Volkswagen's new Golf SV is a direct replacement for the Golf Plus, designed to sit between the standard Golf hatchback and roomier Touran, 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 really hard.
The smaller 1.6 diesel is noticeably less refined than the 2.0-litre, and its gruff noise is a constant presence inside the car. It doesn't have the effortless pull of the 2.0-litre, but it's powerful enough for most people's needs, with enough urgency at low speed to make pulling away cleanly hassle-free.
Another issue is the five-speed manual gearbox, and on the motorway you'll find yourself longing for an extra cog to keep the engine a little quieter. There's a fair bit of wind noise around the A-pillars too.
We also drove the 148bhp 1.4 petrol, which offers similar pace to the larger diesel when worked, but requires lower gears up steep hills. It's usually only one down-change, though, and it's more refined than both the diesels 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.
The standard suspension felt a little firm on UK roads, with some imperfections in the surface being transmitted up into the cabin, though it stops well short of being uncomfortable. It copes well with absorbing larger bumps, but it doesn't ride with the quite the same level of sophistication as cars fitted with the optional (£815) adaptive dampers.
Golf SV's fitted with this dynamic chassis control system, and left in its 'normal' setting, can take speed bumps and potholes comfortably in stride. The 1.6 TDI SE we tried comes with standard 16-inch alloys, and does without the lower, stiffer suspension of the GT version we've driven previously.
The smaller wheels kick up less road noise on the motorway, and the 2.0-litre diesel and 1.4-litre petrol fade into the background when cruising at a steady speed, which sadly the 1.6 diesel does not.
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 in the Golf hatch, but if anything, this makes it easier to reach. It's just as simple to use, too, and features nicely damped, clearly labelled switches. Everything inside feels really 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 at all, and legroom in the rear is very generous. The back seats slide and recline too.
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 three 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. There's an adjustable height floor too, but changing between the two positions is an awkward manoeuvre because you first have to remove a fiddly plastic divider.
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 flexible 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 around.
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, plus a smoother engine and a six-speed manual gearbox.
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, or even the estate (both of which are cheaper) although the estate is not quite as compact.
Still, if a car-like driving experience and high quality interior are important, and you do need a few extra inches of room for regularly carrying four adults, then few MPVs do it so well.
What Car? says…
](http://www.whatcar.com/car-reviews/mercedes-benz/b-class-hatchback/summary/26076-5)****1.6 TDI 110
**Engine size 1.6-litre turbo diesel
Price from £21,650
Torque 184lb ft
Top speed 119mph
Fuel economy 72.4mpg
1.4 TSI 150
**Engine size 1.4-litre turbo petrol Price from £24,895 Power 148bhp Torque 184lb ft 0-62mph 8.8sec Top speed 132mph Fuel economy 50.4mpg CO2** 130g/km
**Engine size 2.0-litre turbo diesel Price from £23,950 Power 148bhp Torque 251lb ft 0-62mph 9.2sec Top speed 132mph Fuel economy 65.7mpg CO2** 112g/km