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It’s a day of the week with a ‘Y’ in it, so diesels are in the news again, and not for their impressive fuel economy. Only some of the criticism is justified, but the fact remains that this ongoing bad press, combined with the likelihood of increasingly stringent emissions rules, is having an impact on sales and residual values. So, what are the alternatives?
Well, the Volkswagen Golf 1.5 TSI Evo looks pretty tempting on paper. It's available in 128bhp and 148bhp forms, the former replacing the old 123bhp 1.4 TSI and the latter in place of the old 1.4 TSI of the same output, and both are more fuel-efficient.
Both models also get the subtle styling tweaks that were introduced across the Golf range earlier this year as part of its facelift, including more aggressive-looking bumpers, a redesigned front grille and LED front and rear lights.
The high-powered 148bhp version is only available with GT and R Line trims – which, in the case of R Line, makes the car easy to mistake for Volkswagen’s flagship hot hatch, the Golf R.
Volkswagen Golf 1.5 TSI Evo on the road
Volkswagen claims a 0-62mph time of 8.3sec for the 148bhp version, which is actually 0.1sec slower than the old 148bhp 1.4 managed. However, the new engine pulls harder from low revs and builds speed in a very progressive way, so in most everyday situations it feels stronger.
The 128bhp is slower on paper and in reality, but not by enough to leave you wanting either in town or when accelerating on fast B-roads and motorways. Sure, when your Golf is filled to the brim with friends and family, you’ll be grateful for the extra top-end grunt in overtaking situations. However, the 148bhp version is significantly more expensive than the less powerful 128bhp 1.5 and is fractionally less economical. Therefore we would recommend sticking with the entry-level 1.5.
Both new 1.5s remain near-silent at cruising speeds, too. Helped by its ability to shut down cylinders when they’re not needed, we managed to achieve an impressive 52mpg on our mixed-roads route in the 148bhp car – just short of its official 55.4mpg.
Other than that, it’s a case of as you were – and that’s a good thing. The Golf remains composed and comfortable even over scruffy road surfaces, and yet body sway is kept neatly in check through bends, so you always feel confident that the car is going to respond exactly how you want it to.
It doesn’t feel quite as eager to change direction as an Audi A3, but the steering is still nicely weighted and accurate. There’s loads of grip, too, meaning you can hustle the Golf along a twisty B-road surprisingly swiftly.
Volkswagen Golf 1.5 TSI Evo interior
The driving position is also unchanged, which means there’s a huge range of adjustment to help you get comfortable, while all-round visibility is excellent.
What is new is the interior aesthetic. While the Golf has historically felt a cut above its rivals, in recent years it has been left behind by prestige-badged models such as the A3 and BMW 1 Series.
To address this, Volkswagen is now offering a giant 9.2in touchscreen infotainment system that dominates the dashboard (on the outgoing car, the biggest screen was 6.5in). Unfortunately, while this arrangement looks great, it’s actually rather distracting to use on the move because there are no hard buttons to let you switch between menus without looking away from the road.
Far more impressive is the Active Info Display (a £495 option). This replaces the traditional instruments with a configurable digital screen that can display a vast amount of information very clearly.
The Golf also remains as practical as ever, with generous space for four adults, just about enough for a fifth and a good-sized boot, although the Skoda Octavia is even more spacious.
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