KON attempts to find some faults with the entry level Golf - the 1.4 TSI. ...
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|OTR w/o Insurance - RM156,758|
|Interior just reeks of quality.|
|1.4-litre TSI engine puts many 2.0-litre competitors to shame.|
Last weekend, Volkswagen Group Malaysia began displaying units of the Golf 1.4 TSI in its showrooms nationwide. In conjunction with this soft launch, the company immediately released test cars to Autoworld and other members of the Malaysian online media for early reviews.
Prices for this entry level Golf starts at RM148,888, but that's the nett selling price for the standard model. Our test car, which comes include with an optional Light & Sound package, goes for RM155,888. Factoring road tax, registration, and various fees brings us to an on-the-road price (without insurance, Peninsula Malaysia) of RM156,758.
The Autoworld Insurance Calculator further estimates a premium of around RM4,200 for a year's worth of insurance coverage. This adds up to a sum of just above RM160k, which for a German brand offering, sounds too good to be true. Let's examine all the possible avenues where it can all go very wrong.
RM160k for a 1.4-litre engine? I can get a 2.0-litre D-segment sedan for that kind of money
That's true, but it is unlikely that your D-segment sedan would boast an International Engine of the Year award-winning powerplant under its hood. Your D-segment sedan is also likely to be using a conventional torque converter automatic transmission rather than a 7-speed DSG.
The EA111 engine didn't win its award for nothing. It comes with some pretty nifty tech - direct injection, turbocharging AND supercharging - which allows it to squeeze out 158hp @ 5,800rpm and 240Nm @ 1,500 - 4,500rpm from a mere 1,390cc displacement; comfortably more than many naturally aspirated 2.0-litre engines out there.
The only thing it has in common with most 1.4-litre engines out there is its road tax - RM70 per year; and the only aspect which it loses out to comparably-priced Japanese alternatives is outright body size.
Entry-level German models tend to be stingy with equipment. Are we getting specced-down cars here?
Okay, the Golf 1.4 TSI does not give you seats trimmed with leather or electric adjustment. You don't get a sunroof. You don't get any fancy LCD screens sitting on its dash, and you have to start the car the old-fashioned way. But think of the other stuff you're getting - 7 airbags, parking sensors, swiveling headlights, ESP, and even a bottle opener among many other things.
Rear passengers are also pretty well pampered. They get rear air-con blowers, which on its own is not much of a big deal these days. But in addition to the centre tunnel-mounted blowers, there are additional foot blowers for the rear passengers as well, and there are two speakers mounted on each rear door. Two!
It would have been great for the audio unit to feature Bluetooth connectivity. As it is, the system features audio playback from Bluetooth sources, but not a Bluetooth hands-free system, despite there being a telephone icon on the steering. Electric seat adjustment would have been great too, I don't quite fancy the European-style rotating knob used to adjust the seat back rest.
Buying this car is like telling people, "I can't afford a GTI."
Once upon a time, this thinking would be correct if applied to most German cars. The entry level model of any range tends to be poorly equipped and badly underpowered, similar to its bigger brethren only in name and bodyshell. No doubt you won't be outrunning any GTIs anytime soon, but believe me, in the hands of a good driver, the TSI will run the GTI pretty close.
A GTI driver will need to be really committed if he wants to put any daylight between himself and your TSI. The slab of torque between 1,500 and 4,500rpm gives you a high degree of tractability, but the trick is to actually shift early - 5,000rpm at most - to keep the engine in that sweet spot.
|Official power/torque curve provided by VW |
It ultimately does not go as fast as a GTI, but its top speed is still a respectable 213kph, and how often do you go that fast, if at all? It starts to become a little floaty at 170kph, but, once again, when was the last time you drove that fast either? So, for most applications, the Golf 1.4 TSI is fast enough.
Steering gives noticeably vague feedback, but it is sufficiently responsive and precise. Suspension setup gives a good balance between ride firmness and comfort. You do feel things like road strips, and tyre noise is surprisingly high, but no one will be complaining of any discomfort.
They probably skimmed on insulation then...
In actual fact, they probably did. As mentioned earlier, road noise was incredibly high, but that aside all other sources of noise were pretty well suppressed, indication of some very sound engineering fundamentals underpinning the car.
Build quality was probably compromised as well.
If they did, you'd be hard pressed to tell it. In fact, the Golf's interior is light years ahead of any product of comparable pricing both in choice of materials and in how well everything is put together. You do get hard plastics at the lower parts of the dashboard, but even these don't feel at all low rent. Aside from the engine and transmission combo, most of the money you pay for this car goes to its rock solid build quality.
Maintenance of this car can't be cheap
A full tank of petrol took us 480km before showing us the warning light in conditions featuring a mix of hard trunk road driving, leisurely highway cruise, traffic jams and idling. It was 507km before we refueled, and even if you take the worst case scenario and assume we emptied the 55-litre tank, that still translates to a respectable 11 litres/100km. Worst case scenario. You will easily do 8-9 litres/100km in brisk but relaxed driving.
While we can't vouch for the affordability and availability of spare parts, service intervals are long and far between - 25,000km per service. So, you may bleed a lot at each service, but chances are you won't be bleeding too often. Need we remind you, your road tax is RM70 per year, and if you're on a financing package, your installments would be no higher than your neighbours driving Japanese D-segment alternatives.
What about resale value?
Well, we can't predict the future, but postings in our Used Cars section and also other used car classifieds show that Volkswagens, particularly the Mk V Golf GTI are holding their value pretty well these days. In any case, why would you be in a hurry to sell this car?
That, ladies and gentlemen, is a question for Volkswagen Group Malaysia and its dealers to answer.