But I reckon that of all the different vehicles tested, I have driven more Volkswagen Golfs than any other model – I even owned one a few years back.
So stepping into the latest addition to our long-term test fleet – the Volkswagen Golf 1.9 TDI – was rather like meeting an old and trusted friend again.
That solid, functional dash was there to greet me – it’s not a lot different from the one in my old G-reg model, in fact – and those hard flat seats were as supportive as ever. As this model is a Sport version, it also has some nice side supports for when the going gets a bit racey.
And – joy of joys – Volkswagen has sent us a Golf equipped with the new six-speed automatic DSG gearbox, so there will be no need to mess around with a clutch. A few years ago, you could almost count on one hand the number of fleet autobox cars on the roads but they seem to be gradually creeping into the British psyche, although it’s a slow process.
I got used to driving automatics while I was a resident of California a few years back and I can’t understand why anyone would want a manual – or stick shift, as the Yanks call them – in this day and age.
This DSG box is a bit special. Unlike normal auto set-ups, there is no loss of power or fuel economy. It could prove a real boon to any driver who normally operates in a city or spends a lot of time sitting in traffic jams.
Our test car is clad in diamond black pearl effect paint, which gives it a more upmarket look than some of the pastel shades on offer, and has a smart set of 17-inch alloy wheels, which turned out to be a £445 option. Other paid-for extras are cruise control at £270, bi-xenon headlights with washers and automatic range adjustment at £725, rear parking sensor at £295, rear electric windows at £150 and a six-CD auto-changer at £395.
This little lot adds £2,280 to the price of the car and increases a 22% taxpayer’s benefit-in-kind tax bill by £7.52 a month. Personally, if I was choosing this Golf as a company car, I’d have the alloys and parking sensor and not bother with the rest.
The Golf’s 103bhp 1.9-litre common rail turbodiesel unit is a nice middle-of-the-road choice. It’s nippy enough, with 0-60mph coming in 11 seconds and a top speed of 115mph, but doesn’t have the raw power of the bigger 2.0-litre GT diesel units which offer 138bhp and more feisty handling. An ideal fleet choice, I’d say.
Fuel economy is reckoned to be a frugal 48.7mpg on the combined cycle. As the car is still on its first tankful of fuel after being delivered, we have yet to carry out a detailed fuel consumption analysis, but the fuel gauge seems to be holding up well so far.
After a couple of weeks behind the wheel of our new car, I can easily see why the Golf has become such an icon of style and reliability. It’s one of those vehicles in which the whole is much more than the sum of the parts. Quite what it is that makes the Golf better than its rivals isn’t exactly obvious, but when all the bits are screwed together, the Golf seems to work just perfectly.
Model: VW Golf 1.9 TDI Sport DSG
Price (OTR): £17,630 (£19,910 as tested)
CO2 emissions (g/km): 157
Company car tax bill (2005/6) 22% tax-payer: £58 a month Insurance group: 6
Combined mpg: 48.7
Test mpg: N/A
CAP Monitor residual value: £6,425/37%
Expenditure to date: Nil
Typical contract hire rate: £338
Figures based on three-years/60,000-miles
Equipment and options
Total options: £2,280
Standard price (OTR): £17,630
Price as tested: £19,910
What we expect
SUPERB fuel economy figures, comfort, excellent road holding and, of course, total reliability.
It’s a lot to ask from a lower-medium ‘bread and butter’ fleet car but we expect no less from the Golf, a vehicle which has achieved almost legendary status during its long life.
We’ll be interested to see if Volkswagen’s claims about its DSG gearbox stand up to our expectations, too.
The manufacturer’s view
‘The Golf is our best-selling fleet car, and the 1.9 TDI and 2.0 TDI engines are the most popular. It’s easy to see why. The diesels provide punchy performance with class-leading efficiency and low running costs. The 1.9 TDI with DSG is a great combination. My wife Julia chose this model and in my book you don’t get a better endorsement than that!’
Vincent Kinner, head of Volkswagen Fleet Services