Volkswagen's new Golf SV is a direct replacement for the Golf Plus, designed to sit between the standard Golf hatchback and roomier estate model, both in terms of practicality and price.
It's based on the same platform as the hatch, but with space as the top priority, so it's 13cm longer and 8cm taller and wider than the standard car. Those dimensions put it in direct competition with traditional MPVs including the Mercedes B-Class and Citroen C4 Picasso.
The engines on offer include a 1.2-litre petrol turbo with either 84bhp or 108bhp, and a 1.4 turbo with 123bhp or 148bhp. The diesel line-up is a 1.6 with either 89bhp or 108bhp, plus a 148bhp 2.0-litre.
What’s the 2014 Volkswagen Golf SV like to drive?
Diesel models are expected to account the majority of sales, and that's not surprising given the 2.0-litre's strong pull from low revs – perfect for hauling a family and their luggage. Despite a slight buzz from the pedals, it stays very smooth, and only becomes strained when pushed hard.
We also drove the 148bhp 1.4 petrol, which offers similar pace when worked, but requires lower gears up steep hills. It's usually only one down-change, though, and it's more refined than the diesel when revved.
The SV benefits from nicely weighted pedals and its manual 'box is slick and precise. Volkswagen's DSG automatic gearbox works well in the SV, too. It can dither over changes from a standstill, but once up to speed it's rarely caught out, offering quick, seamless shifts.
It's not surprising that adding weight and height to a standard Golf causes it to lose some handling agility, but the SV is impressive for an MPV. Compared with its rivals, the SV's body control is tidier and the steering is far more precise.
Our test cars were all fitted with optional adaptive dampers, and we're yet to test them on UK roads, but even left in its 'normal' setting the SV took speed bumps and potholes comfortably in its stride.
That said, it works better on the smaller 16-inch alloys, because higher-spec models with 17-inch wheels tend to pick up on sharp-edged bumps more frequently.
The bigger wheels kick up more road noise on the motorway too, but wind noise is kept to a minimum and all the engines we tried faded into the background when cruising at a steady speed.
What’s the 2014 Volkswagen Golf SV like inside?
All of your passengers will be more comfortable in the SV than they'd be in the standard Golf. There's a wide range of adjustment to both front seats and a huge amount of headroom thanks to the taller roof. The driver also has excellent all-round visibility, because of the SV's thin pillars and tall windows.
The dash is slightly taller and more upright than the standard Golf's, but if anything, this makes it easier to reach. It's just as easy to use, too, and features nicely damped, clearly labelled switches. It feels well built, too.
In the back, there's more headroom than you'd find in, say, a Citroen C4 Picasso, but less than you get in a Mercedes B-Class. There's enough for even tall adults though, and they won't struggle for knee room.
There's enough space for three children to sit across the back bench, and the flat floor makes things more comfortable for anyone stuck in the middle, but without individual seats it's not as flexible as a C4 Picasso in the back.
The boot is a generous 500-litres, which is larger than the B-Class's. It's a nice square shape inside too, and the rear seats slide forward to trade rear knee room for more space, but only in a 60/40 configuration.
Should you need to carry even more, the SV's rear seats also split 40/20/40 and fold down flat, as long as the adjustable boot floor is in its highest position. The front passenger seat folds down too, making loading longer items like flat-pack furniture easier.
Every version of the SV has seven airbags, a colour touch-screen, Bluetooth, DAB digital radio, air-con and a post-collision braking system. SE trim adds adaptive cruise control with City Emergency Braking, which cuts in automatically to avoid a low-speed crash, alloy wheels and automatic lights and wipers.
The range-topping GT trim gets larger alloys, sat-nav, part-Alcantara upholstery, front and rear parking sensors, stiffer suspension and tinted rear windows.
Should I buy one?
The SV offers a genuine space advantage over standard family hatchbacks, and stands out as one of the best MPVs to drive. It also benefits from having one of the classiest cabins in the class. As a result, it does make more sense (and is a fair bit cheaper) than the Mercedes B-Class.
However, our favourite C4 Picasso – the 1.6 e-HDi 115 Exclusive – costs £21,555, which is £1000 less than an equivalent 1.6 TDI SE Golf SV, and comes with similar space, a bigger boot and those excellent individual rear seats.
If outright practicality is your main concern, there are better choices than the SV. In fact, a lot of families will be just as well off with a standard Golf, but if a car-like driving experience and quality interior are important, and you do need a few extra inches of room, few MPVs do it so well.
What Car? says…
1.4 TSI 150
Engine size 1.4-litre turbo petrol
Price from £24,895
Torque 184lb ft
Top speed 132mph
Fuel economy 50.4mpg
Engine size 2.0 diesel
Price from £23,950
Torque 251lb ft
Top speed 132mph
Fuel economy 65.7mpg