The Volkswagen Golf SV offers existing Golf buyers that little bit more space and practicality. Jonathan Crouch reports
Ten Second Review
Sometimes more is just better and if you've ever got out of a Volkswagen Golf feeling you could do with a bit more space, the answer is right here in the chiselled form of the Golf SV. It's not the most committed of five-seat SUVs but there is more space in the back.
Volkswagen doesn't often take aim, loose off a shot and see it sail past the target, but that's not far off what it did with the Golf Plus. The basic premise was sound. Take the super-successful Golf hatch and just add a bit more space. The execution, however, was some way off the mark. Volkswagen quickly realised that making the wheelbase longer was cost prohibitive, so the company was stuck with exactly the same amount of seats with the same amount of rear legroom. The only thing the company could really do was go up, the Plus measuring 95mm taller, but the Golf hatch already catered very well to taller drivers. In the end, the promise of more headroom and a sliding rear bench wasn't enough to compensate drivers for an uglier car with a higher centre of gravity and a bigger frontal area. Volkswagen sold just over 42,000 in an eight year spell, which is about seven months worth of Golf hatch sales in a decent year. Not to be defeated, Volkswagen is back for a second stab at this theme with the Golf SV. Lessons have clearly been learned from the Plus debacle. The SV is longer and a good deal prettier. It's still a five seater but it's now one that looks a worthy addition to the product portfolio rather than a bit of a head scratcher.
The talents of the Golf Mk 7 chassis need no reiterating and the lengthening process hasn't done too much to dull the driving experience. You still get the same polished feel to the suspension and that crisp, no-nonsense steering. Model for model there's around a 120kg weight penalty over the hatch, so the SV is never quite as brisk off the line but there's not a whole lot in it. Think a Golf minus 1 or 2 per cent at the limit and you're still a long way better than most of its rivals. Engine-wise, you'll get a choice of a pair of turbocharged 1.2-litre petrol units with either 85 or 110PS or there's the 1.0 TSI three cylinder unit with 115PS. Alternatively, you can upsize to the 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engines with 125 or 150PS. Go diesel instead and there are 90 and 110PS versions of the 1.6-litre and a 150PS 2.0-litre flagship. All engines apart from the 1.2-litre TSI 85PS can be chosen with a DSG twin-clutch sequential transmission. The 2.0-litre diesel will punt the big-boned Golf SV to 62mph in 9.2 seconds and on to a top speed of 110mph, making it a more than adequate long distance cruiser.
Design and Build
Where the Golf Plus was a bit of a half-hearted effort, the SV is a bit more of an attempt at incorporating MPV design functionality. The longer wheelbase is key. Volkswagen has grafted another 54mm into the wheelbase, which might not sound much, but makes a real difference to what you can do with the rear seats. The total length has increased by 83mm, adding extra luggage capacity at the back. The styling is crisp and handsome, that sharp-creased Golf Mk7 look carrying over, but the added roof length lends it a different stance; more MPV than merely bloated Golf. Drop inside and it's largely familiar stuff from the front seats. The classy dash, peerless ergonomics and huge range of seat and wheel adjustability draw no complaints, but the SV gets a custom dash moulding. There's adequate storage up front with under seat drawers and fairly sizeable door bins but other MPVs ultimately offer more and better. The back seats miss a trick too, neither tumbling or being removable. The three-seat bench splits 60/40 and can fold and recline but the middle seat is hard and narrow. By contrast, you can fold the middle seat down in a Ford C-MAX or tumble the seats forward. Headroom and legroom are both excellent, and when the rear seat is slid forward to its furthest extent, boot space increases from a generous 500 litres to a cavernous 590 litres. Fold the rear seats down and you'll get up to 1,520-litres in there.
Market and Model
Volkswagen charge just over £2,000 more for the SV versus the standard Golf hatch, model for model and offer the SV in four trim levels. Well, three and a bit, really, the economy special BlueMotion model only being offered in conjunction with the 1.6-litre TDI 110 engine and being trimmed in much the same way as the entry-level S inside. Even the S isn't badly appointed, with Bluetooth, a DAB digital radio, SD card reader and CD player with 5.8-inch colour touchscreen, iPod connector, a front centre armrest, dual rear ISOFIX fittings, seven airbags including one for the driver's knees, the XDS electronic differential, an automatic post-collision braking system and air conditioning.
Cost of Ownership
The fuel economy of all the diesel engines is excellent, with even the thirstiest capable of eking over 60mpg from a gallon of heavy oil. In the BlueMotion derivative, the 1.6 TDI gets better than 76mpg, which is good going by anyone's standards. Even the non-BlueMotion version of the 1.6 TDI 110 returns 72.4mpg, but it's worth noting that this engine is fitted with a five-speed manual gearbox in S trim, while the rest of the range gets a six-speed. Even the punchiest petrol engine in the line up, the 150PS 1.4 TSI, betters 50mpg on the combined cycle and does marginally better when paired with the DSG gearbox. Emissions start at just 95g/km for the BlueMotion, which is the only model in the range to dip under three figures. The 1.6 TDI 110 just misses out, registering 101g/km. Residual values look set to mirror those of the Golf hatch, a performance which is amongst the best in its sector. Volkswagen also aim to keep a cap on the costs of upkeep by offering a fixed-price servicing plan for £15.99 per month.
Spend any time with the Volkswagen SV and an inconvenient truth emerges. All that is shared with the Golf hatchback is brilliant. The SV-specific changes, while useful, just don't offer much that's new or exciting. So what you're doing is trading a little of the Golf's agility for a little more space in the back. Is that worth a £2,000+ premium? I'm really not sure. Compare a Focus to a C-MAX and you'll see what happens when a manufacturer goes all-out to incorporate true MPV functionality into an extended hatch body. If you want genuinely clever seating and storage solutions, the Golf SV is going to disappoint. That said, the inherent excellence of the Golf chassis and engines, the depth of engineering, the sheer commitment to getting the basics right and the day to day liveability of this car will win you over. So it's shy of a trick or two? So what? For every Cristiano Ronaldo, you need a Sergio Busquets, willing to do the simple stuff well. For that reason alone, the Golf SV would earn its place on my team sheet.