The Golf Mk 7.5 offers ease of use and lots of practical features.

SINGAPORE (Mar 19): It is hard to remember a time when there wasn’t a Volkswagen Golf on our roads. That is because the popular little hatchback has been around for more than four decades and sold more than 33 million units in that time. We are now technically onto the eighth generation of the iconic car, although this latest one is called “Mk 7.5”.

I have always had a soft spot for the Golf — the Mk II was the first car I ever bought. A lot has changed since and, although the shape is not as distinctive any more, it is still a good-looking car. The test-drive model of this latest generation came in a striking Peacock Green paintwork that immediately grabbed my attention. But apart from that, this new model is not much different from its predecessor. The bumpers have been slightly redesigned and the car now comes standard with LED daytime running lights and tail lights.

The biggest change is hidden under the bonnet in the form of a new 1.0- litre engine. Some less-informed drivers may scoff at a car with just a 999cc engine, with the misguided perception that it will get overtaken by snails and slugs on the road. If that is your view, then it will soon be smashed. Despite its size, the engine packs a punch. Yes, it may take 10 seconds to get from 0kph to 100kph, but you have probably grown out of the phase where you have to beat everyone at the traffic lights by now.


$110,900 including COE
Engine: 999cc, 12V, inline 3, turbocharged
Power/torque: 108bhp/200Nm
Fuel efficiency: 5.0l/100km
0 to 100kph: 9.9 seconds
Top speed: 196kph

Realistically, getting up to 60/70kph and learning to stay within these limits is more important for drivers in Singapore. That is why you do not want too much power or have much need to get to 100kph at a lightning pace. Interestingly, the new 1.0-litre engine still produces the same amount of power as its 1.2-litre predecessor (110bhp), but 25Nm more torque. Now, that is what I call progress. Anyway, it is easy to get bogged down in figures and statistics. Suffice to say, this new Golf never felt underpowered in urban driving conditions.

In and around the CBD, it performed excellently and had a very familiar feel to it, as if I had driven it before. Parking was effortless and I do not think the fuel gauge even moved — consumption is stated at just five litres per 100km. As a city car, it ticks all the boxes. There are a few other improvements of note, one being a new seven-speed DSG gearbox, which has a shorter range in between gears. In practice, this means it shifts up the gears much more quickly and feels more responsive. That adds to the sharp and “punchy” feeling I mentioned.

Other than that, this is your average entry-level Golf. It may not turn many heads or win many awards, but if you want a reliable, straightforward car that feels like home, then it is for you. As a plus, it is great value for money. Many things have been brought back to the basics but that is not a bad thing. There is no parking camera or sensors, and the key is the old-fashioned style you insert into the i gnition. But strangely, the parking brake is electric and not the old-fashioned manual type.

Some people may turn their noses up at the lack of luxuries and prefer the likes of Lexus, Mercedes-Benz and BMW. But if you are not fussed about gadgets and add-ons, and are on a budget (just over $100,000), I think the VW Golf would be hard to beat in this category.

The Golf is built on a heritage of more than 40 years and is still going strong today. Few cars have that sort of track record, with the Porsche 911 being another example. So VW — or rather, the drivers — must be doing something right. They continue to pick the Golf as the market leader when it comes to usability and practicality. These qualities are often overlooked, which is a mistake in my humble opinion.

Justin Harper is a freelance journalist with a passion for all things fast