This is a review of the Golf 7 GTI, not the new Golf 8. Ominously, the Golf 8 is advertised as being “all digital”, as though that were a good thing. However, the car reviewed did have the digital display option. It was a seven gear automatic with a two-litre engine and a proper PNRD gear stick. This won’t have survived in the “all digital” Golf 8. The gear change will now be tiny cube, to tap back and forward, making it difficult to know what it’s set to.
The dashboard pictured below doesn’t belong to the version that I was driving but you get the idea. Regardless, it contained lots of different textures, and shades of dark, which livened the interior.
The central console, containing the iPad, points slightly towards the diver which is useful and clever, especially since the little bin and its lid ends up being an odd shape and yet still opens and closes nicely. This is what the marketing department calls a “magic moment” when the customer realises how much care and attention has gone into designing and producing the product.
Remember that chap in quality control, who checked the doors in the VW advert? Remember the obsessive who taped over his wedding with his “progress at work” video diary? They had names, Herr Fischer was in Kwalitykontrollen and Herr Froegel was the Detailmeister. If you can remember the commercials, they’re from twenty-three years ago. The power of advertising. If you’re wondering what happened to Fischer and Froegel, they’re still at it, look at this door:
There are several different textures of plastic, fabric, and metal. All of the different shapes fit together perfectly. It is functional; there is storage space, a holding handle, a door opening handle, even wing mirror controls. Everything flows effortlessly into everything else. When the sun goes to bed, as part of the ambient lighting, a thin red line appears along the door’s metal piping.
This was the point at which I fell in love with the car, but not before, as often with love, there were lots of bumps and unexpected noises.
Facing forward again, beneath the iPad and before the gear stick, lies the aircon. Dials for ‘temperature’ and ‘fan speed’ made it easier to use but little LCD displays, showing the set temperatures, made it difficult again. Why not have graduations and numbers on the edge of the dial? Likewise, the fan direction options were ‘push button’, a nuisance. At least they were light icons on dark surfaces which meant I was able to see them. Better on a dial. After I’d set up the air-conditioning, I didn’t have to touch it again. Having said that, it was an easy day for members of the air conditioning community, not too hot and with little direct sunlight.
Something that I liked bigly about the interior of the Golf was the dark fabric internal roof lining and the dark backed sun-visors. I have never understood the point of (*Victor Meldrew voice*) bright coloured sun visors when you’re pulling them down to kill the brightness. I do not believe it.
Seat adjustment is not electric but more than adequate all the same, with easy to use rollers and levers. The silly GTI dark tartan seat fabric is better than plain. You will get used to it and then start to like it. I was told off for saying that the seats are hard. They’re supposed to be. You are driving a sporty small car, not cruising in a big saloon.
The boot is bigger than it looks and held more booty than expected. On setting off, it contained only a gentleman’s brogues and his lock picking kit. In any type of boot, one’s cosh tends to roll about and make a noise. It is better placed in the footwell of the rear seats. As is the sledgehammer. There is plenty of space for passengers in the back, perhaps not too comfortably if they are very large and the journey very long.
Let’s drive about. We shall begin by pressing any things with ‘auto’ written on them. I found three. They seemed harmless; the fan for the air-conditioning, the external lights and the windscreen wipers. There is an engine start button. There is also a key which pops out of the key fob but, irritatingly, there isn’t a keyhole anywhere to put it into. You have to switch the engine on in order to do even the most simple of things, such as lower a window.
Visibility out of the front and rear windows was fine. The driving position was not 100% comfortable. The beautiful chrome detailed accelerator pedal put my foot at a funny angle and gave me shin splints. I got used to it. My assistant is 6’1’. He had plenty of room in the passenger’s seat, above him a few spare inches. Closer to 5’1’, our VVIP was sat in the back, loving it, especially the central armrest that opened to hold her drink and diamond-encrusted iPhone. Her size two feet danced above the cosh and sledgehammer.
On putting the transmission into ‘drive’ and taking one’s foot off the brake, the Golf lurched rather than crawled. There is a lot under the bonnet, it is keen to go.
It was also noisy. There was a deep grunt from the chrome-lined twin exhausts (which no one over the age of eighteen wants to hear). Also a ‘w w w w w w w w’ noise out of the back. This continued until something warmed up, or wore down, or turned to mush, or fell off, or each of those in sequence. There was a knocking noise from the steering column/dashboard and an intermittent clatter from over my right shoulder.
Only 2000 miles on the clock and a 20 plate, is this because it’s a hire car? Tellingly, there were a few scratches on the bodywork. You may scoff while asking,
“How much harm can the punters cause in three months and 2,000 miles?”.
Think of it this way. You lend your car to a series of total strangers. They drive it, taking turns, from Paris to Moscow (or Paris to Northern Mali or to Aleppo, all distances of about 2000 miles). Each of them keeps it jammed in sports mode and each thinks, rightly or wrongly, that they won’t have to pay for any repairs. Will it be making unexpected noises by the time it reaches Red Square? It might be. Is that the car’s fault?
On the motorway, I suffered a wind noise from the driver’s side window. We will not blame the car but, if you’re considering a pre-owned vehicle, we will advise a long test drive (the radio turned off) with a long and well thought out checklist on a clipboard on your knee.
Speaking of hiring cars, I took the opportunity of mentioning to Mr Thrifty his somewhat mixed reviews. Wearily, he replied that some of his clientele have no idea what the words “car” and “hire” actually mean, either separately or in combination. Mr Thrifty, a man of the world, well experienced in dealing face to face with those strange things called “people”, continued, that he reads the critics now and again but doesn’t obsess about them. Wise advice.
Back to the driving. There was a lot of road noise. The rear suspension was bouncy, outbound. By “bouncy” I mean that if both of the rear wheels hit something simultaneously (for instance a ridge across the motorway surface), my hands would come off the steering wheel. Inbound, with a boot full of plunder, it behaved itself much better. Why am I so picky about suspensions? As with “all digital”, just because something is new, doesn’t mean that it is better. I’m used to the Airmatic suspension on the big old Benz’s. Everything since then has been a disappointment.
As for those digital dials, I couldn’t quite understand them. Around the rev counter, there was a red coloured three-quarters circle that advanced from 0 to 60 (miles per gallon?). This moved about constantly and was, therefore, a constant distraction. On the other side, around the speedometer, another three-quarter circle went from somewhere to somewhere. It slowly ran down, as though it was the fuel gauge. But there was a fuel gauge beneath it. What’s the point? Other than to fill a space that doesn’t need to be filled?
In other GUI (graphical user interface) modes there was a big gap between the gauges, filled with little lines rolling towards me. Because? It was like driving in Tron. Likewise, the 3D effect around the flat gauges. Pointless. Elsewhere, an altimeter. Please.
Despite liking the interior of the door, I wasn’t as keen on its exterior. The wing mirrors are too small and a funny shape. This causes a bit of a blind spot on the driver’s rear far side. Not too bad on three-lane sections of motorway, but on four-lane sections, when overtaking lanes become “every man for himself lanes” (with bigly under-taking), it was an issue. Make sure that the passenger’s side wing mirror is well perpendicular to the door. Check your rearview mirror before a manoeuvre (as every Puffin always does). Keep the rear left headrest down.
I was very impressed with the windscreen wipers, to start with. For most of the journey, they appeared to be the only pair I’ve ever used that, when set to auto, actually reacted to the weather. Every other car that I’ve ever driven had automatic wipers that might as well have been set to ‘random’ or ‘lolz’. However, on the way back, we encountered the wrong type of rain. The wipers re-set themselves to ‘banter’.
Meanwhile back on planet digital, why does the centre display have to tell me that the audiotainment system is switched off? I know it’s switched off. Not only did I not switch it on but I can’t hear anything and the iPad screen is blank. Why do VW want us to have the audiotainment on all of the time? Perhaps to cover up all of those noises. Why do I have to look at a message saying that the audiotainment is switched off every time I look at the dials?
As for the satnav, my little arrow kept on going until it disappeared off the screen as if we’d fallen off the edge of the world. This was unhelpful. While fighting with it, the map disappeared and reappeared on the central console behind the gauges. Now, this was fun. As I moved the steering wheel about, the map tilted from side to side (I think). It was like being a fighter pilot. Bear in mind, Puffin, while all of this was happening, I was supposed to be looking at the road.
What does it the car look like? From the side, it looks like a generic “world car” (from the same stable as the SEATs, which it is) apart from the alloys and the red brake blocks. From the back, it’s a bit meh, apart from the chrome capped twin exhausts. From the front, it is “oh my”. Good girls will stand beside it and smile, bad girls will climb into the passenger’s seat, uninvited.
On our long motorway journey, in ‘drive’ mode (rather than ‘eco’), the Golf achieved a very impressive 46mpg. Perhaps I drive like an emissions test? The seven-speed automatic gearbox is fast, seamless and nippy. The car handles nicely, although it is noisy and the suspension is unforgiving. It wasn’t a particularly comfortable motorway cruise. We didn’t quite effortlessly eat up the miles, but then, it’s not really a big motorway cruiser. It is a sporty small car. Should we try something else with it?
Where would you rather be by night? Paris? Budapest? Manhattan? No. You’d rather be in the Golf. It is very nicely lit. There are little coloured lines. The digital display comes into its own. The footwell is lit. There is an atmospheric ambient glow. What old people like me would call the “running board” had a lovely thin line of red light across it. Mmmmmm.
The sat nav goes dark and tilts itself at an angle. I am no longer a fighter pilot I am an astronaut. I have switched on the audiotainment and am chatting to Elon Musk. He is asking my advice while everyone in the world looks up at me. Now, I hear you say, stop being such a big puff, does it really matter what it looks like and how important it makes you feel? Yes, it does. My SEAT (although everyone else loves it) is so plain it is untrue. It has nothing about it. It is a tin can with a round thing at each corner. Inside, it is a monoculture of untextured plastic. It is depressing. I keep Googling “pimp my 998cc Ibiza”, looking for relief.
As an antidote, let’s drive a Golf GTI about, in the dark on empty country roads. But, I hear you say, the Golf and the SEAT are from the same family of cars, using the same bits, from the same parts bucket. Oh, I reply, Kayleigh McEnany and Beth Rigby were both made by the same God. Not only that, He called them both to journalism. Konnie and Rupa came out of the same Huq (so to speak). Shut up, strap yourself in, I have pressed “sports mode” and am about to put my foot down.
On the way out, I got stuck behind two lorries but on the way back there was a nice empty country ‘A’ road on a perfect night. Gracious. They say that the earlier versions of the GTI were even better, in which case I have wasted my life. What fun I had. Who over the age of 18 wants to hear that scaffolding rod in a blender noise from the back? Me!
It handles and corners beautifully, there is a lot of power onboard, I wasn’t able to floor it as it went too fast. It walloped through the gears and the warp factors faster than my foot was moving the accelerator pedal. The brakes are very sharp. It was great fun. It’s a sporty small car, that’s what it says on the tin.
Back home, my companion suggested that the twin exhausts might be fake. I put my hand in one to find out and burnt it. He then suggested that, just because that one was real, didn’t mean that the other one was. I put my other hand in the other exhaust and burnt that one too. I don’t care. It was worth it.
Would I spend north of £25k on a Golf GTI. No, I didn’t like the digital display, it was too noisy and came with too many unexpected rattles. Plus, being “sporty” suggests it expensive to own. Would I have one given? No, as above. Would I have something a bit less flash with a VW badge on the back? I might just. Mr Thrifty suggested a Polo. Watch this space.
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file