GCF Test Drive: VW Golf Plus

Adding to the arsenal of tools for the typical European family, the Golf Plus serves as an asset. It is not exactly a flawless car but definitely a competent car given the demanding clientele it seeks.


Particularly suited for families with children the Golf Plus is undoubtedly a versatile car. It works well as the main transport vehicle, a second car or for middle aged "empty nest" couples looking for the weekend getaway. Within the Volkswagen model lineup the Golf Plus fills the gap between Golf hatchback and Touran MPV. Looking at the competition it seems apparent VW has an advantage as it draws upon its positive brand cachet and reputation in Europe to give hell to the competition which consists of the Ford C-Max, Honda FR-V, Toyota Corolla Verso and SEAT Toledo.


The Golf Plus, as the name suggests, is more than just a standard Golf clone with a raised roof and fancy Phaeton style LED tailamps. Conversely, the styling differences are significant and not one piece of exterior sheet metal is shared between the two but the Golf Plus still manages to remain "pure" Golf. The overall package clearly defines the Golf Plus as an individual model and not just a variation of the hatchback.


Other than the inner body structure the similarities are few. But some problems which were seen in the previous 4th generation Golf seem to have crossed over to this platform like mad cow disease and bird flu jumping across species. The problem is the quality of interior materials, fit and finish. When driving I could hear a slight rattle underneath the dash panel which as the car "settles" over time will turn into a significant rattle. This same rattle also plagued the previous 4th generation Golf in addition to rattling brake pad clips which, yes, I could faintly start to hear as well on our test car.  These irritable noises stem from suppliers making defective components for VW to install on the assembly line but regardless it is Volkswagens responsibility to correct. With the development of this new 5th generation chassis VW could have made these gremlins disappear but nope, they're still there. Just make sure you upgrade to the 10 speakers RCD 300 CD stereo system (standard on Comfortline). A flick of the volume knob makes these rattles disappear!


Although the Golf Plus receives a newly designed dash panel, instrument cluster and center console the materials are nice in appearance and even nice to the touch but somewhat cheap in material and poorly cut and fitted. On our test car the door trim panels creaked and popped when pushed. The dash panel seams, inner door handles and the glove box were misaligned and looked like they were smashed together with air plane model glue.  Also the chrome trim rings around the dash panel's eight air vents always managed to find the corner of my eye with sun glare but after a while I learned to ignore it. Perhaps I am overly observant but for a car at this price level (25,750 EUR in Finland / 15,585 GBP in UK / 20,650 EUR in Germany) I expect the interior trim quality to be tight and noise free.


Interior trim quibbling aside, it's a completely different story when you look at the body structure, tolerance specs and manufacturing methods used to stitch this puppy up. Looking at the torsional rigidity which directly affects crash performance and dynamic driving characteristics it measures in at a highly respectable 25,000 newton meters of force per 1 degree of movement. For comparison (outside its competition class) the MINI Cooper is 24,500 nm/degree and Aston Martin V12 Vanquish is 25,800 nm/degree. Within its competition level the Golf Plus is the highest.


Driving this car was not only fun but the engine being a 1.6L FSI with 6-speed manual as standard felt more powerful than the stated 115hp / 155nm @ 4000 rpm. The engine was responsive and pulled through the rev range smoothly. Given the curb weight of 1600kg (3500 lbs.) the Golf Plus was surprisingly maneuverable and stable considering the equipped tires. Contributing to the Golf Plus' stability is a slightly improved multilink suspension to compensate for the higher center of gravity and body weight. I also liked the speed sensitive electromechanical steering which gave a firm solid feel at higher speeds and light floating feel during low speeds or parking maneuvers. Overall, the driving dynamics were positive and the typical Volkswagen fun factor was ever present.


Despite the minor interior trim shortcomings mentioned earlier, the interior space and functionality is actually quite the opposite. Upon entering (particularly in the back seat) the first thing you notice is how much leg and head room is available. VW managed to raise the roof an incredible 9.5cm which allows for a higher seating position both front (7.5cm) and rear (8.5cm). As a result, the view is more commanding and rear passengers benefit from an extra 2.5cm of leg room over the already spacious standard Golf. The seats are supportive and our Comfortline trim package with "Opera" fabric was pleasant and durable.


Another new VW feature is a clever multi-variable 60/40 split folding rear seating system which allows for backrest angle adjustment as well as the entire seat to slide forward. When the backrests are folded down the bottom seat cushions automatically slide forward allowing the backrest to lie level with the cargo floor. The rear cargo floor area also has a sub-level for more storage space.


Wheelbase and overall body length measurements between the standard Golf and Golf Plus remain essentially the same. The Golf Plus is well positioned for those who are comfortable with the size of the Golf but need more interior space and versatility. And just in case the standard options weren't enough, the list of optional equipment and accessories ranging from a rear seat DVD entertainment system to the useful winter package is enough to satisfy anyone's needs.


For 118 photos and precise operational

and trim details please click here: New VW Golf Plus - In Detail

Gallery: GCF Test Drive: VW Golf Plus