Driven: VW Golf 1.4 TSI 160

* 158bhp Golf driven * Hottest Golf until GTI * From £18,500 estimated...

Driven: VW Golf 1.4 TSI 160

It's an open secret there'll be a new Volkswagen Golf GTI next summer, and that it's likely to have more than the current car's 197bhp.

Until then, the most potent version of the imminent Golf Mk VI is this1.4 TSI 160.

Still, 158bhp isn't too shabby, especially when it's being developed by VW's 1.4-litre direct-injection turbocharged and supercharged engine.

It doesn't exactly turn the car into a hot hatch, but performance is comparable with that of a BMW 120i, while economy and emissions are better.

For now, it's available with only a seven-speed twin-clutch DSG semi-automatic gearbox, which functions as either a manual without a clutch pedal or a full automatic. No complaints there: it's a terrific transmission.

It all adds up to a smooth and refined package. There's some throatiness interlaced with a hint of supercharger whine when accelerating hard, but it all melts away when cruising.

With 178lb ft of torque from only 1500rpm, the TSI 160 is nicely driveable, too, though the kick you expect from a car with a turbo and a supercharger never materialises. Floor the accelerator in third or fourth gear and it feels a bit flat, as though some of the 158 horsepower has galloped off into a neighbouring field.

Put it down to the comparatively small engine capacity. There aint no substitoot for cubes (cubic capacity), as the Americans say.

That apart, this is pretty much all the car Golf-class buyers could ever want. In case its arrival has passed you by, lets recap.

Its based on the Mk V, but has a more conservative look. Space is the same as before, but refinement has improved thanks to some pretty elaborate noise-control measures, and trim quality is back to the pinnacle VW reached with the Mk IV.

It combines the best bits of the current cars ride and handling with the option of adaptive damping similar to that on the Passat CC and Scirocco. This gives subtle variations between added sportiness or comfort, but might be wasted on a model as middle of the road, metaphorically speaking, as the TSI.

Volkswagen Golf 1.4 TSI 160Price £18,500 (est)
On sale early 2009
You'll like: So utterly Golf
You won't Has it really got 158bhp?