Living with: Volkswagen Golf 1.0

Living with: Volkswagen Golf 1.0
Living with: Volkswagen Golf 1.0

Can a Golf with a titchy engine still be a benchmark family hatchback?

Downsizing has become popular in two areas: house purchase and car engines. Manufacturers have been frantically developing small turbocharged petrol engines to deliver a cleaner alternative to diesels, and Volkswagen is no exception.

We’ve been running around in a Golf 1.0 TSI for the last nine months. On delivery, a couple of the key mechanical spec numbers looked a bit feeble – 999cc, 113bhp – but the third one was more hopeful – 148lb ft from just 2000rpm. That hope has been fulfilled over our 19,000 miles, both on fast A-roads and motorways where the VW was perfectly happy to bowI along at a surprisingly decent rate, and in town where the little engine produced a jolly thrum as it busied itself on daily commutes.

As long as you’re happy to tramp on the throttle and run out to the top of each gear, you can do the 0-60mph sprint in under 10 seconds. In a nine-month mix of steady motorway cruising and urban bustle we found our 1.0 TSI rarely dropped below the 50mpg mark. Our previous 1.6 Bluemotion diesel Golf was only about 2mpg more efficient.

There was one concern with the engine, and that was its appetite for oil. In nine months and 19,000 miles it swigged nearly five litres of oil. Apart from the cost – about £50 – that seems a lot for a new car.

Inside, the Golf’s ride and seat comfort beat all expectations. Not many cars at any price will leave you feeling relatively compos mentis after one-day round trips from London to Liverpool and Nottingham, but the Golf does. Its practicality has been put to the test in a wide variety of ways too, from safely transporting queasy daughters back from parties and parents from days out to collecting a swarm of bees (in a box, thankfully). No complaints were received.

The car doubled up as a mobile office and workspace on more than one occasion when it made more sense to wait for a child to finish their tutoring than to go home and come back again. The driver’s seat slides back far enough to allow a laptop to be used, there are lots of storage spaces for pens and notebooks, and there’s a small lidded compartment below the steering wheel which found a use as a sewing kit holder when tapes needed to be stitched into items of school uniform.

Rear seat passengers found no shortage of space, and the boot unflinchingly accepted a stack of food and folding chairs for a day out at the beach.

How was Volkswagen dealer servicing? Well, the first service wasn’t especially cheap at £200, but you couldn’t question the thoroughness of the inspection and the report produced on the car’s return which included a note on the expected life of the tyres and brake pads.

We were keen to discover if a small-engined biggish car could deal with the unpredictable mix of family motoring. Our experience of the 1.0 Golf is that it certainly can, thanks not only to the low-rev kick of the turbocharger but also to the practical and roomy interior, reassuringly safe handling and comfy ride. It’s a superb do-it-all proposition.

Would we change anything about the Golf? Not really, but we’d add something: a quick-clearing windscreen. Sitting on the drive for five minutes with the air-con on full blast waiting for the windscreen to demist (irrespective of the early-morning weather) was annoying. At least the faster-acting heated front seats made the physical experience a bit nicer.

Otherwise, the time for handing back the keys of this particular Golf felt like it came around rather too quickly.

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