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Volkswagen Golf wagon 103 TSI Highline 2014 review

Before you sign up to that compact SUV, do yourself yourself a favour.

Before you sign up to that compact SUV, do yourself yourself a favour. Don't. The wagon version of what is by some distance the best hatchback available to humanity is due here in the first quarter of the new year.

Volkswagen's Golf Wagon is a better idea than almost any SUV you care name, including VW's own Tiguan, which is based on an older and lesser Golf.

The Golf wagon uses less fuel than an SUV. It has greater luggage space and better rear passenger room than most. It is certainly, not merely subjectively, a more stylish piece of design, one in which you will surely look less like a lemming. Can it go off road? Yeah, like you're going to drive up to Cape York in your CX-5. Already much lauded in hatch form, this is a niche variant that would be a best-seller in a market less that wasn't defined by unblinking conformity.


A slight premium on the highly competitively priced hatch is indicated, which would seem to place the top spec petrol version driven by us in Germany at some $34,000. That's about the ask for the top diesel Golf hatch, a version that we hold to be almost redundant given the frugality and effectiveness of the turbo petrol 103 TSI.

The multitude of variants available in Europe will be likely rationalised to three out our way - an entrant 90 TSI, a diesel and the 103. With Volkswagen seemingly intent on emulating luxury subsidiary Audi in filling every conceivable niche and coining a few besides, hotter versions - GTI or R types - are remote possibilities.

In mildly optioned form, which would take you to some $40k plus on roads, our 103 TSI quite matches supposedly more auspicious and far dearer wagons from Audi, BMW and Benz. Extras carried from the hatch catalogue include decent paint at $500, leather upholstery at $3000, bright lights for $2150. Standard in the Highline specification 103 TSI is satnav and dynamic chassis control - usually obscenely expensive extras in a prestige car. But then the new Golf, hatch and this shape alike, blur that perception.


Anyone labouring under the tired impression that only a big engine delivers commensurate performance really ought to try this big lifting 1.4-litre four cylinder engine augmented by turbo charging and direct fuel injection. The only occasion when our borderline overladen 103 TSI (three blokes, two of them boofy, each with an international trip worth of luggage) felt short of breath was overtaking at 150km/h plus. Australia, of course, is not cursed by first world freeways. Or driving standards.

With 103kW as it says on the lid, the hefty 250Nm is almost ever present making for a feasibly claimed 5.0L/100km in combined conditions and a sub-nine second run from standing to 100km/h.
To read other media, the twin clutch DSG automatic has been the cause of natural disasters, weakened the dollar and was photographed visiting a house of ill repute.

To those who have driven every version of this auto since its inception in every variant in which it's been available, this latest comes closest to fulfilling the claims VW has long made for it. DSG's effectiveness in swapping gears in motion isn't in doubt, nor has been its maddening even imperilling hesitation off the mark. The latter is at last addressed. If not seamless when moving from stand still, it's now a good deal closer to a conventional auto.

Besides Ford's Focus, the Golf is the only car at this end of the market with a standard electronic differential lock as per the previous GTI. You'll appreciate it in tight quick comers as it quells a front drive car's natural tendency to push wide. Yet more impressive for being Highline standard is the dynamic chassis control and a driving profile selector that give a finger tip's selection between five modes between eco and sport.


VW's bigger Passat is seen more often in wagon than sedan form, but not for much longer, not when the German-made Golf wagon has low triple figures more storage than the Mexico-sourced device it replaces. We alluded to our luggage - three big check through bags and as many carry-ons. All bar one of the latter are easily accommodated with the rear up and this fits into an unused footwell.

The thing's bigger all round than before. Small cars really aren't small anymore. Still the Golf's still marginally more diminutive than the Passat, which only concentrates and sharpens it various lines and design accents. The most pleasing improvement is round the back, where rather plain lamps are replaced by ones that might have been requisitioned from Audi. In a rich blue metallic coat, silver roof rails and lush light leather interior, the Golf wagon looks and feels an act well above its assigned class.


Take the maximum crash rating rating achieved by the hatch as said, the wagon shares its seven-airbags, fatigue detection and auto brakes that detect imminent shunts and apply anchors accordingly. Highline variants have parking sensors fore and aft with reversing camera. A $1300 Driver Assistance Package chucks in adaptive cruise control, city emergency braking, driving profile selection and auto parking.


Once you've cruised in the ambience of Benz E-Class, it's difficult not to regard anything thereunder as just a bit uncouth. Except now the Golf provides something comparable from one third of the cost. The only persistent aural intrusion in our 103 TSI is the wind off the wing mirrors. With sport mode dialled up, you get some indication a torquey turbo four is at play, but then only under acceleration.

This is a cruiser par excellence, one that's family friendlier than its smaller sibling while giving away little in the driving department. Part of that is in the achievement of weight saving - in this enhanced form the Golf tips the scales at a meagre 1368kg. The greater displacement at length is going to be noticeable if driven hard back to back with the comparable hatch - a not unappealing prospect in either. And both will pants an SUV.


A premium German wagon for Hyundai money, this superb family car succeeds in what we'd have imagined impossible - it improves upon the Golf.

Pricing guides

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Range and Specs

118 TSI 1.4L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $18,990 – 24,990 2014 Volkswagen Golf 2014 118 TSI Pricing and Specs
103 TSI Highline 1.4L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $13,000 – 21,990 2014 Volkswagen Golf 2014 103 TSI Highline Pricing and Specs
110 TDI Highline 2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $10,884 – 21,990 2014 Volkswagen Golf 2014 110 TDI Highline Pricing and Specs
90 TSI 1.4L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $9,990 – 15,990 2014 Volkswagen Golf 2014 90 TSI Pricing and Specs
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