What's the used Volkswagen Golf SV hatchback like?
It might be true that the popularity of MPVs has declined in recent years with the advent of the SUV, but there are still those who need all the attributes of a normal hatchback but with a little added practicality.
That is in essence what the Volkswagen Golf SV of 2014 to 2020 offered. It took the platform of the Mk7 Golf Hatchback and stretched it by 50mm and then raised the roof height. Together these give the SV extra rear seat passenger space inside and more head room to make entering and exiting the car easier, or the task of getting a baby or toddler into a child seat a less stressful affair. It also makes for a bigger boot than the hatchback, with its 1520 litres of space with the rear seats down, it almost equals the Golf Estate’s.
The rest of it should appeal to those who would like or want a regular Golf. To keep it up to date, it was substantially facelifted in 2017, at the same time as the normal Mk7 Golf, with more efficient engines added and some tweaking to the standard equipment.
To that end there’s a range of excellent engines borrowed from its sibling, starting with a 108bhp 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol unit, edging up through a 1.5-litre petrol in two states of tune and finishing with 1.6 and 2.0 TDI diesel engines. Earlier models offered the option of a 1.2-litre petrol engine and a 1.4 in 125bhp and 150bhp outputs, subsequently replaced during the facelift by the 1.0 and the 1.5, as well as a 1.6-litre diesel in a lower-powered variant.
Trim levels start with S, which isn’t lavishly equipped but does include air-con, Bluetooth, an 8.0 touchscreen and a DAB radio, head through SE, which adds alloy wheels, auto lights and wipers and parking sensors, on to SE Nav, which as you might expect adds sat-nav, and end up at GT, a sporty trim that adds firmer suspension and larger wheels.
On the road the good news is the SV isn’t far off the all-round competence of the standard Golf. There’s more body lean through the corners, even if the balance of body control and ride quality is well struck. Mid-corner bumps are handled with an impressive deftness and there’s plenty of grip, so you can hustle the car along a twisty B-road surprisingly swiftly. On the motorway it impresses, too, with a surprising lack of wind noise for such a tall body. You also get the benefit of a raised driving position, making the car easy to place on the road, thanks to impressive all-round visibility. Road noise, at least on the larger 17in wheels, is a little intrusive, though.
Of the power options, the 1.0-litre engine is a little disappointing and not really up to the work of hauling the SV around. The more powerful 148bhp version of the 1.5 unit impresses with its low-down grunt and willingness to rev, and it feels particularly peppy when paired to the slick optional seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox (a six-speed manual was a standard fitment). However, it's significantly more expensive than the 128bhp version, even used, and fractionally less economical. The diesels offer plenty of low-down grunt, especially the more powerful 2.0 TDI 150, mixed in with good real-world economy and reasonable refinement.
Inside, there’s familiarity in the specially designed interior, too. Neat switchgear, high-quality finishes and sound ergonomics reprise the standard VW Golf, but the controls are better positioned, being less angled towards the hot seat. The driver sits higher than in the hatchback, too, giving a good view through the glass expanses while avoiding the feeling of being perched too high.
Space-wise, head and leg room is excellent front and back, even with the slidable rear bench – to increase either boot space or passenger space – in its mid-way setting. The boot has a flexible floor that can be set to various heights (including flush to the boot lip) and has flaps that smooth over the not-quite-flat floor when the seats are folded forward. The rear seatbacks split 40/20/40, and children will enjoy the tray tables on the backs of the front seats.
In terms of outright size, the highly polished Golf SV offers fractionally more boot space than its closest rival, the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer. However, it’s hard to ignore that VW's own, cheaper Golf Estate offers even more outright boot capacity and is also a fraction nicer to drive.
Advice for buyers
What should I look for in a used Volkswagen Golf SV hatchback?
The Golf SV will have been used in city centre car parks and tight urban rat runs so check the front and rear of the body for any signs of damage. Also check the alloy wheels for any kerb damage. Check the operation of the rear seats; make sure they slide backwards and forwards easily, and that they fold as they should.
What are the most common problems with a used Volkswagen Golf SV hatchback?
DSG automatic gearbox problems with the previous generation of Golf was known to cause some issues, and there are still some early cars of this generation for which problems have been reported.
Faults with the navigation and entertainment system, as well as other electrical niggles, have also been reported on some models, so it’s worth checking that all the electrics work as they should.
Examples fitted with automatic cruise control (ie cruise control that senses the distance from the car in front) can suffer from problems whereby the system gets confused and slams on the brakes. Often, there’s little that can be done to solve this, although the system can be recalibrated – but, beware, it's not a cheap job.
Volkswagen had largely sorted out the most expensive of its DSG automatic gearbox problems before this generation of Golf was launched, but there are still some early cars with which problems have been reported, so make sure the gearbox changes smoothly and there are no signs of temperamental behaviour.
Timing chains fitted to petrol engines have been known to snap prematurely; this can cause significant engine damage but can be mitigated by having the car serviced on time. This means a full service history is critical.
Faults with the navigation and entertainment system, as well as other electrical niggles, have been reported on some models, so it’s worth checking that all the electrics work as they should.
High oil consumption
GTI models can suffer from high oil consumption, so it’s important to keep checking the oil level on these, even between services. If the level gets too low, it can cause damage to the engine or timing chain.
Adaptive cruise control
Examples fitted with adaptive cruise control (which can automatically match the speed of the car ahead of you in your chosen lane) can suffer from problems whereby the system gets confused and slams on the brakes. Often, there’s little that can be done to solve this. The system can be recalibrated, at a cost.
Is a used Volkswagen Golf SV hatchback reliable?
Our latest reliability data shows petrol Golfs in a better light than their diesel counterparts. Petrol models were given a reliability rating of 94.6%, while diesel variants received a rating of 89.4% – not terrible, nor amazing.
Volkswagen, as a brand, ranked 20th out of 30 manufacturers in the same survey.
What used Volkswagen Golf SV hatchback will I get for my budget?
Higher mileage 2014 and 2015 cars can be had for around £7000, but if you wanted one with an average mileage for the year and a full service history, bought from an independent dealer, you’re better off spending between £10,000 and £12,000. Spend between £13,000 and £15,000 and you’ll pick up a low-mileage 2016 or 2017 car with all the criteria mentioned, while £15,000 to £18,000 gets you a 2018 or 2019 version while above that gets you a 2020 car from a franchised dealer.
How much does it cost to run a Volkswagen Golf SV hatchback?
The most economical version of the SV is the 1.6 TDI, whether in original 110 spec or later, post-facelift 115 trim. This can return fuel consumption figures as high as a claimed average of 74.3mpg, according to the older NEDC tests that were prevalent at the time, with corresponding CO2 emissions of just 98g/km. However, the punchier 2.0 TDi 150 version can see a claimed figure of 65.7mpg, while the smoother petrols obviously lag a bit behind, with the best being the 1.0-litre post-facelift car with an average 60.3mpg.
Tax for those cars registered before April 2017 varies according to CO2 ouput, but most SVs are good in this respect and the figures are low, while cars registered after April 2017 will all be taxed at the flat rate, currently £155 per year.
Servicing is reasonably priced, too, if slightly more expensive than rivals such as the Ford C-Max and Renault Scenic, and slightly less than the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer. Volkswagen operates a number of different servicing plans for older cars, and it’s possible to pre-plan annual services and pay in advance or by direct debit.
Which used Volkswagen Golf SV hatchback should I buy?
If your budget stretches to one of the post-2017 cars, we’d certainly try and seek out a 1.5 TSI 130 car. This engine is smooth and quiet and offers plenty of performance and outstanding economy for a petrol-engined car. Before this, we’d recommend the 1.4 TSI 125 engine.
SE gives you most of what you need, but it lacks sat-nav, so we’d try and find the SE Nav model, rather than the GT, which offers a sports suspension that’s a little too firm.
Our favourite Volkswagen Golf SV: 1.5 TSI 130 SE Nav
What alternatives should I consider to a used Volkswagen Golf SV hatchback?
A used Ford C-Max is good to drive and spacious inside. It’s also practical, with a unique rear seat arrangement that allows you to convert it into a four-seater with more passenger space inside. There’s a range of good engines and it’s well equipped, too.
A used BMW 2 Series Active Tourer is good to drive and relatively cheap to run, but some of its rivals are roomier. It’s practical, though, and the interior’s classy, with a great iDrive infotainment system. Used models look good value.