Having driven the latest Golf at the car's European launch last year, Motors took the seventh-generation Golf for an extended test over the Christmas/New Year period.
We already know that Golf is very, very good, but with prices starting at just under €20,000, is there any reason to buy anything more than the entry-level version? After all, you can get a new Golf for a small deposit and €239 per month from VW Bank.
Our 2-litre TDi 'Highline' test car featured an impressive amount of optional extras to allow us evaluate whether they are worth the additional spend. With a starting price of €31,645, the 150bhp, DSG (auto) diesel falls into band A4 (€200 road tax). Throw in some optional extras (€7,611) and our test car's price reaches €39,256 – ouch!
VW says virtually nobody buys a basic Golf, with most buyers going for the next step up, Comfortline. Highline is the third and top-tier specification and it delivers a lot of creature comforts as standard, e.g. 'climatic' air conditioning, cruise/limiter control, sports seats, front fogs, multi-function leather steering wheel and auto-hold electronic parking brake.
The options on top of this included 18-inch 'Durban' alloys that look great but increase cabin noise and can make the ride a little harsh on rural roads. 65% light absorbing, tinted rear windows made the black test car look very smart and quite classy.
The 'Winter Pack' included heated seats – always a good option to tick in Ireland. The 'Discovery Pro' in-built sat nav looks great on the Highline's 5.8-inch dash display but was disappointing in its primary role.
Park Assist/Park Pilot (including distance control) is an automatic parking system similar to the one available as an option in the Ford Focus. If you break into a cold sweat when parking, then this could be the answer to your prayers.
The system, with a press of a button, will identify a parking space (parallel or perpendicular) and once you control the accelerator, braking and gears steer the car into (and out of) the space via electronic black magic! Gear shift controls on the steering wheel are great fun for making swift progress and an option I like a lot, but in truth the car was left in 'D' most of the time (I didn't even use the sportier 'S' setting much, either).
Lane assist (helps you stay in your lane) and dynamic light assist (static turning lights) are new to Golf. Golf's auto high beam lights are superb. While most auto systems just flick between high and low beam via a windscreen camera or light sensor, Golf's system shapes its headlights to maximise illumination, using a variable mask on the main beam - brilliant.
An option that should be standard: an iPod/iPhone media adapter cable. My one criticism of this is the cable is too short and poorly positioned.
Finally, Golf's adaptive cruise control is the best I have used to date. When a speed of 30kph or higher is set you can select the distance to the car in front. If the car in front brakes, the Golf will do so, too, and come to a complete stop if necessary. If the car in front accelerates, the Golf will also (up to the speed you've set).
Do you need all these toys? No, but it is nice to know that in the Golf Class they are available.
New Golf will, more than likely, be crowned European Car of the Year 2013 at the Geneva show in March. It certainly deserves it.