I have always admired Volkswagen. The backstory of a company emerging from the ashes of Hitler’s Germany with little more than a broken production line and a single product to become one of the world’s automotive powerhouses, as well as having a romantic element to it, underlined the tenacity and willpower of the post-war German people.
It also headlined the economic miracle forged by those hardy Teutonic souls who rebuilt their country from the ground up.
You could not but have the highest esteem for those people who — under the guidance of a British Army officer, Major Ivan Hirst — turned a bombed-out town and factory into one of the great centres of the worldwide car- making industry and a model of design creativity and engineering efficiency.
Having been one who marvelled at the success which Volkswagen became, the feeling of having been cheated by the company as a result of the emissions scandal is overpowering. Some might say ‘ah, get over it, will ya,’ but having invested so much time down the years writing (largely) positive things about VW, that is easier said than done. Maybe I’m wrong here and the majority of people couldn’t give a continental damn about VW’s egregiousness in this whole business, but I certainly do.
However, life must go on and so must Volkswagen too. Undoubtedly the company will learn that its duplicity will have a long-term cost, but its day-to-day business of making and selling automobiles will proceed as normal. And, of course, VW does ‘normal’ better than most — which is one of the reasons it has been so successful down the years.
By saying ‘VW does normal’, I mean that the company has made great virtue — and profit — by making cars which appeal to people across a dizzying spectrum of social strata and doing so with the sort of easy charm which few others can replicate. It has made everyday models like the Polo, Golf, and Passat watchwords for great design and engineering.
People now expect these characteristics from all VW products and, by and large, that’s what they get. It is also what they will get if they were to invest in this week’s tester, the Golf SV — or Sports Van, to give it its full title.
A replacement for the largely unloved Golf Plus, VW’s first stab at bringing the Golf brand into the MPV market and which was a good car in its own right but not a hugely popular one.
During my tenure with the SV, it was notable that while many people understood it to be a Volkswagen (and some even recognised it to be some form of Golf), few could understand its raison d’être. Volkswagen’s own advertising slogan that the SV is ‘more than just a car’ had not appeared to have impacted on them.
Once inside the spacious confines of the SV, which is wider, higher and longer than regular Golf models, they did, however, immediately appreciate the inherent practical merits of this machine, not to mention the benefits on offer for the family buyer.
The higher driving position, the spaciousness, the excellent use of soft-touch materials in all those places you’re likely to touch, and the cargo-carrying capacity are all meritorious and add to the premium feel of the product, while the economy and efficiency of the 1.6-litre turbodiesel engine add further drawing power.
The addition of a seven-speed DSG Auto box in the case of the tester was a touch of further sophistication, although one could find minor quibbles with the multi-adjustable rear bench as the middle seat could not be completely folded flat. In the main, however, the ergonomic efficiency on offer here was nothing short of Teutonically efficient.
On the road too the SV displays many of those characteristics which made the Golf famous. Handling is composed, grip levels impressive, and the steering is well weighted and accurate. Ride comfort is among the best in class.
Some might find the 110bhp turbodiesel a little breathless getting up to motorway speeds, but for most family drivers, it will prove a willing companion and one which is firmly on your side when it comes to economy and taxes. Sure the 11.3-second 0-100km/h time will hardly cause your heart to beat that bit faster, but the 192km/h top speed will be plenty for most families.
Keep this thing spinning between 1,500rpm and 3,000rpm when the majority of the 250 Nm of torque is to be found and you will not find too much room for complaint, while the claimed 3.7 l/100km (75 mpg) will certainly please those who demand great frugality.
A pretty decent car then, albeit not one which will engender huge amounts of automotive excitement. But it is definitely a car imbued with the necessary Volkswagen DNA and as such it is a package which is hard to pick holes in.
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