Our review of the new 2014 Golf Estate reveals you can still carry awkward loads in style and comfort.
If it sometimes seems as if there’s a Volkswagen Golf around every street corner, that’s probably because there is. More than 30 million have been built since the first generation arrived in 1974, making it one of the most prolific nameplates in the world.
The estate variant of the Golf makes up a relatively small proportion of the total, with just 1.8 million cars sold since the Golf Mk III first rolled up carrying a boxy rear extension in 1992.
We travelled to the Netherlands to climb aboard the spacious new Golf Mk VII Estate, also known as the Golf Variant in Germany, to see if it’s poised to add a big jump to the sales tally.
Like the Golf 7 hatchback, the new Golf Estate is longer, lower, wider and lighter than the model it replaces. Up to 105kg has been shed, depending on the engine and trim chosen, through the use of stronger steels in the body and by sending virtually every other component to the gym.Much of the new Estate is identical to the hatchback, with changes visible only from the rear doors back.
Much of the new Estate is identical to the hatchback, with changes visible only from the rear doors back. The strong horizontal crease that stretches between the wheelarches in the hatchback has been extended through to the back of the car in the Estate, running neatly into the reshaped rear lamp clusters.
The shoulder of the latest Golf is virtually horizontal – premium makers have all but abandoned plunging wedge shapes – which together with a fairly flat roof gives the estate an upright stance, a bright and airy interior, good rear visibility and a usefully commodious rear end. The load lip at the tail is marginally deeper than in the five-door, resulting in a move for the numberplate up from the bumper to the door.
Inside, the Estate is standard seventh-generation Golf, which is no bad thing even if the layout of the centre console does seem a few years behind the times.
The wheelbase of the Golf Estate is the same as the hatch, and at 2,635mm is about 60mm longer than the previous car. Overall, the new Estate is 4,562mm long , about 28mm longer than before and 307mm longer than the five-door Golf. All estates (bar the eco BlueMotion model) come with a space-saver spare tyre as standard, rather than a useless can of gloop.
The bald numbers suggest a car with more rear legroom than ever before and that does seem to be the case, with adequate room for even a tallish adult’s limbs. More surprisingly the boot is substantially bigger than before, up from 505 litres to 605 litres (or 225 more than the latest hatch).
Lift the rear lid and the boot looks big and cubic with no annoying carpeted lumps jutting in from the sides. The load aperture is just over a metre wide and 936mm tall. The boot floor starts at 1,055mm long, increases to 1,831mm when the rear seats are flopped forward, and on some models the front seat can be tipped forwards to accept curtain poles, shelving and whatever other items of Ikea’s finest might take your fancy, up to about 2.6 metres in length. The release catches for the rear seats are handily positioned in the boot.
One welcome point is that all estates (bar the eco BlueMotion model) come with a space-saver spare tyre as standard, rather than a useless can of gloop.
Performance & Handling
Broadly speaking, the Estate has about a 10 per cent weight penalty over the equivalent hatchback. While enough to make a difference, the extra bodywork is thankfully not sufficient to feel like a burden. You are aware of an echoing space behind you on the road, but it never feels as if the tail might start wagging the dog. Not that we tried cornering with a washing machine aboard, mind you. Our test car felt agile and responsive on the admittedly liquid-smooth roads around Amsterdam, where pot hole probably means something else entirely.
The model we tested, fitted with a 150PS (148bhp) 2.0-litre TDI engine and six-speed manual gearbox, felt positively brawny and eager to accelerate. Its dash to 62mph can be completed in a brisk 8.9 seconds, or only three tenths slower than the equivalent hatchback.
As with the shorter car, the rear suspension design fitted to the Golf Estate depends on the power rating of the engine. Above 120bhp, a multi-link setup allows all four wheels to react to the road independently, while slower cars receive a twist-beam rear end that is only semi-independent in its movements. Bigger bumps are thus more likely to unsettle the lesser cars, and you’re most likely to experience this shortcoming as a wayward feel when cornering at speed on rough surfaces. Given the lives most estate cars lead, this may never be an issue.
Our test car had the superior rear setup, feeling decently agile and responsive on the admittedly liquid-smooth roads around Amsterdam, where pot hole probably means something else entirely.
Economy & Environment
A sub-90g/km BlueMotion version of the Golf Estate is due before the end of the year – a first for the model – but for now the most economical option is the 1.6-litre TDI. It can summon 105PS (104bhp), dips as low as 102g/km and boasts a combined-cycle score of 72.4mpg. This engine, in SE trim, is expected to be the UK’s top seller.
All editions of the Estate feature fuel-saving BlueMotion Technology, including automatic stop/start and an alternator that charges the battery when the car is slowing down.
Equipment & Value
Trim levels for the estate match the hatchback, with S, SE and GT specifications available (no word yet on a Estate GTI). All models get Bluetooth, a DAB stereo with 5.8-inch touchscreen, and manual air conditioning. Roof rails are also standard, in silver with the GT trim and black with the other versions. Like-for-like, the premium for the Estate over the five-door Golf hatchback is a reasonable £765.
Starting prices run from £17,915 for an 85PS 1.2-litre petrol-powered car in S trim, all the way up to £25,855 for a 150PS 2.0-litred TDI in GT trim with VW’s excellent six-speed, dual-clutch automatic gearbox.
Like-for-like, the premium for the Estate over the five-door Golf hatchback is a reasonable £765. As with all Volkwagens, the Golf Estate is never cheap but it should hold its value better than most.
The hatchback Golf boasts a 5-star Euro NCAP rating, and though the score is not directly transferrable to the Estate it does suggest that the extended car is unlikely to fold up like a deckchair at the first hint of a brick wall.
As with all Golf models, seven airbags and ESP are fitted as standard along with a post-collision braking system, tyre pressure monitoring, and electronic traction control. SE and GT trim get a radar-based cruise control system that incorporates City Emergency Braking, which can stamp on the stoppers if you don’t manage to, preventing collisions at closing speeds up to 18mph.
The Golf Estate offers, quite simply, a Golf with a bigger back end. It shares exactly the same virtues and vices as the car on which it’s based, meaning it defines the benchmark for cars of this class.
While lots of other estates of the same size will be cheaper, few will feel as well designed or carefully built – or will project quite the same image of unflashy good taste.
Model tested: Volkswagen Golf Estate 2.0 TDI GT
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel
Power: 150PS (148bhp) from 3,500 to 4,000rpm
Torque: 320Nm (236lbft) from 1,750 to 3,000rpm
Acceleration: 0-62mph in 8.9 seconds
Top speed: 135mph
Combined cycle economy: 67.3mpg
Price: from £24,440