THE Golf Match, far from being a gathering of ageing men in Pringle jumpers and sensible slacks, is the latest addition to Volkswagen’s lower-medium sector model line-up.
Sitting in the range just above the entry-level S model, the Match improves on its sparsely-equipped sibling by adding extra items such as body-coloured bumpers, door handles and mirrors, automatic lights, cruise control, 15-inch alloy wheels, leather-trimmed steering wheel and handbrake, and steering wheel-mounted controls for the on-board computer and stereo system.
Our test car had an optional satellite navigation system fitted (£1,580), but the standard car includes an eight-speaker stereo and connection for an MP3 player. Climatic air-conditioning is standard.
Volkswagen’s build quality these days is such that the Match feels solid, despite being at the lower-end of the trim list. Touches such as the leather steering wheel and cruise control all contribute to a feeling of luxury that you wouldn’t necessarily expect in a car costing less than £15,000.
Having said that, it’s still clearly a car built to a budget – while the plastics are well put together and generally look and feel good, some are a little brittle to the touch, especially lower down the cabin towards the doorbins.
On the outside, you’ll have to pay more if you want metallic paint, and side airbags for the rear passengers are an extra £235.
Overall it’s a pleasant and comfortable interior, if not particularly inspiring. The designers clearly favoured function over flair.
The same goes for the exterior. There’s nothing outstanding, but nothing that should draw criticism.
Power comes from a 1.6-litre petrol engine, developing 115bhp. A 1.9-litre TDI unit with 105bhp is also available in Match clothing.
The petrol unit is a good one, with lots of low-down punch for pootling around town.
It makes the most of the power it has, running out of steam slightly towards the top of the rev range but with enough oomph for sensible overtaking manoeuvres or quick entries on to the motorway.
The ride and handling, as we’ve come to expect from all variants of Golf is decent, and with soft, supportive seats long journeys should be ache-free.
At 42.2mpg, combined fuel economy is good for a petrol-engined model, and the light of foot can expect to see more than 50mpg when cruising on the motorway.
Practicality and comfort come way ahead of style when it comes to the Golf Match, but for the price it is an approach that appears to be very good value.
Despite its low positioning in the range, the Match looks and feels far from cheap.
P11D value: £14,972
CO2 emissions (g/km): 159
BIK % of P11D in 2007: 18%
Graduated VED rate: £125
Insurance group: 6
Combined mpg: 42.2
CAP RV (3yr/60k): £6,075/41%
Monthly lease (3yr/60k): £291
We don’t like:
THE Ford is the friendliest on the wallet and for £300 less than the Volkswagen you get a better trim level with more standard equipment.
The Vauxhall is also better equipped, if a little pricier, and the Honda’s 140bhp engine easily beats the rest in terms of power.
WITH a relatively low front-end price and the lowest CO2 emissions, the Civic is the cheapest in company car tax terms. It will cost a 22% taxpayer £46 a month in benefit-in-kind tax, compared to £48 for the Focus, £49 for the Golf and £50 for the Astra.
ALL four are evenly matched, with the Golf just coming out ahead thanks to having the lowest replacement tyre costs (it has 15-inch wheels comapred with the rest on 16s). The Astra is a close second thanks to low garage labour and parts rates.
Golf: 2.78 (pence per mile) £1,668 (60,000 miles total)
Astra: 2.93 £1,758
Civic: 3.07 £1,842
Focus: 3.21 £1,926
HERE’S something unusual – the largest engine is the most frugal. The Civic’s 1.8-litre 140bhp engine returns 44.1mpg combined, compared to 42.8mpg for the 115bhp Astra, and 42.2mpg for both the 115bhp Golf and the 100bhp Focus.
Civic: 8.95 (pence per mile) £5,370 (60,000 miles total)
Astra 9.23 (pence per mile ) £5,538 (60,000 miles total)
Focus 9.36 (pence per mile) £5,616
Golf 9.36 (pence per mile) £5,616
THE Golf is way ahead in residual value terms, with CAP estimating the Match will retain 41% of its cost new after three years/60,000 miles. Its closest challenger is the Civic which will retain 38%. The Focus will hold on to 30% of its cost new and the Astra just 28%.
Golf: 14.70 (pence per mile) £8,820 (60,000 miles total)
Civic: 15.14 £9,084
Focus: 17.01 £10,206
Astra: 17.85 £10,710
STRONG residuals and low SMR costs mean that despite costing more initially, the Volkswagen is the cheapest car to run. The Honda is only narrowly beaten, while the two volume sellers – the Focus and Astra – are well off the pace. With such low RVs they just can’t compete.
Golf: 26.84 (pence per mile) £16,104 (60,000 miles total)
Civic: 27.16 £16,296
Focus: 29.58 £17,748
Astra: 30.01 £18,006
WITH a solid performance on the road and in financial terms, the Golf is the logical winner here.
But the Civic is also worth a look. It’s chasing at the Volkswagen’s heels in running cost terms, and for the driver it boasts more power and a much more stylish package, as well as being cheaper on BIK tax. Fleets will have to decide between their hearts and their heads on this one, but for me the stylish and zippy Civic wins out over the competent but comparatively dull Golf.