If Volkswagen Golf dropped the “f” from its name, what would it look like? Since the name is smaller, the car would also be reduced in size, but all good qualities should have been preserved in such a vehicle. Well, there is a Gol (goal, in English), but its previous generations were anything but a Golf. Now, with the third generation of the car, officially presented yesterday, we can find some resemblances with Europe’s best selling vehicle in history, especially behind the wheel, since World Car Fans got the chance to drive it.
The first similarity is the fact that Gol is also a market leader, but limited to Brazil and some other countries where it is also sold, even with a different name: Pointer. Its strength and its longitudinal engine made its reputation as an easy-and cheap-to-fix car, but the previous car was also known as an old-fashioned vehicle, a concept that should have been changed long ago. The new vehicle, on the other hand, is said to be also very resistant, but it is definitely a good-looking product, especially live.
With styling cues taken from Touareg and Scirocco, the car no longer has its engine longitudinally mounted due to the new platform it uses, the same one the current Polo adopts, the PQ24. Anyway, it uses the front suspension and the steering column of the PQ25, already in use by the new Skoda Fabia and Seat Ibiza. That implies the next generation of the Polo will very likely be produced in Brazil as well, both for the domestic market and for exports (Latin American countries and possibly USA).
Two transversely-mounted engines are used on the new Gol, a 1-litre and a 1,6-litre EA-111, with Brazilian specifications named VHT (Volkswagen High Torque). This acronym means the engines present higher torque in lower revs, what, as you may imagine, gives the car a very agile behavior, even with the smaller engine, which presents 95 Nm at 3,850 rpm on petrol and 104 Nm on ethanol at the same rev speed. Maximum power comes at 5,250 rpm and reaches 72 bhp on gasoline and 76 bhp on ethanol.
Finishing has reached an entire new level on the new Gol, even in the cheaper version. Plastics feel very solid and well-built and door panels use fabric in many points. Spaces between pieces are not larger than 0.5 mm. Body rigidity has been increased in 55%, what, for the tough condition of most Brazilian and emerging countries roads, represents less noise and a much better dynamic behavior
World Car Fans has driven the new Gol in Sao Paulo, one of the larger cities of the world, with over 15 million inhabitants and a traffic as heavy as that. Quickness is one of the main characteristics of the car. The 1-litre engine deals very well with the 934 kg the small hatch, with its 3.90 m of length, carries around. All engines are mated to the MQ200 transmission built in Argentina, a cable-operated five speed manual gearbox with shorter gear rations in the first gears, for better response in traffic, and taller gear rations for the last ones, in order to have a comfortable cruising speed on roads, with a low engine revving speed.
The problem with 1-litre engined cars is that their powerplants usually can’t deal very well with road speeds in low revolutions, what normally leads to using lower gear in order to maintain speed, even at a higher engine speed and, consequently, bigger noise and vibration for the passengers. Gol has managed to find a very good deal between the car speed and the engine revving speed thanks to the fact its torque is higher at lower revs. On the road to Taubate, where the car is produced, it behaved very well when it was necessary to trespass slower vehicles.
Although Gol feels much more solid and almost Polo like, it naturally is not, so far, a car that people would desire to have due to its power, for example. It proposes, as far as a sports version has not presented so far, to be a small family vehicle. With 3.90 m in length, 1.66 m in width, 1.45 m in height and a wheelbase of 2.47 m, it offers its passengers reasonable space. A 1.80 m driver would travel with a 1.80 m passenger in the back seat with no comfort issues, both for the driver and for the passenger. The car is fitted to five people, but it accommodates well only three small ones at the back. Or two adults. Luggage finds 285 l of space in the trunk, a very reasonable number considering the car Gol will compete with.
Back from Taubate we have driven the 1,6-litre Power vehicle, the top of the line model. The engine is similar to the 1.6-litre used in Europe, but it is stronger: 101 bhp on petrol at 5,250 rpm and 104 bhp on ethanol at 5,250 rpm. Torque is also better, with 154 Nm with the first fuel at 2,500 rpm and 156 Nm with the second one at the same engine speed.
The car suspension allows it to face corners with a lot of enthusiasm and the car corners in a very precise way, although the roads we have used did not allow us to push it to the limits due to the fact they were straight most of the time. Small countryside roads, especially the ones in hills, full of corners, will be a nicer challenge when we get the chance to evaluate the car with more time. Although the suspension calibration is almost sportive, it allows the car to present a good level of comfort.
There will be five options for the car: 1-litre, at R$ 28,890 (€ 11,527), 1-litre Trend, at R$ 29,825 (€ 11,900), 1,6-litre, at R$ 32,290 (€ 12,884), 1,6-litre Trend, at R$ 33,235 (€ 13,261) and 1,6-litre Power, at R$ 36,420 (€ 14,531). The first price is a little lower than the one charged for the cheapest Sandero, in Brazil, so Gol would probably cost the same in Europe if it was ever sold in the Old World. Prices do not include air-conditioning, audio system, power steering (available as a regular feature only for the Power), airbags, ABS, onboard computer or power windows. All these items have to be ordered, what increases final prices for all versions. Ironically, the poorer Brazilian people pays much more than richer countries for the same of inferior vehicles. Carmakers blame the government and taxes; the government blames carmakers. And prices continue the way they are. Better luck for World Car Fans from other countries to which Gol will be exported or built.