plenty of luggage capacity, economical engine
still an expensive choice
After a lengthy absence from Irish forecourts the Volkswagen Golf Estate is officially back on sale, but how well will it reintegrate into what is now a changed landscape?Given the popularity of the C-segment in Ireland, and how fierce the competition can be between rival brands, it is somewhat surprising that it has taken Volkswagen this long to finally give us an estate version of the Golf. It may not be the most sought after body style in the market, but that hasn't stopped estate offerings like the Ford Focus, Opel Astra and Peugeot 308.
Upon initial inspection, the Golf Estate is a smart looking car, especially in this range-topping Highline specification. As estate silhouettes go, Volkswagen has played it relatively safe with this seventh-generation Golf and kept things practical. In fact, practicality is the order of the day here, with boot space coming in at a flat-pack-furniture-swallowing 605 litres, which can very quickly be expanded to 1,620 litres by dropping the rear seats. Further helping matters is a tail gate that opens to quite a generous angle.
Volkswagen does offer a wide range of engines, but perhaps the most popular for the Irish market will be what is under the bonnet of our test car, the 105hp 1.6-litre TDI unit. This four-cylinder diesel engine is somewhat of a workhorse, and in comparison to the 2.0-litre TDI option doesn't feel overly refined. That said, with 250Nm of torque it does pull well, and although there is only a five-speed manual gearbox, it manages well with the daily urban commute. Volkswagen has done a good job in concealing any potential chinks in the armour that a mere five-ratio transmission could expose. A long top gear, combined with the torquey nature of the 1.6 TDI engine means that longer drives at motorway speeds aren't all that bad, with engine speeds being kept reasonably low. Against some of the competition though it feels slow and to extract real performance from the engine does require some working of the gearbox.
It remains a thoroughly pleasant car to drive with steering that is well-weighted to suit the vast majority of preferences. Over the last number of years there has been much criticism of electro-mechanical power steering, but in this case it feels quite linear and is weighted just enough to give you a sense of connection to what the front wheels are doing. The ride is on the firm side in comparison to its rivals, though it is well damped - it is only on poorer roads and at higher speeds that the suspension becomes less compliant, something that is highlighted by the lower profile tyres that the Volkswagen wears.
In the range-topping Highline specification tested here, buyers do get quite a well-equipped car. Standard features at this point in the range include 17-inch 'Dijon' alloy wheels, park distance control, adaptive cruise control and dual-zone climate control, as well as tinted side and rear windows.
But leaving all the frivolities aside, the Golf cabin is a nice place to be. Ergonomically, the design team has pretty much nailed the brief and the build quality feels high. There are plenty of storage compartments dotted throughout the cabin too.
Perhaps the only real criticism that can be directed at it is the price. Like for like, it carries a weighty €2,000 premium over a similarly spec'd SEAT Leon ST, which uses the same engines and MQB chassis, while the Peugeot 308 SW - perhaps one of the best-looking estates in the segment - is more keenly priced and comes with a good level of standard equipment. That said, the Golf's main rival, the Ford Focus, has become a pricier option in its latest guise.
The big question is whether the Golf Estate is indeed worth the price premium it commands. It is, just. Its rivals certainly give it a run for its money, especially in 1.6-litre diesel form, but even in this configuration it remains a good, well-rounded car. If you can make the jump to the more powerful 2.0-litre diesel engine, granted at an increased cost, it then becomes a very good car.
Ford Focus Estate: more expensive again than the Golf, and quite not as refined inside, but rides well.
Peugeot 308 SW: proof that estates can look sexy; offers good equipment levels and engines.
SEAT Leon ST: uses much of the same tech, in a trendier outfit and for a lower price.