Volkswagen Malaysia (now known as Volkswagen Passenger Cars Malaysia Sdn Bhd) recently and subtly split the Golf MK7 into two separate variants to better address the needs of local customers. While the pre-facelift Golf TSI had a sticker price of RM163,888 (sans insurance and other incidentals), the new variants promise to keep the current model chugging along until the next generation debuts in a couple of years. The base “Comfortline” can be had for only RM149,888 while the kitted up “Highline” goes for only RM159,888, which is still cheaper than the single variant that it replaces while offering quite a bit of extra features that cost quite a bit to implement. These are good times indeed.
When the VW Golf MK7 TSI debuted on our shores in 2013 it came with the group’s latest MQB modular global platform that underpinned a host of the group’s cars including Audi, SEAT and Škoda. MQB is said to be more of a generalization of toolkits and production lines to linearize resources amongst the various brands. In so doing, VAG has achieved a sizeable economy of scale in production costs and improved turnaround times at their plants so that us consumers get to enjoy a higher quality product overall at competitive prices.
Diehard fans of the Golf, a phenomenon that arguably started here with the introduction of the 6th generation Golf (Golf MK6), were slightly disappointed at the apparent detuning of the 1.4l powerplant in the new Golf which only featured a single stage turbocharger instead of the older twin-charged variety. Understandably, the new Golf 7 TSI made less horsepower but slightly higher torque, a tradeoff that VW had to take amidst growing concerns about the twin-charged engine’s longevity and also simply due to Economics 101; the twin-charged 1.4 TSI motor was simply too complicated and expensive to produce. Hence, the new engine only made 140PS (compared to 160PS on the twin-charged variant), which many felt as if the new Golf was on the slide.
However, in spite of its lower power rating, the 140PS Golf MK7 TSI still managed to complete the century sprint in a mere 8.3 seconds thanks to the lighter chassis and other weight savings made to the 7th gen. Upping the power slightly to 150PS apparently only yields a marginal difference in acceleration, as the official published stats claim a 0.1second improvement in century sprint timings from 8.3 to 8.2 seconds. So the facelifted Golf TSI now boasts 150PS between 5,000 to 6,000rpm while sustaining 250Nm of torque between 1,500-3,500rpm. Having said that, the additional 10PS does make the car more drivable and it exhibited a much livelier character compared to the pre-facelift motor. As before, the new Golf puts the power down to the wheels via the company’s excellent but often misunderstood 7-speed dry clutch DSG.
Volkswagen Golf MK7 FL: What’s New
For 2016, the new Golf gets a whole lot of new stuff, but loses a bit of bling from before. The headlining “Highline” variant comes with beautiful 17-inch Madrid alloys shod with Dunlop Sport Maxx rubber in 225/45 R17 configuration. The new rims are both functional and sharp looking, and indeed make the car that bit more desirable. Elsewhere, the new Golf TSI makes do with standard halogen daylight running lights, losing the excellent U-shaped LED daytime running lights from the previous iteration. Thankfully, the Highline variant still employs Bi-Xenon lighting while the Comfortline has to make do with simple halogens. On the bright side, halogens are way way cheaper to replace compared to high intensity discharge bulbs in the Highline variant.
Round the back, the new Golf gets to share the spotlight with its fire-breathing brother the Golf R in the form of the latter’s rear LED light cluster. However, Golf R owners need not fret just yet, because the ones on the Golf 7 TSI are not smoked like the R’. Aside from these minor tweaks here and there, the car is somewhat aesthetically not too dissimilar with its predecessor; only trained eyes can tell in an instant.
Stepping inside, beautiful “Mel Stripe” high quality fabric seats welcome you to get in and take the car for a spin. The driver and front passenger seats have been updated to feature more pronounced paddings for an overall “cocooned”, more enveloping feel that makes you want to just attack any and every corner in your path simply because those seats are such a joy to be in.
The Highline variant also nets you a host of nifty electronic features, starting with “KESSY” or keyless entry start stop system which has already been implemented across most of VW’s higher end offerings. This system makes your day even more seamless, offering keyless entry and locking as well as not having to search for that damn key in your pants or handbag (ladies).
Park Assist is a new addition to the facelifted Highline Golf TSI, something that many had hoped to have been included in the pre-facelift variant when it first debuted in 2013 but was not to be. Said system easily and effortlessly takes over the steering wheel when prompted, allowing you to park and exit parallel spaces without so much as having to touch the steering wheel. I can see how this system will benefit Malaysians in general; parked cars would look so much neater in a row if only this system was installed in each and every damn car on our roads…
Rest Assist is quite useful for the modern road warrior as it can help to preempt potential accidents due to the driver being asleep at the wheel. This is a very real threat, as many accidents could have been avoided if the driver was more alert while driving. I wonder if there was a way to tweak the system to include Pokemon Assist, where the car would scream at the driver for simply stopping or driving erratically to catch elusive Pokemons. Perhaps in the MK8?
Volkswagen Golf MK7 FL: Simply the Hottest Hatch
The Golf has been an iconic car for most if not all of its generations. Since the first Golf, it has attracted millions of happy owners worldwide due to its racy nature and great handling without sacrificing much on comfort. This 7th generation Golf continues to be endowed with the very best of VW’s engineering prowess, culminating in a car that is super responsive, very easy to punt around town and yet able to rip up the corners like a champ without breaking a sweat.
That slight uprating of the engine’s horsepower gives the car a much needed boost in the right direction. Coming from a stock Golf MK6 as my daily driver, I could hardly differentiate between the two in terms of power delivery and response. Sure, the twin-charged motor in the MK6 still has that slight edge come pedal to metal, but the gap has shrunk considerably due to a stiffer, lighter and zippier chassis and slightly higher torque and horsepower than before. The Dunlop Sport Maxx shoes on the MK7 proved to be a great match for the car with just the right amount of contact patch width (225mm) and aspect ratio (45%) to offer a good balance of performance and comfort.
The MQB platform has proven itself to be much improved, and this has benefited the MK7 in a very positive way. The car feels very taut and rarely skips a beat when dealing with undulating road conditions, remaining poised and in control at all times. This tautness also makes the car very zippy when tasked to execute zippy lane changes at high speed; it’s just a simple point and shoot affair without the accompanying drama. This is by far one of, if not the best handling front wheel drive car in the world.
Volkswagen Golf MK7 FL: Yay or Nay?
In today’s world where style precedes substance, it is getting harder to justify owning a Golf, let alone a VW, no thanks to repeated subtle persecution faced by the brand due to quality issues in the past. Keyboard warriors are always ever ready to pipe in with tales of woe apparently experienced by a friend of a neighbor’s cat’s vet’s ex-wife’s current boyfriend. Adding salt to the wound, many regard the MK6 as still the one to beat in the aesthetics department, for the MK7 comes across as perhaps a little too spartan and unexciting. This wasn’t the case when the MK6 made its debut in 2009, when it received accolades and was deemed a worthy successor to the MK5.
Having said that, a stock Golf MK6 TSI isn’t the most beautiful of cars anyway, requiring a bit of dressing up to make it shine. This same principle applies to the MK7 as well; slap on a bodykit or slam it down a few inches, swap out the wheels for 18-inchers and things will start looking a whole lot different then. In closing our case of the Golf MK7, it is regarded very highly in our books simply because it has got a lot of fundamental improvements over its predecessor to warrant a closer look, and with most of the issues suffered by the MK6 being fully resolved in this new model, I see no reason not to put this car in your shortlist.
Text and images: Greg Yang