- Much improved value equation
- Best-in-class infotainment
- 1.4-litre turbo quick when pushed
- No DAB digital radio offered
- No manual on the upper trims
- Driver Assist Pack should be standard on Highline
How do you improve the best small car on the market? That’s a question Volkswagen have been pondering for some time. Resting on your laurels is dangerous – even for VW, whose seventh-generation Golf continues to wear the accolade of leading hatchback four years after the car’s 2013 launch. Do nothing, and inevitably, your competitors will catch you – and cars like the Hyundai i30 and Holden Astra are now better than ever. Wolfsburg are keenly aware of this: do nothing wasn’t an option. Instead, the response is the most comprehensive mid-life update to a Golf ever – enter the 2017 Volkswagen Golf 7.5.
We had few complaints about the outgoing Golf 7 – and reflecting this, Volkswagen have skipped wholesale changes to the car. They’ve opted for a large number of new refinements that boost the performance, add to the value proposition and modernise the Golf’s technology in order to stave off the attacks from Korea, Japan, and within Europe itself.
Under the bonnet the Golf’s small but willing 92kW turbo four-cylinder has been jettisoned in favour of a significantly beefier 110kW version, reflecting similar decisions by Hyundai and Holden to meet buyer demand for more power in the hatchback segment. Inside, small, old displays are gone, replaced by big and beautiful glass touchscreens and the option of an Audi-style, 12-inch, fully-digital set of driver dials for the first time ever in this class.
Small omissions have now been corrected, too: at last, autonomous emergency braking is standard across the Golf range. Value is up, especially on the base model, which aside from the more powerful engine and better cabin tech, replaces steel wheels with smart alloys. But prices are up too – more than $1,000 on the base car – and the effect of this will be most felt when Volkswagen’s current driveaway launch specials are no longer in effect.
On the launch of the Mk7.5 Golf in the Yarra Valley in Victoria, we were curious to see how much appeal these new features added, and if anything else about the Golf had changed. We drove it hard on some of the country’s best roads, but also in Melbourne and in a variety of conditions. So, with a slew of new competitors, is the class favourite still the best all-rounder small car? Based on first impressions, we think so.
Aside from the addition of a more powerful engine on the lower Golf grades, the Mk 7.5 Volkswagen Golf is mechanically unchanged from its predecessor. That’s no bad thing. Even after four years on the market, the Golf 7 remained the dynamic leader of this class and with more punch, the Mk 7.5 merely extends this lead.
And that more powerful engine is centrepiece to the update. The old 92kW turbo four is out, replaced by the familiar 110kW 110TSI from older high-end Golfs, and other contemporary Volkswagens like the Tiguan. It’s a 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine, and it produces 110kW of power between 5,000 and 6,000rpm and a gutsy 250Nm of torque between 1,500 and 3,500rpm.
The engine can be a touch laggy low down, especially in the (otherwise sweet) six-speed manual, but open the taps and it rapidly builds to warm hatch levels of sportiness - it genuinely feels quicker than those modest figures suggest. Volkswagen claims a 0-100km/h time of 8.2 seconds, but in reality it does feel quicker than that, something you cannot say for its naturally aspirated rivals.
Choose a Golf Highline, and you unlock the option of a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel, which produces 110kW of power between 3,500 and 4,000rpm, and a ballsy 340Nm of torque between 1,750 and 3,000rpm. The 2.0TDI is only available with a new seven-speed wet clutch dual-clutch automatic transmission, and remains a slightly rattly but strong performer, capable of just above 4L/100km on the open road.
You get the option of a six-speed manual on petrol 110TSI and Trendline models, but otherwise the Golf 7.5 comes with a seven-speed dry clutch dual-clutch automatic, which still exhibits some of the low-speed hesitancy that we’ve come to expect from DSG boxes. However, once on the move, shifts are lightning quick and the DSG’s speediness reduces the effect of the engine’s turbo lag - when power is needed, it promptly downshifts and you get moving.
There is plenty of similarity in the driving experience to the outgoing Golf 7. The Golf 7.5 is extremely competent across all disciplines, but if it’s overall sportiness – as opposed to refined comfort – that you’re searching for, a Holden Astra just shades the Golf. Even so, on the Golf 7.5’s launch in the Yarra Valley in Victoria, the Golf 7.5 was more than capable of putting a smile on my face.
This is a car that’s more than eager to tackle corners with aplomb, even in the wild and wet weather on launch. The ride quality in particular is a real highlight of the Golf 7.5 range. Various types of bumps are rarely felt in the cabin - the suspension simply hits a bump, soaks it up and gets on with the job, with a level of plushness superior to other recent Volkswagen products, such as the new Tiguan.
The Golf’s steering is well-weighted as well, and lightens up nicely at lower speeds to help with low-speed manoeuvring and parking.
One of the biggest points of difference between Golf 7 and 7.5 is that a greater range of active safety equipment is available, with autonomous emergency braking coming as standard across the entire 7.5 range - it was previously part of the optional Driver Assistance Package. The Driver Assistance Package is still available on the 7.5, and this time incorporates greater functionality including radar cruise control, blind-spot monitoring with rear traffic alert, lane assist, automatic parallel and 90-degree parking, four different driving modes and a personalisation program for different keys. Most of these systems work brilliantly without being annoying, though the adaptive cruise control can be slow to react when overtaking.
In truth, Volkswagen didn’t need to make many changes to the Golf’s already-solid interior but they’ve done so anyway, with the Golf 7.5 receiving fresh cabin design cues. Despite the fact the Golf 7 moved slightly downhill from the unbelievably plush Golf 6, this cabin remains one of the best in class – and it’s particularly impressive on lower-end Golfs which have an entry point of just $23,990. Soft-touch materials line the dashboard and the tops of the front doors, with respective seat trim on the door armrests and little touches, like satin chrome highlights keeping the Golf’s cabin a largely classy affair.
The major change inside the new Golf is the inclusion of all-new infotainment screens that look more modern, and are now easier to use. Even the entry-level 110TSI scores a huge eight-inch touchscreen system with integrated Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring, as well as a high-res rear camera – contrasting directly with a Mazda 3 Neo’s ancient single-DIN black screen. The Golf’s touchscreen is quick to use, and it’s got large icons to make using it at speed safer. But the touchscreen’s location is a bit too low, which jarrs ergonomically.
The seats have been revised slightly, with new fabrics and a new seat types available for some of the models, including ‘comfort’ seats on the Comfortline and ‘comfort sport’ seats on the Highline – a grade which receives high quality leather and seat heating in the front. Seats have long been a Volkswagen strong point and these are no different - they offer all-day comfort, with good lateral support. Only the lack of under-thigh angle adjustment could improve a near-perfect driving position. Choose the Highline model with the R-Line package and you get some deeply-bolstered sports seats that hug you nicely in the corners - it’s a shame you aren’t able to get the R-Line package on lower models.
Even rear passengers are thought of in the Golf, with some comfortable and supportive rear seats. Even the middle seat, typically unusable in most small cars, is fine for average to taller adults, with good foot room in each footwell to place feet.
Despite being a physically smaller car than many of its rivals, the Golf 7 was one of the more practical options in the small car class. The Golf 7.5 hasn’t fiddled with this strong suit. Cabin storage is plentiful, with huge door pockets that are flock-lined to stop your everyday items from rattling. There’s also a large glovebox, a centre console bin with an adjustable armrest, two small cupholders in the centre console with a sliding cover, a tray in front of the gearbox to play your phone with single USB and AUX inputs and a sneaky pull-out box underneath the headlight dial to hide wallets and so on.
Front seat space is excellent, which enough space in all directions for front occupants of all sizes - everything is also logically laid out and easy to find within the Golf’s cabin.
Rear seat passengers are treated well, with rear air vents coming as standard across the range, as well as map pockets, the same huge door pockets and if you go for a Trendline and above, you get a rear centre armrest with cupholders and a ski pass through. Rear seat space is also among best in class - sitting behind my six foot self, I’ve got ample foot and headroom.
The Golf’s boot remains at a large 380-litres, easily eclipsing that of its main rivals - a Mazda 3 hatchback, for example, offers a paltry 308-litres. There are a number of clever features offered in the boot that show significant attention has been paid, such as a variable boot floor on every spec, some side storage for bottles or more delicate items, two shopping bag hooks and on Comfortline models and above, another 12V socket for car fridges or vacuum cleaners. Fold the rear seats down, and Volkswagen claims that there is 1,270-litres of space available, which is huge.
RELIABILITY & RUNNING COSTS
This running cost data is based on what we predict will be the most popular Golf 7.5 model, the 110TSI Comfortline DSG ($28,990).
Servicing the Golf 7.5
The Golf is covered by Volkswagen’s three-year/100,000km warranty, with three years of roadside assistance. The Golf is also covered by their six-year capped price servicing arrangement, with service intervals set at once yearly or 15,000km, whichever comes first. Service pricing ranges from an average $318 for a first year/15,000km to a high $719 for a four-year/60,000km service. Over three years/45,000km, the cost averages out at $407 per year, which is higher than the class average.
Running a Mazda 3 SP25 to the same kilometres results in an even higher $489 average over the first three years - the Mazda has only 10,000km intervals, resulting in a fourth service at 40,000km. The Hyundai i30 SR suffers the same 10,000km intervals and must be serviced once more at 40,000km, though its average is still less at $372 per year. The Holden Astra RS is capped in service pricing for life, though its intervals are set at nine-months or every 15,000km, whichever comes first - service pricing ranges from $229 for the first four services to $289 from 75,000km and higher after that, the 120,000km service is $640, for example.
Golf 7.5 fuel consumption
Volkswagen claims an average of 5.4L/100km in mixed driving, which we found to be fairly accurate, recording just above, at 5.6L/100km with a mix of urban, freeway and sportier driving. That’s better than most in this class, especially during suitably uneconomical driving.
Predicted Golf 7.5 depreciation
Glass’ Guide forecasts that after three years, a Golf Comfortline will be worth around $17,500, or 60% of its original value. This compares well to its competitors, with the Mazda 3 SP25’s predicted value being $15,500 or 56% after the same time period, the Holden Astra RS’s predicted value at $15,200 or 56%, and the Hyundai i30 SR at $17,100 or 59%.
VALUE FOR MONEY
Starting from $23,990, the entry-level Golf 110TSI is far better equipped than the last Golf base model, with autonomous emergency braking, 16-inch alloy wheels, an eight-inch infotainment screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring tech, a leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel, cruise control and LED daytime running lights with LED tailights (including the reverse and indicators) all coming as standard equipment.
The base model does increase in price by $1,150 over the outgoing Golf 7 92TSI, but it’s worth it. Not only does the new model add AEB and alloys, but the car’s touchscreen is much larger and crisper. You also have the significant benefit of the larger 110kW engine over the outgoing 92kW version.
Step up the range to the $24,990 Trendline and you get different 16-inch alloys, front and rear parking sensors, automatic headlights and wipers, a rear centre armrest with cupholders, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and better front seats with lumbar adjustment.
It’s at the Trendline spec and above that Volkswagen allow you to option the $1,500 Driver Assist Pack, which adds handy features like adaptive radar cruise control, automatic parallel and 90 degree parking assistance, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning, different driving modes, and a driver-personalisation function that does things like remember your individual radio station presets.
Above the Trendline sits the auto-only Comfortline, which starts from $28,990. The Comfortline adds 17-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, inbuilt satellite navigation, ‘comfort’ front seats with different interior trimmings and a storage tray under the passenger’s seat. The Comfortline further opens up the option of a $2,300 Infotainment Package, which packages a larger 9.2-inch infotainment screen with Gesture Control, a 400 watt Dynaudio stereo and Volkswagen’s 12.3-inch Active Info Display digital dials. The $1,500 Driver Assist package remains optional on the Comfortline.
The top-of-the-line Golf is the $34,490 Highline, available with the 110TSI petrol or a 110TDI turbo diesel. The Highline is effectively a luxury specification, bringing ‘comfort sport’ leather seats with a ten-way adjustable driver’s seat with memory, seat heating for the front passengers, keyless entry and push-button start, a panoramic glass sunroof, front foglights and Highline-specific 17-inch alloy wheels. Or, you can make your Highline look racier with the R-Line package ($2,500) which adds 18-inch wheels, a body kit, sports seats, and a lovely flat-bottomed steering wheel.
The Highline is also available with both the Driver Assist and Infotainment packages – but we would have hoped one or both would be standard at this level. Ticking those boxes makes the Highline an expensive little car at $38,290.
Also, the restriction of true keyless entry and push-button start to the Highline feels a bit cheap on this premium small car, when the Golf’s competitors have this feature on the mid-range car – including the Hyundai i30 Elite, the Mazda 3 SP25 and the Holden Astra RS.
So which Golf would we go for? Well, never before has the base model had enough to seriously recommend, but that’s now changed on the Golf 7.5. The 110TSI – from $23,990 – has enough fruit, and thanks to alloy wheels it no longer looks cheap – and it offers the fundamental Golf driving experience at a much more affordable price.
Holden Astra RS ($27,240)
Holden’s best Euro-sourced product ever, the latest Astra is a strong all-rounder capable of shading the Golf in a few areas, including overall dynamics and sportiness. Not as well built, not as well equipped as a Golf Comfortline, but a fantastic car nonetheless.
Hyundai i30 SR ($28,950)
One of the newest kids on the block, the new i30 is arguably the most polished and complete car to ever come from South Korea, capable of troubling the Golf in many areas. Particularly tempting is the SR with its 1.6-litre turbo engine and sporting set up, the new i30 doesn’t feel as high quality as a Golf, but does cost less to buy in the first place and run. Read our review of the Hyundai i30.
Mazda 3 SP25 ($27,690)
Getting on in a bit in age, the current generation Mazda 3 SP25 still presents a strong value equation, keen driving dynamics and a comprehensive active safety package, with blind spot monitoring, rear traffic alert and autonomous emergency braking featuring as standard. A sporty 2.5-litre naturally aspirated engine is paired with a precise six-speed manual, or an intuitive six-speed automatic.
|Power||110kW between 5,000–6,000rpm|
|Torque||250Nm between 1,500–3,500rpm|
|Power to weight ratio||87.2kW / tonne|
|Fuel consumption (combined)||5.4L/100km|
|Fuel capacity||50 litres|
|Average range||926 kilometres|
Transmission and Drivetrain
|Drivetrain||Front wheel drive|
Dimensions and Weights
|Unoccupied weight||1,261 kilograms|
|Cargo space (seats up)||380 litres|
|Cargo space (seats down)||1,270 litres|