Account for every Golf produced since 1974 and there’s one for every Malaysian to treasure. Over 29 million hatchbacks (including other variants) have been produced making the Golf, Volkswagen’s best-selling marque in the group and world’s top selling model of all time across all brands. Many people I know would like to own one if at all as a “trophy” car.

Upon accepting the media invitation to test the new Golf, I couldn’t help but make reference in my mind of the Golf to the decathlon event at the 2012 Olympics; where the title for the greatest athlete in the world is crowned. The above numbers and accolades for the Golf speak for themselves.

The Golf 6 was no different. It wasn’t the fastest hatch, best handling or the most comfortable drive in the segment according to most reviews. But, it does all of them well enough in a package that’s not a show-off, a great all-rounder and enough the take the podium, event after event, allowing the VW brand to savour the applause of a wider world audience, time and time again.

Resetting the Benchmark?

The Golf 7 however is bent again on resetting the benchmark in this field yet again. Despite “athletes” swelling by the month in this segment, competition will be fiercer than the present tablet war. In light of the uncertain global economic environment, the C segment hatch is where “head wind” to growth will be seen amidst shrinking consumer dollar.

We will see unprecedented battle on scale and pace. Any new entrants wishing to compete would need to go back to the “drawing board” if it were to qualify for the “heats” event at all.

Walter de Silva, Head of Design for VW said, “One of the keys to the Golf’s success lies in its continuity. There are a handful of cars with a design that, like the Golf’s , has been refined, tweaked, and enhanced down the decades and thus becomes timeless”

Drive Presentation

Upon landing in Sardinia, we made way to a makeshift purposeful VW construction, immediately outside the airport’s arrival hall. We were quickly introduced to the different model range and given a quick brief of our optional routes to the hotel. We picked up the keys to the 1.4 TSI petrol with manual transmission as the auto version was very much sought after by the Malaysian contigent.  

Since it was my first overseas assignment as a contributing writer, I had my first challenge trying to fit my rather large luggage bag (27 inch length, to be precise) flat into the booth of our test drive car. My driving partner was patient, despite the long journey (3 connecting flights) and advised me that we stand the luggage bag on its sides within the 380 litres booth size.

The 7th generation Golf is now lighter up to 100 kg, fuel efficiency reduced to a maximum 23 percent,(depending on engine selection), is 56mm longer than its predecessor and yes, a 30 litre larger luggage compartment than the outgoing model. The car is also 13mm wider and 28mm lower and does not cost more. (or shall I say, should not cost more)

Such feats are only possible with new production techniques claimed Martin Winterkorn, VW Group Chairman. “This sense of responsibility for building sustainable cars in large numbers is something that we have always been committed to, at Volkswagen. It was therefore important for us to build the most fuel-efficient Golf ever, while keeping it affordable. And we’ve succeeded in doing that” when he presented the seventh generation Golf to the world media at the recent launch.

We tested 3 variants of the Golf notably the new 6-speed manual, 4 cylinder 103kW/250Nm petrol engine, 7-speed with DSG and the 2 litre turbo diesel 110kW/320Nm  engine with a 7-speed manual.

According to T. Yogendra, the 1.4 litre TSI with 7-speed, DSG would most probably be marketed in Malaysia first, so let me tell you more of our drive experience.

Our “playground” was at the sea-side resort of Porto Cervo, an exclusive Mediterranean holiday place

Looks aside, the seventh generation 5 door Golf feels like a small premium saloon apart from it being a hatch. The car we drove was laden with full infotainment, luxury fittings and safety features.

Test Drive

When compared with the current 118kW/160 PS TSI engine, the new 1.4 103kW engine has a very slightly larger engine displacement (1395 vs 1390 cc) but produces  15 kW less power than the Golf 6 (the difference similar to the combined power of two home grass-cutting machines). However the new Golf compensates in a more torqueier engine (250Nm vs 240Nm), an overall lighter vehicle and one with the best fuel efficiency in its class.

With just over 200 inhabitants in the town of Petro Cervo, there was little chance to test much outside noisy, normally possible in most city conditions. Nevertheless, VW engineers claim a reduction of 5dB from the previous model attributed to the redesigned engine mountings, quieter engine and most part; by the elaborately sealed body which seemed a fact.

The Golf performed extremely well around the windy Sardinian roads and was equally comfortable. Somehow, the lowered dimensions glued you to the road at high speeds.

The DSG will be many urban dwellers’ preferred choice, gives you ample time to reflect on your proud purchase every time you interact with the stylish controls and members of the “orchestra” seated on the centre console; they selflessly orientate themselves towards the driver now. Here in lies the bigger 5.8 inch touch screen with a proximity sensor and functions that react with wiping movement by the fingers, enough to bring your focus back on the road, before your next media interaction.

The VW DSG gearbox is the sweetest transmission you can find when coupled on this new package, gave you almost unbeatable driving pleasure in its class.

I have to be honest here and state that I spend much allocated drive time with my partner in the front passenger seat nursing a jet lag with spurts of details observations of the vehicle interior quality, rich fittings and even taking a rear seating position on the pretext of checking the leg room and comfort levels. Take it from me, it can be a nice settling place catching a cat-nap, apart from the times, my partner forgot I was seated horizontal behind.

There is adequate room for 3 adults at the rear, given the limit of booth space and owners may opt to fit a roof rack to carry additional family’s luggage.  

Overall this was a great car to drive (or be driven). You cannot help but feel connected to the vehicle and renew the love for driving each time you get behind the wheel.

Benefits of Platform sharing

With 10 brands under the VW umbrella, it only makes sense to rationalize various in-house brands’ development tactics within its overall strategy. Ultimately for a company to be successful, cost will always present the primary competitor advantage.

The very much hyped about MQB platform (German abbreviation for the shared modular construction of its transverse, front-engined, front-wheel drive vehicles) is a signal of a new thinking in vehicle development. Akin to a Lego set, at the time of writing, approximately 40 different models will be systematically conceptualized from this basic foundation in the 1st tool box. The Audi A3 launched early this year was the first to and certainly not the last brand in the VW stable where the platform will be based upon.

When you consider 95% per cent of the parts in the new Golf 7 are new, the Golf will derive greatest unit cost advantage on this volume game, notwithstanding a shorter development cycle to stave off any rivalry in the coming years.

Having worked in the automotive aftersales sector, the advantage of platform sharing with the various other underpinnings like chassis parts, axles and suspension components; will augur very well for the retail aftersales business as well. From a workshop’s perspective, fewer complexity of parts will be required to be stocked, optimizing stock turns, lesser inventory write-offs at year-end and will support  the familiarity of technicians when working across the model range.

Ultimately savings in running of the business and operational efficiencies can translate to lower owning and maintenance cost for the consumer.

A body shop manager with a main selling brand welcomed the idea of fewer disparate components especially when repairing a car after a frontal collision. He shared that “fewer parts will be required to be stocked now and chances are that the part we have on stock can be used for another model as well.”

There are other brands like Ford and Toyota who are already benefiting from platform sharing, at a fraction of the development cost than manufacturing them individually but watch VW optimizing this strategy across its brands in the future. Ulrich Hackenberg, Head of Volkswagen’s Research and Development, called MQB a "strategic weapon” which I feel, a warning sign of things to come from Wolfsburg.

My favourite Technological innovations

Engine – The modular construction is not limited to platform only but also to the other key components. The latest engine code EA211, similarly enables parts to be interchanged with other models and brands within the group. Overall the engine alone is lighter by 40kg and forms the lion’s share of the overall weight reduction. The engine will see fitment into 50 different VW cars and across 500 applications varying in options, country specifications and local legislations.

Active cyclinder management (ACT) – VW is the world’s first carmaker to implement ACT for the TSI four cylinder engines. The ingenuity here is that the 2 nd and 3rdcylinders are temporarily deactivated depending on driving style which can save up to 0.5 litres of fuel per 100km. In fact, the cylinders still runs, lubricated, but however there is no combustion process during the shut-down phase.

Light weight steel – Dirk Riechhardt, Body Engineer shared, “nearly ¼ of fuel consumption is attributed to propelling the vehicle body weight alone. So any savings in this regards goes directly to the pocket of the consumer. In another way, with up to 100 kg savings we have achieved, we will see approximately 0.3 liter saved over 100 km travelled”.

In the Malaysian context, with the prevailing price of RON 95 at RM1.90 per litre, savings for the average Golf 7 owner driving an average 20,000 km per year at an average consumption of 10 litres/100 km will equate to RM600 per year. This is not yet considering the savings Malaysian government will derive from easing on the subsidy culture. VW estimates that with annual sales of 700k vehicle, averaging 15,000 km per year, savings of 31.5 million litres is already achieved through weight reduction alone. Now that’s what a small step of weight savings can do towards a large reduction in CO 2 emissions.

Lane Assist – The lane–keeping feature was put to the test unintentionally when my partner swayed into the on-coming lane, after executing  a left bend at speeds above the normal driving. As a front passenger, I too felt the buzz from the steering wheel immediately as the vehicle gently prompted the car back into the desired lane. With an on-coming car appearing nano-seconds ahead, this safety feature was most desirable given the circumstances

Reinventing urban mobility With rising traffic congestion to come, urbanites will be part of the rising statistics, grid-locked in bumper to bumper crawls.  The Golf 7 when fully loaded, will have the ability to not only entertain the driver but provide numerous accessibility to media & navigation through a larger 8-inch touchscreen. The top of the line model was also laden with 64 GB Flash memory and wireless LAN hotspot (internet access) with sync capability for your smart phone or tablet.


The impact of the new Golf 7 may be larger than anyone is going to expect. Over 40,000 pre-orders of the model were received at the German dealers before their launch just recently. The consequences of the shared platform technology with large deployment will see consumer, stakeholders and dealers benefiting from the ramifications of this strategy.

It is widely reported by members of the management board VW Group AG, that the Golf 7 will not cost a penny more than its predecessor.

At the home-front, the Golf 6 with DSG is sold out with limited units of the GTI remaining. Taking into account the long list of options already dressed-up on any phase-out model, any purchase this time around, will reap the greatest savings before the new model is launched middle of next year....hopefully concurring to the VW AG's original price positioning strategy for the new Golf 7.

What excites consumers today will not solely be a pricing issue but how a company continues to build sustainable vehicles, capable of meeting tomorrow’s environment solutions, and yet producing an extremely desirable model with all the niceties. The Golf certainly has no problem meeting this and retaining the title of the greatest Olympian!

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Our Principal Consultant

dev b

Devindran draws upon his vast 24 years Motor industry experience and exposure to different brands. As Managing Director and Principal Consultant of his company, Devindran has the passion and knack for turning Dealerships fixed operations into profitable, performance oriented and a sustainable business pillar through his own style and approach to life.