Buying the Volkswagen Jetta is probably one of the best choice I have made in a car. Not just from a consumer perspective, but also from blogging. After publishing my blog about the Jetta, I was subsequently contacted by VW Singapore and offered me opportunities to review other VW cars. No big deal, you might think. I don’t have to own a brand to review. After all, I have also reviewed cars from Toyota and Volvo.
I find that cars are the most difficult products to review. First, they probably the most expensive product category that a reviewer can try in Singapore. That puts pressure on the reviewer to really take good care of it. Secondly, the industry practice is a 3-day loan period. Since I am not a full-time reviewer, it is not possible for me to drive and review the car extensively. Finally, it takes time to get familiarize with the car, from the maneuvering to the in-car controls. Many car owners take weeks even months to understand the car inside out, and here, car reviewers expect to give a write-up after 3 days of hands-on. So I had to do some research prior to getting the test unit.
Given all the challenges, this is why I am thankful that I own a VW Jetta. That is because when I receive a VW car for review, I have already known half of the features and characteristics. Thus, I am able to jump right into the proper review experience. And most importantly, I love driving VW!
Volkswagen Golf Variant 1.4 TSI R-Line
The Volkswagen Golf Variant 1.4 is essentially a wagon, longer than the standard Golf by 30cm, slightly smaller wheelbase and turning radius than Jetta, similar overall drivetrain and software system as the Sportsvan I reviewed. The roof is slightly lower than the Jetta, offering a really streamline look compared to other wagons.
Like the Sportsvan, the Golf Variant has rear cargo space, sunroof, auto park assist, auto start-stop, driving profiles, electronic parking brake, auto hold brake when stationary. This is such an interesting drive because the Golf Variant combines the features of 2 other VW models I have experienced, and all 3 has similar engine specs of 1.4-litre TSI 7-speed DSG gearbox. Even though the technical aspects and dashboard functions are similar, the drive and handling is rather different. That handling difference is essentially what sets them apart.
First, the Golf Variant has the same seat profile as a sedan, while the Sportsvan is a mini MPV with higher seat profile. The Sportsvan has more compartments to store things and generally roomier like an MPV. The Golf Variant has a more pronounced sedan interior, classier finishing, more streamlined centre console, and longer boot space. If you fold away the rear seats, you get even more space, probably can fit a twin size bed! Yet, the Golf Variant is still 10cm shorter length than the Jetta.
The Golf Variant offered by Volkswagen Singapore comes with only 1 option, that is the R-Line. VW positions this car as sporty and less wagon-like. The R-Line comes with radiator grille, side sill extensions, roof edge spoiler, black gloss diffuser, 18-inch alloy wheel, and sports suspension.
The VW Jetta I bought was based on the older Euro 5 emission standard, which offers a drive closer to manual. It feels more aggressive, which is fun for drivers but not so comfortable for passengers. For more of that, head to my detailed review of the Jetta.
The Golf Variant handles like a normal sedan and certainly more nimble than Sportsvan. The initial throttle response is not as forceful as the Jetta, which I can feel the pull-back against the seat when I step on the accelerator hard. The Golf Variant acceleration feels more comfortable, without the initial sudden torque. The engine is more muted and does not sound as “fierce”. The sports suspension does not feel too hard for me. It offers the right amount of stiffness which translates to road holding and less bouncy feel.
While I felt the Jetta is more powerful, the Golf Variant on paper achieves faster acceleration than Jetta – 9.5 sec vs. 9.8 sec to hit 100 km/h. I suppose VW has tweaked the gear ratio to deliver more power at higher gear so that the acceleration is faster at higher gear while Jetta is at the lower gear. That may also explain why Golf Variant is more fuel efficient.
To meet Euro 6 carbon emission standard, there are driving profiles allow the car to perform at its most eco-friendly way. If you are a tame driver, switch to Eco driving profile to enjoy more relaxed drive. Like the Sportsvan, I can still have a fun drive by using the paddle shift to manually downshift the gear for the occasional kick. Despite what the specs show, I still feel the Jetta responds better when it comes to stepping on the accelerator for overtaking.
With the same driving style, sometimes even more aggressive due to the nature of test drive, the average fuel consumption is 7 l/100km. I could never reach below 8 on my VW Jetta. The dashboard even prompts eco tips to encourage saving fuel, like, reminding you that the aircon is on when sunroof is up, or to activate star-stop system.
Electro-mechanical Speed-sensitive Power Steering
What caught my attention is the steering behaviour. The Golf Variant achieves full steering with just one rotation cycle, while most cars would require one and a half rotations. This is really great for maneuvering corners in urban roads and small passageways, and doing U-turns. The steering will reduce sensitivity as the speed picks up, and the firmness varies based on the driving profile.
Parallel Parking with Park Assist
My favourite feature that I always show off to friends and colleagues hitching the ride during my test period is the Park Assist, commonly known as auto parking. The VW technology only controls the steering while the driver has to control the gear, accelerator and brakes. This time round, I managed to try parallel parking and it is amazing how the Golf Variant does it so elegantly, thanks to the proximity sensors placed all around the car.
The Park Assist also helps me to get out of parallel parking lot.
Some people will really appreciate this feature. Personally, I find it is much faster to park manually: the Park Assist might not be able recognise some lots, e.g. corner lots where there is no vehicle, or next to a pillar. So it can be a little frustrating when the Park Assist did not work when a parking space is clearly visible. But for someone who cannot park proficiently, the Park Assist is a god-send.
What my daughter likes about the Golf Variant
Overall, the list of likes are similar to the Sportsvan. Some new discovery: she liked the interior lighting which she thought was bright. She also liked the larger-screen infotainment system with larger fonts.
Summary of My Thoughts
After test driving the VW Sportsvan and the Golf Variant, I am getting to appreciate my VW Jetta more. The Sportsvan and Golf Variant wins in technology, drive versatility, fuel efficiency, and features, with the Golf Variant offering an advantage on drive performance. The Jetta is more affordable, feels more aggressive, and build for a single driving profile.
It is interesting to note that the Golf Variant is slightly pricier than the Sportsvan Highline. For that reason alone, I feel that the Sportsvan is a much better value buy for small families and elderly where the seats are more comfortable. You enjoy the same latest Volkswagen technology at a lower price. The Golf Variant is about 22cm longer, more streamline look, and more nimble handling on the roads. It is a great choice for drivers who still prefer a sedan ride with a need of huge boot space.
I hope this review makes you keen to test drive the Golf Variant 1.4 TSI R-Line, available at Volkswagen Singapore showroom. Between the time I returned the car and I publish this review, the Golf Variant has already increased the list price by S$1,500. With the COE quota cut for the next quarter, the COE premium is not going to fall. So, what are you waiting for?
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