First Drive

2014 Volkswagen Golf SV 1.6 TDI review

VW's bigger, more practical Golf has joined the five-seat family MPV fray. The 1.6 TDI is cheaper and cleaner than the 2.0-litre version does that mean it's our pick of the range? We drive it to find out.

Words ByJohn Howell

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If you fancy a Volkswagen Golf but can’t quite squeeze a growing family into one, VW hopes the new Golf SV will be the car for you.

The SV is a five-seat MPV, and it’s longer, taller and wider than a standard Golf. There's more space between the wheels to maximise interior space, and rear seats that slide and recline.

We’ve already driven the 1.4-litre TSI petrol as well as the 2.0-litre TDI 150 diesel, but this is our first opportunity to drive the 1.6-litre TDI diesel. Although it loses out on power to the bigger engine, it trades this with better efficiency – meaning lower running costs – and a Β£1400 saving on the list price.

So how does it compare with the rest of the range, and key rivals such as the Citroen C4 Picasso and Ford C-Max?

What’s the VW Golf SV 1.6 TDI like on the inside?

Up front, the Golf SV offers a high seating position with a clear view of the road ahead. Its boxy shape and expansive glass area means all-round visibility is excellent.

The driver’s seat is wide and supportive and, together with the fully adjustable steering wheel, offers plenty of movement to find a driving position that’ll suit most people. There’s easy access to the rear seats, and once in, even the tallest passengers should find there’s plenty of head-, leg- and shoulder room.

Depending on your needs, the rear seats – which are split 40:20:40 - can be slid forwards or backwards to prioritise rear legroom or boot space. With the rear seats set all the way back the SV offers 500 litres of luggage space - not quite as big as the C4 Picasso's boot, but more than the C-Max's.

The boot floor is height-adjustable, although changing between positions is awkward because first you have to remove a divider, and dropping the seat backs can't be done from the boot.

The cabin materials are first rate. Lots of soft-touch plastics and nicely weighted controls give the VW a premium feel compared with either the Citroen or the Ford. However, the interior is functional rather than stylish, and lacks the quirkiness of the lounge-like environment in the C4 Picasso.

The Golf SV’s infotainment system is easy to use, with simple menus and user-friendly shortcut buttons augmenting the colour touch-screen. By contrast, the C4 Picasso’s 7.0-inch touch-screen is fiddly and slower to respond to your inputs.

The 1.6-litre TDI comes in two trims specifications. S models, which cost from Β£21,650, come with the 5.8-inch colour touch-screen, Bluetooth connection, DAB radio, air-con and an electronic parking brake.

Spend another Β£935 to upgrade to SE trim and you'll get adaptive cruise control with a front collision avoidance system, folding rear picnic tables, 16-inch alloy wheels, and auto lights and wipers.

What’s the VW Golf SV 1.6 TDI like to drive?

Although the 1.6 TDI’s 0-62mph time of 11.3 seconds doesn’t look great on paper, it stacks up well with the competition, and in reality it never feels underpowered. You can get caught out if you let the revs drop into the flat-spot below 1500rpm, but past this point there’s always plenty of usable power. Any vibrations are well isolated from the cabin, but work it hard and it you will hear a distinct diesel thrum.

The 1.6 is an efficient engine. It edges just ahead of the C4 Picasso 1.6 e-HDi 115 in terms of CO2 emissions and economy, and is way ahead of the C-Max 1.6 TDCi 115 for both.

On the road the Golf SV feels relatively agile for a tall car. The steering is precise and accurate, and has a light action that means it’s a breeze to use around town. You do find yourself searching for a sixth ratio on the motorway though, if only to keep the revs down.

We’ve tried an SV fitted with the optional (Β£815) adaptive suspension and liked the way it rode over even the harshest bumps. However, the standard setup fitted to this car struggled to filter out deep potholes and heavy ridges. Less vicious undulations are better dealt with, but even at speed the ride is on the firm side.

Should I buy one?

Depending on your MPV needs, the answer would have to be yes.

The Golf SV works very well for those that regularly carry adults or older kids, thanks to its spacious rear seats. It also handles well, has a classy - if a little bland-looking - interior, and particularly in SE spec, comes well equipped.

Fitted with the 1.6-litre diesel engine it also proves to be cheap to run, offering a significant saving over the more powerful but less efficient 2.0-litre diesel, while still giving good performance.

For this reason the 1.6 is our pick of the range.

What Car? says

Rivals:

Ford C-Max

Citroen C4 Picasso

Volkswagen Golf SV 1.6TDI

Engine size 1.6-litre diesel

Price from Β£21,650

Power 109bhp

Torque 184lb ft

0-62mph 11.3 seconds

Top speed 119mph

Fuel economy 72.4mpg

CO2 101g/km