More Golf, more go

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We’re now on the second generation model, which features much the same package of improvements that transformed the normal Gold MKV family hatch into the Golf MKVI. But why would you buy a Golf Plus variant over the ordinary version?

True, the total loading capacity rises to 395 or 1450 litres (depending on whether you fold the rear seats). The standard Golf’s figures are 350 and 1305 litres. However, given that the Golf Plus is hardly any longer and certainly no wider than a standard Golf, virtually all of that additional stowage space is nestling against the ceiling, that is in the position which is least often used. So what’s the point? It’s a question many have asked Volkswagen who point to a little extra utility and the Plus’ ability to carry bulky objects. Given that the price differential isn’t that large over a normal Golf, perhaps there is a slot in the market into which this unusual car can continue to fit.

As ever, Volkswagen have resisted the temptation to jemmy in seven seats and have instead concentrated on making the five seats and luggage bay as practical as possible. The rear seats can be shifted fore and aft by 160mm and folded by means of a system that means they are automatically lowered when folded down. This results in a virtually level load space, making the Golf Plus a very practical option indeed. The seats do the usual 60:40 split and the middle seat can also be folded down to form a drinks table. Additional stowage spaces around the cabin and a double height boot floor are nice touches but once again, the Golf Plus throws up more questions than answers. After all, these features could probably have been integrated into the Golf without too much of a headache.

Ford faced similar confusion amongst customers when the Fusion was launched - itself a taller, bulkier Fiesta. Volkswagen claim the Golf Plus is likely to attract buyers without families, or possibly with small families, who require more room and flexibility than the traditional hatchback can offer. One benefit of basing this Golf Plus on the Golf Mk VI chassis is that it has an excellent start to life, the electro-mechanical steering feel and composed body control being leagues ahead of most of the opposition. It also retains the basic stance of the Golf. The interior keeps the Golf Plus at the top of the family hatch tree.

Four TDI turbo diesel engines are on offer. There are two versions of the 1.6-litre unit developing either 90 or 105PS or a rather ritzier 2.0-litre powerplant that generates a healthier 110 or 140PS. All engines are well worth seeking out, especially after you’ve driven them back to back with the petrol Golf powerplants, the 2.0-litre TDI being especially impressive. This engine will punt the big-boned Golf through 60mph in 9.8 seconds and on to a top speed of 127mph, making it a brilliant long distance cruiser.

The 105PS unit is no slouch though and is also likely to prove the bigger seller. Fuel economy of all engines is excellent (and improved from the MK1 Golf Plus), the 2.0 TDI 140 unit averaging 55.4mpg on the combined cycle. As before, the option of the revolutionary DSG twin-clutch sequential gearbox. There are also BlueMotion versions of the 105PS 1.6 TDI capable of 65.7mpg on the combined cycle and 114g/km of CO2.

The visual differences between this Golf Plus and the Golf hatchback are clearer than they were with the previous generation model. The neatly integrated roof rails are the clearest point of differentiation and at the rear, there’s a colour coded bumper and attractive red light clusters that utilise LED technology. All Golf Plus model have a safety specification that includes ESP stability control, ABS brakes and six airbags. There are also anti-whiplash head restraints and a deactivation switch is included for the front passenger air bag for use when a child seat is fitted.

The Golf Plus diesel range fits a very small but specific niche and is never destined to be a huge seller. Despite its fundamental quality, it’s neither as pretty nor as affordable as the basic Golf hatch and expounding the car’s benefits to a sceptical public is still going to be a tough task. Possibly the best way to put customers into a Golf Plus is to park one next to Volkswagen’s ‘proper’ mini-MPV, the Touran. All things are relative, you see.