 will be a popular choice with prices starting at £15,795 for the 90hp S three-door, compared with £15,720 for the comparable 1.4 TSI petrol.
The 105hp version starts at £16,540 in S spec, our five-door SE's base price being £17,905 with a five-speed manual gearbox. A seven-speed DSG version is yours for £19,360.
Is it for you?
Well, it's not cheap. But then Golfs never have been and even a Ford Focus Style five-door with the comparable 109hp 1.6 TDCI costs £18,445 these days. It's almost as if the rest of the industry has caught up!
The Golf has always been a sensible place to put your money of course. Indeed, sensible is a word you can't help but come back to all the time. But in this context it's not damning with faint praise.
It's a great looking car this sixth-generation Golf. Mature, with just a dash of the Scirocco's sportiness, it's a perfectly judged piece of design and manages to be both premium and unpretentious.
The feeling continues inside, the interior understated but thoughtfully laid out and generally of very high quality. There are more dynamic looking cars in this sector - say the Renault Megane - but it's hard to argue with the Golf's clean, logical feel.
What does it do well?
The Golf's real trick is that those upgrading from a supermini will feel like they've really gone up a grade in quality, space and comfort. But it will also appeal to downsizers, coming from premium saloons like the 3 Series or C-Class.
Of course, with a few options you can easily send the price soaring to a level where it's in the same ballpark but the beauty is nobody will necessarily notice. It is, when it comes down to it, 'just' a Golf!
It's great to drive too, the expensive multi-link rear suspension carried over from the previous generation car putting it at a big advantage compared with the simple twist beam set-ups on the likes of the Megane and new Astra.
Long-legged and comfortable, this is a car you'll comfortably cover big distances in. Compared with the pared back S spec SE gains a few creature comforts on the interior too and unfashionably small (but the better for comfort) 16-inch alloy wheels.
What doesn't it do well?
In this day and age it's a surprise to see the new 1.6 diesel engine is only fitted with a five-speed gearbox, especially when you realise the 1.4 petrol it more or less matches for price comes with a six-speeder as standard.
It's geared very long too, the better for emissions and economy but, with widely spaced ratios, resulting in a somewhat leisurely pace. The engine is punchy and strong enough but this Golf won't be rushed.
What's it like to live with?
Very pleasant, in an undemanding way. A diesel Golf - riotous GTD version notwithstanding - is not the kind of car you glance at over your shoulder as you walk away and bring a smile to your face.
But when it counts, on that stressful commute, that late night drive in foul weather or when you're tired and just want to get home it'll always be on your side.
The ride is excellent, comfortable without being soggy, and complemented with typically well-weighted controls. True, there's little in the way of pizzazz but that's not what you buy a Golf for.
It's also a little sober inside unless you happen to liven it up with a few extras. In typical press car form our test car had a full Christmas tree spec, including the £680 Park Assist automated parking system.
How green is it?
Pretty good, the new engine's 119g/km matching the figure of the previous generation BlueMotion. The new BlueMotion, also based on the 1.6 TDI, manages 107g/km. Impressive stuff.
The official combined figure of 62.8mpg is also spookily identical to the previous BlueMotion, though out in that oft cited 'real world' we were struggling to get into the mid 50s on a mixed commute.
Would we buy it?
Price apart the only reason you wouldn't choose a Golf over the rivals is if you were looking for a bit of fun and excitement. Which is to say there isn't much frivolity here, just quiet competency and an emphasis on the functional.
There are exciting Golfs - again, look at the GTD or GTI - but this one isn't one of them and, in direct comparison, the perkier, cheaper and six-speed equipped 1.4 TSI petrol would probably get our vote, unless economy really was everything.
More images of the Volkswagen Golf from Bing
Gallery: Volkswagen Golf
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