Volkswagen Golf Gl Car Reviews NRMA Motoring & Services

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Volkswagen Golf GL Car Review

Author: NRMA Motoring Date: 26 March 1997

Right from its introduction way back in 1976, the VW Golf nameplate has been synonymous with solid build quality, longevity, capable road manners and efficiency in design and operation.

Over the past few years, Golfs have gained new levels of sophistication and equipment and have subsequently enjoyed increased popularity, both overseas and here on the Australian market.

Now the 1997 models have arrived and the news is extra equipment for no increase in price. The base 1.8 litre CL model has gained two extra doors, while the 2.0 litre GL gets cruise control and rear head restraints. Previous models lost the glove box when dual airbags became standard, but it has now been re-instated.

There are also less obvious changes such as better spacing of the pedals, and suspension re-tuning.


Just a year ago, Volkswagen reduced the price of the manual 3-door CL Golf from $26,990 to $24,990 and now the extra features and convenience of five doors are available for that reduced price. The manual GL model currently costs $29,990. A year ago it was $30,490.

Standard equipment on the CL Golf includes the dual airbags, pre-tensioner front seat belts. central locking, an engine immobiliser, power steering, 60/40 split folding rear seat and a stereo radio/cassette.

The GL adds electric windows, power mirrors and the previously mentioned cruise control and rear head restraints. Anti-lock brakes are available for the GL (not CL) at $1,990, while air conditioning is also priced at $1,990 on both versions.

Specification and test results in this report are for the GL model; the CL was tested in March 1996 (see report number 287).

Other models currently in the Golf range are the 2.8 litre VR6 for $46,990 and the 2.0 litre Cabriolet at $48,990. Automatic transmission (an adaptive unit which matches gear changes to individual driving styles) costs an extra $2,100 on all models.

The Golf is one of the few cars in which I don’t need to use all of the front seat travel, which is just as well, as rear seat leg room is fairly cramped. Head room is good in the front and reasonable in the rear.

The seats themselves are rather flat and hard, but the Golfs compliant ride at least partly compensates for the firm seating, so that overall comfort rates as satisfactory.

Luggage space is quite good; the usefully deep and wide load area is enhanced by the effective folding rear seat.

With its larger capacity engine and higher power output, the GL outperforms the CL model against the clock, but importantly both engines share the same very good flexibility and low speed response. This makes them quite pleasant to drive, without the need to constantly be changing gears.

Damp test track conditions showed up understeer under power, and oversteer if you backed off suddenly, but in general road conditions the Golf proved to be a capable and secure handler, with no nasty vices detected.

The same damp conditions extended the stopping distances during emergency braking tests when front wheel locking was experienced (the ABS option would have been useful). Generally though, the brakes were well up to their task. In all Golfs I’ve driven in the past year or so, the brake pedal has had a rather spongy, longtravel action and this can be disconcerting until you get used to it.

Summary

With its responsive engine performance and secure, confident handling, the Volkswagen Golf is a pleasing little car to drive. It has the characteristic solid feel of a German-built car and the new and revised features in the 1997 models have enhanced these cars’ appeal.

Though the GL model has traditionally been the volume seller of the Golf line-up, I’ve got a feeling the latest CL version could overtake it. After all, the CL now offers the same five door convenience as the GL and provides a not-to-be-sneezed-at saving of $5,000. In return, you lose out on a little power, and forego items such as power windows and mirrors, and rear head restraints, but for my money, the CL is still appealing enough to rate as the best buy in the Golf range.

Test vehicle supplied by Volkswagen Australia.

By NRMA Motoring, March 1997.

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