Overall rating: 4/5
With no estate option in Ireland, the Volkswagen Golf SV offers an alternative to the Golf hatchback and the Touran MPV. It's more spacious, easier to get in and out of and considerably more interesting than the Golf Plus it replaces. It looks good, in a conservative way and retains the Golf's impressive cabin and refinement.
In the Metal:
SV stands for 'Sportsvan' in the rest of Europe, but it is believed the 'van' connotations do not sit well with buyers in Ireland, so SV it is for us. Put simply it means a bit more headroom. But the SV is much more attractive than the bulbous Golf Plus it replaces, some sharp creases running along its flanks and boot lid giving it tasteful definition. The angular lights of the Mk7 Golf family are present and correct, the 126mm higher roofline doesn't detract from its stance and the overall effect is of a compact, tidy design, mainly thanks to the fact it is just 83mm longer than the Golf hatch. Best of all is the striking Habanero Orange paint option, a great colour that the old Plus would never have been able to carry off. Still, we bet our home market buyers will plump for silver or grey... sigh.
The interior is peerless in its class once more in terms of fit and finish, the range-topping Highline trim equipped with pretty much everything you could want on this type of car, such as a large touchscreen infotainment system, cruise control, Isofix seat mountings and so on. And when it comes to practicality, there's certainly been some thought put into the SV's cabin. The rear seats all slide individually by up to 180mm, which increases the boot space from 500 litres in the 'all back' position to 590 litres with them jammed forward. They also fold flat easily at the tug of a fabric handle where the squab meets the backrest, and the front passenger seat folds down too so you can carry loads that are 2,484mm long. Maximum load space with the rear bench stowed away is a giant 1,520 litres.
In terms of day-to-day normal driving, the Golf SV is fine. It has a smooth ride, even in range-topping Highline trim on bigger alloys, it supresses wind and road noise brilliantly, the 2.0-litre TDI engine is strong in the mid-range and quiet throughout its entire spread of revs and the seats are comfortable with a decent driving position attainable.
Like a normal, basic Golf, though, the SV offers not even the slightest hint of excitement at all beyond these 'leisurely pace' capabilities. It will at least grip far beyond what you might expect, with safety-led understeer the order of the day when it is severely provoked. The engine is classic turbodiesel, running out of puff quickly after a big mid-range thump and occasionally labouring if you dare to drop below 1,600rpm - and the steering lacks feel and weight. However, driving like a lunatic is not the SV's remit, so for its target buyers the 'safely, safely' approach will be absolutely spot on the money.
What you get for your Money:
Three main trim levels and five power outputs are offered by Volkswagen Ireland in the Golf SV. Trendline models come with air conditioning, a touchscreen stereo, an SD card reader and CD player, MP3 connectivity, seven airbags and ESP stability control.
Comfortline, likely to be the most popular trim, adds to specification with 15-inch alloys, drawers under the front seats, leather for the gear lever and three-spoke multifunction steering wheel, a larger touchscreen system, Bluetooth, cruise control and other touches inside and out. Highline is the top spec and sees an increase in wheel size to 16 inches, parking sensors all round, Alcantara and cloth upholstery, ambient interior lighting, auto lights and wipers and more.
Two 1.2-litre TSI petrol engines are available, with either 85- or 110hp. Diesel power is likely to be more popular of course and the 1.6-litre TDI in 90hp format is expected to be the biggest seller, but you can also have it in 110hp format, while the 2.0-litre TDI as tested here comes only in 150hp guise. Five- or six-speed manuals are standard depending on engine, with six- or seven-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic transmissions optional (the number of ratios depends on engine output).
Once again, the Volkswagen Golf SV - like the Plus before it - doesn't do anything particularly wrong. In fact it does a lot of things very right. Ride, handling and drivetrain refinement are all perfectly acceptable for this market, there's plenty of space in the back and it looks premium both inside and out; something that couldn't be said of its predecessor's ungainly, bloated exterior. The individually adjustable rear seats, higher seating position and extra headroom mark the Golf SV out from its hatchback sibling yet it's still usefully cheaper to buy than the Volkswagen Touran MPV.