Golf downsizes engine for greater economy

Over its past six generations the Volkswagen Golf has grown to become quite a family hatchback. So, when I saw that my road test car was a 1.2-litre, I immediately assumed I was in for a joyless five days at the wheel of a pithless wonder. How wrong could I be?

The 1.2-litre Golf is part of Volkswagen’s strategy of downsizing to smaller engines in the continuing search for more better economy and lower emissions. I’ve driven Volkswagen’s 1.4 TSI engines before, but can a 1.2 TSI possibly work in this size of car?

There are two 1.2-litre Golf TSI models. One puts out 85 PS, but the car I had on test was the Golf S 1.2-litre TSI 105PS which as the name implies has a power output of 105PS. The key to offering power away beyond what you would expect from an 1197cc engine is its turbocharger set-up.

Volkswagen Golf

So much for the theory, how does it feel on the road?

Looking back there were just one or two occasions over the whole five days when the engine’s small capacity was apparent. But these were few and far between and only fleeting. Usually it was because I had let the revs drop low while climbing a hill, meaning little or no help from the turbocharger.

Most of the time, this little power continued to surprise with its eager, giant-killing performance. The 0-62 time of 10.6 seconds is very respectable. But, what impressed me more was the way the power just keeps coming right through the gears. Throwing thoughts of economy to the wind, I accelerating hard from a familiar uphill dual carriageway roundabout. The result was impressive, 70 mph was hit as we passed under the familiar marker bridge and that on an incline. Throughout this, the little engine never sounded strained.

Equally, with its nicely balanced handling, precise steering and good body control, the Volkswagen Golf S 1.2 proved to be surprisingly enjoyable on country B-roads.

The ride quality and refinement is good, although I did notice that road noise can become a little intrusive on certain surfaces – but I came to the conclusion that was partly because of the general hush of the car for the rest of the time.

So, it works remarkably well in terms of performance. What about economy and emissions, which are the reason for fitting this small capacity engine?

The combined fuel consumption figure is 49.6 mpg and I found that my real-life figures ranged around 37 to 44 mpg for a series of trips including city streets, country roads and dual carriageways. Carbon dioxide emissions are not as low as they are on the Golf Bluemotion at 134 g/km.

Volkswagen Golf interior

The rest of the package will be familiar to those who know Volkswagen Golfs. Like the neat exterior, the interior has a welcome lack of ornate, or over-the-top-styling. This is a typical Volkswagen with function rating higher than style. The result is a workmanlike interior that also looks good and has an air of quality.

You can have your Volkswagen Golf S 1.2 TSI with three, or five-doors (like the test car). It really does makes for a more practical family car to have those extra doors, but it also costs £585 more.

I just have to mention the clever £600 optional parking system on the road test car. Although you can argue about the need for a reversing camera on a compact car like the Golf, this one is really neat. When you engage reverse, the VW badge that doubles as the hatchback handle, swivels to let the camera show the reversing view. When you stop, or stay in forward gears, the handle closes, keeping the camera lens clean. Clever!

Volkswagen Golf

I really did enjoy my time with the Volkswagen Golf S 1.2 TSI. This really is an impressive and cheaper alternative to diesel for those who want to reduce their visits to the filling station.

True, the Bluemotion produces better mileage per gallon and lower emissions (so much so that the Chancellor will give you a free tax disc), but, at £16,434, the Golf S 1.2-litre TSI 105PS costs a significant £2,230 less.
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