SV is 134mm longer than Golf Plus and 83mm longer than Golf

SV is 134mm longer than Golf Plus and 83mm longer than Golf

View 3 related images

When it first appeared, the Golf Plus seemed to be answering a question no-one was asking. But Volkswagen had seen an opportunity, and around 150,000 were built and sold worldwide in this model's best years. Now comes the replacement, the Sportsvan, or in Britain, the SV.

Just as what German people call a classic car, oldtimer, sits uneasily in English, so too does 'van' have issues, with Volkswagen being an aspirational brand in the UK. While Golf Sportsvan is the name for left-hand drive European countries, here, VW's taller and longer Plus successor is the Golf SV. 

The front end is familiar but from the sides and rear, this new model has quite a different appearance to the five-door Golf. The main things are the length and loftiness, with the unique tail-lights another distinguishing factor. It's 224mm shorter than a Golf estate and has a wheelbase that's been extended to 2,685mm which is 48mm more than the five-door hatchback's. The SV is built alongside the main model at VW's Wolfsburg manufacturing complex. Just as with the Plus, Europe will be the main sales region.

This is one of those cars that you walk into. And there is its USP. As the average age of Europeans rises, so too do sales of taller vehicles. I’m pushing 50 myself and if I haven’t been for a long walk or swim for a few days, I do notice a little loss of flexibility. And the industry has also noticed that there are millions of people my age and above who like to swing themselves into their cars, rather than have to descend/climb out of them. So for that reason, I can see the new SV doing very well.

First impressions? The doors are old-school German in that they feel heavy and make a reassuringly solid-sounding thunk, the seats are firm, pedals exactly where you want them to be with room for your left leg to rest, big dials, and that great Volkswagen armrest that you can position pretty much at whatever angle you desire.

In addition to looking good and feeling solid, the interior has been designed with all manner of permutations in mind for the seats. The rear bench is split 60:40, it can be slid forwards or backwards by up to 180mm and at 500 litres, the boot is huge. That volume is 76 cubic litres up on the Golf Plus’ and with the seats pushed fully forwards, this rises to 590 litres (1,520 with seats folded). Comparable numbers for the Golf and estate are 380 and 605 litres respectively. You can even flip the front passenger seat and in so doing, create space for an object up to 2,484mm long.

Volkswagen UK specs this model with a six inch touch screen, a digital radio, post-crash automatic braking to stop the car rolling away, height adjustment for both front seats, A/C, an electric parking brake with auto-hold and soft lining inside the door bins and glovebox to stop things rattling around. I don't understand why there's no auto position for the headlight switch though.

This car has some especially clever cup holders: at the press of a button, little curved arms shoot out and grip your bottle or can near its base. But it gets better: there’s also a taut strap that can be stretched to hold things like metal water bottles tight. These would work just as effectively for those small purple plastic bottles of sugar and colouring called Fruit Shoot that I see people giving their kids.

The press car was in S trim, which means height and reach adjustment for the steering wheel, 15-inch steel wheels with wheel covers, black roof rails, a tailgate spoiler, child locks, an XDS electronic diff, tyre pressure monitors, four electric windows, heated and powered mirrors (but you have to fold them manually) and a variable boot floor. I also found a CD player in the glovebox. At GBP22,060, it’s not cheap but being a VW, the resale value should be strong. 

I know it’s smaller but there will be many people out there who like the looks of the Nissan Note yet find the interior feels cheap and flimsy. These are the same people who will be seduced by the SV, as long as it fits in their garage. Compared to so many other C-MPVs, and big-in-Britain Note B-MPV, the Volkswagen feels like a high quality thing. Its owners won’t ever want to throw it around for the fun of it on their favourite road. Not that it would be unstable; far from it. Just that these buyers tend not to have favourite roads.

On the engine front, there are a lot of choices, and each one has stop/start and a battery regeneration system. There are two turbo 1.2-litre petrols with 85 and 110PS and two 1.4-litre turbo petrols with 125 and 150PS. Diesels? There are three: a 150PS 2.0-litre, and 90PS or 110PS versions of a 1.6-litre. All engines apart from the 1.2-litre TSI 85PS can be ordered with a seven-speed DSG gearbox. I tried the 125PS 1.4 TSI and even with a few passengers on board, it was enough power. This dual clutch transmission worked smoother than I have found it to be on other Volkswagen Group vehicles, so it’s clear that work on refining these DSGs is paying off. 

I wasn’t sure about the SV before I drove it and even though it’s been on sale here since July there aren’t too many of them around yet. Expect that to change as the word gets out about just what a nice car it is. Unlike a Juke, it won’t get you noticed, which to many people is part of the appeal. It majors on comfort and convenience and for a lot of car buyers that’s what matters.

There’s a lot of money in selling to Europe’s retirees and this new Golf could potentially pull a fair percentage of that cash in Volkswagen’s direction. Given how well the Plus sold, you'd think that Ford of Europe, Opel-Vauxhall, PSA, Renault and others might have developed their own rivals for it but so far, there's no such thing as a taller and longer Focus, Astra, 3008 or Megane unless you include their MPV derivatives. Definitely a niche within the European market to keep an eye on, then.