Can the rather premium 2022 Volkswagen Golf Life uphold its reputation as the small car benchmark? Justin Narayan finds out.
- Smooth and quiet torque converter auto
- Stacks of safety gear and technology
- Rides beautifully
- $45K on the road as tested
- Uses more fuel than claimed
- A full-size spare is all it’s missing
In June last year, Volkswagen launched its new Mk8 Golf in Australia. By the end of 2021, it had sold around 1900 cars to Australian customers.
In 2020, it sold over 10,000 Golfs. Causes for its 80 per cent drop year-on-year are myriad, with the global shortage of raw materials and thus product availability as one, and a buckled shipping industry another.
But could the fact the cheapest Volkswagen Golf is now $10,000 more expensive than the cheapest Mk7 Golf some 12 months ago also be why?
Before we dissect our press car and understand the true value equation, let me explain the pricing and overall range first. Although the 2021 Volkswagen Golf range officially features three non-performance trim levels, for 2022 the base Golf 110TSI has been discontinued, leaving this Golf Life as the new starting point.
It means what we’re driving today – the tastefully equipped, high-specification and entry-level 2022 Volkswagen 110TSI Life – starts from $35,290 before on-roads, or $39,788 drive-away before adding metallic paint and options.
To be fair, our exact specimen of Golf 110TSI Life actually costs $44,320 drive-away, as its $35,290 list price is further bolstered by $4400 worth of options: Pomelo Yellow metallic paint ($900), Sound & Vision package ($1500), and Comfort & Style package ($2000).
If a hatch isn’t for you, and you’d like to add a bit more practicality, the Golf Life also comes as a wagon for $2000 more. Sitting above the Golf 110TSI Life is the $38,490 Golf 110TSI R-Line hatch as a range-topper, in case you wanted something sporty-looking and fancy.
Now we understand the range, let’s see if the new one is worth the money.
|Key details||2022 Volkswagen Golf 110TSI Life|
|Price (MSRP)||$35,290 plus on road costs|
|Colour of test car||Pomelo Yellow Metallic|
|Options||Premium paint – $900
Sound & Vision package – $1500
Comfort & Style package – $2000
|Price as tested||$39690 plus on-road costs, $44,320 drive-away (NSW)|
|Rivals||Mazda 3 | Hyundai i30 | Subaru Impreza|
On face value, it’s easily the best-looking cabin in the segment.
Regardless of whether you buy a bare-bones or fully optioned example, you get the same intrinsic qualities. The front seats are spot-on in terms of size, shape and comfort, and are cleverly designed to support a wide range of body sizes.
The rest is both minimalistic and quality. Some may argue, subjectively, that the cabin’s no-fuss detailing and simple lines are boring, but something not up for debate is the clear use of high-quality materials and top-shelf execution.
Everything fits nice, taps solidly, and nothing rattles. Our particular test vehicle goes one step further, too, as it’s fitted with both interior-centric Sound & Vision and Comfort & Style option packages.
The $1500 Sound & Vision pack is a must for me personally, though not for the head-up display that’s almost invisible with polarised sunglasses, but rather the Harman Kardon premium sound system.
I’m proud to announce that Volkswagen has finally got premium audio right, as this new Harman-branded system is miles ahead of the DynAudio-branded system found in earlier Golfs and others in its range.
Reference tracks like Massive Attack’s Angel and Incubus’ Nebula sounded bright, full, but most importantly invigorated by a clear and defined soundstage – something that’s hard to get right inside a car.
Bravo. The other package costs $2000 and gives you faux-suede seat trim, cabin ambient lighting with 30 colour choices, and a panoramic sunroof.
To be honest, the standard seat material is fine, and the optional seats are not electric nor any better objectively, so consider the lighting and sunroof combo versus the premium audio carefully if you are to only indulge in one thing from the extras menu.
The second row continues the nicely appointed theme, with a dedicated third zone temperature dial for the climate control, two USB-C ports, and rear air vents for guests to fiddle with.
I mean, if you can charge your phone and set your own temperature agnostic of the two people an arm’s length away, your passengers have no reason to complain.
The only other things they could whinge about are comfort and space, but both of those are non-issues too. I’m 183cm tall and sitting behind my own driving position left my pointy bits with plenty of room to spare.
You could fit three adults across the back, but it’ll be tight. Three teenagers across the back is probably just about right. The overall cabin vibe is one of airiness and spaciousness, with a tall glasshouse doing the heavy lifting in terms of ambiance, feel and visibility.
I fitted an infant booster seat for a four-year-old and found no issues with loading a child in and out. Those with younger offspring, still in rearward-facing seats, may find they need to adjust the front passenger seat forward to allow for room.
On paper its boot capacity reads 374L, which technically is good for the class, but it does feel bigger in use. Opening the hatch reveals a nice wide aperture to load things through, and the cargo space itself is decently proportioned and high off the ground.
It’s an easy space to push and pull heavy things around, or for a dog to sit down and relax after a trip to the park. I was able to fit a compact stroller sideways against the rear seat back, which is always a sign of decent size in the small car class.
Under the boot floor lies a space-saving spare wheel, which although not ideal is far better than a tyre repair kit and 12-volt excuse for an air pump.
|2022 Volkswagen Golf 110TSI Life|
|Boot volume||374L seats up / 1230L seats folded|
Infotainment and Connectivity
In a twist of fate, the German hatchback has opted for style over ergonomics.
How? By deleting nearly all buttons on the dashboard and opting for a clutter-free and minimal look, akin to how the French do things.
It divided the crowd, too, with many piling on the brand claiming its ergonomic faux pas is a reason why they’d ‘never consider it’ or ‘upgrade my Mk 7’.
The truth – as I’ve stated previously – is yes, it’s harder to change the air temperature controls with your hands. However, the voice-control system is bloody good, and it is only a two-touch affair to adjust the fan speed still, so you do get over it pretty quickly.
Especially, in fact, when you ponder at how great the cabin looks without millions of plastic squares everywhere. Deep down I lust for at least a fan speed button, however, so we’ll see if the brand listens to all of us in due course.
In terms of the two 10-inch screens on the dashboard, both are great to use, display sharp graphics, and remain visible even with the sun blaring into the cabin.
The infotainment side features wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but also two USB-C ports in case you prefer hardwiring. I recommend that you buy a new USB-C cable anyway, as wireless CarPlay makes your phone hot, as does inductive charging.
All 2022 Volkswagen Golf 110TSI Lifes also receive digital radio, FM/AM radio, on-board satellite navigation and Bluetooth connectivity.
Safety and Technology
The Volkswagen Golf 110TSI Life received a five-star ANCAP score based upon 2019 test data and in line with its European introduction.
It scores highly in terms of adult occupant protection (95 per cent) and child occupant protection (89 per cent), but underperforms slightly in terms of vulnerable road user protection (76 per cent).
As expected for a modern-day European hatchback with a five-star safety rating, it’s packed full of driver assist systems. Standard-fit technology includes autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, blind-zone assist, rear cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist.
Some other nice touches include an auto-dipping passenger-side mirror for parallel park’s sake, front and rear parking sensors, and super-clear vision from the rear-view parking camera.
|2022 Volkswagen Golf 110TSI Life|
|ANCAP rating||Five stars (tested 2019)|
|Safety report||Link to ANCAP report|
Value for Money
In terms of ownership, it’s always good to investigate TCO (Total Cost of Ownership).
Where the Volkswagen Golf performs well is in terms of residual value or resale value. Currently, a comparable five-year-old Volkswagen Golf is worth well over 60 per cent of its new car value, or have cost its owner less than $10,000 over five years in depreciation alone.
Servicing costs haven’t gone up since 2020 either, with an upfront service plan costing $1200 for three years or up to 52,500km (despite 15,000km intervals), whichever comes first, or $2100 for five years/82,500km.
The future services are fully transferrable to aid the car’s future value. Hyundai offers a similar approach to servicing, with its comparable i30 small hatch costing $897 for three years/45,000km and $1495 for five years/75,000km.
|At a glance||2022 Volkswagen Golf 110TSI Life|
|Warranty||Five years / unlimited km|
|Service intervals||12 months or 15,000km|
|Servicing costs||$1200 (3 years), $2100 (5 years)|
Fuel efficiency is a line item that’ll cost more in reality than theory, however, as the Golf’s trip computer showed a final figure of 7.4L/100km over a mixed driving cycle. That’s exactly 2.0L over the official combined claim of 5.4/100km. Last time I drove one I experienced a similar result.
In terms of outright cost, there are cheaper options. A faster, top-of-the-line 2022 Hyundai i30 N Line starts from $38,064 drive-away, but isn’t as polished or as refined.
If you’re hung up on the details, then the stylish 2022 Mazda 3 Astina could be a match. Offered in both sedan and hatchback body types, the 2.5-litre G25 Astina starts from $43,500 drive-away.
Although being more expensive than the outgoing model, the 2022 Volkswagen Golf is still priced in line with the wider market’s expectation, and is far better equipped than the outgoing car.
Fuel Consumption – brought to you by bp
|Fuel Usage||Fuel Stats|
|Fuel cons. (claimed)||7.4L/100km|
|Fuel cons. (on test)||5.4L/100km|
|Fuel type||95-octane premium unleaded|
|Fuel tank size||50L|
It’s always nice saving the best until last.
One of the biggest changes Volkswagen has made with regular, non-performance Golfs is to revert to a traditional automatic equipped with a torque converter, replacing the dual-clutch, or DSG, transmissions of older Golf models.
Despite DSG-equipped cars being great and fast-changing on the roll, under load, and not lossy, they were also plagued with low-speed jerkiness and required pinpoint calibration – something that turned out to be hard to do at a price point.
However, those times are changed, as the torque converter has seemingly been resurrected. Nowadays, a top-quality auto – like the one found in our 2022 Volkswagen Golf 110TSI Life – can demonstrate frictional losses equal to a manual, proving you can have the suppleness of a traditional automatic, but the lower emissions to go with it.
The Golf’s drive is all the better for it, as it’s smoother and quieter than before. Even though the 110kW/250Nm 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder sounds a little undercooked, these modern-day kilowatts are seemingly stronger than the ones I seem to recount.
It gets up to speed without fuss, has enough power to overtake at pace, and never once felt underpowered. Even with two passengers on board, I found the driveline just right for everything from modern-day suburban living to quick 80km/h jaunts along my favourite country lanes.
The cabin is super quiet, the steering accurate and trustworthy, and the brakes sharp with plenty of power. It sounds cliché to say, but it feels robust and solid, which in turn promotes confidence behind the wheel.
The suspension tune is another thing Volkswagen got spot-on. The car will rumble and move about on crappy roads, but it does so artfully and graciously. Even if the bumps come mid-corner at a reasonable pace, the quality suspension has enough scope to absorb the impact without shattering the body or its occupants.
Too often Volkswagen’s premium sister brand, Audi, gets this balance a little crooked, but in the case of the Golf it is again just right. Another small point is the decent amount of sound deadening in the structure that strips away noise from the suspension thudding, in turn making it feel more composed.
Regardless of whether the road is slow or fast, it’s a great partner to have. My only concern is the fuel usage, but that’s probably by using the most of the motor to keep up with Sydney’s mad traffic. Those out of town may have better results in terms of fuel efficiency.
|Key details||2022 Volkswagen Golf 110TSI Life|
|Engine||1.4-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol|
|Power||110kW @ 5000rpm|
|Torque||250Nm @ 1400-4000rpm|
|Drive type||Front-wheel drive|
|Transmission||Eight-speed torque convertor automatic|
|Power to weight ratio||84.4kW/t|
|Tow rating||1500kg braked, 660kg unbraked|
In typical fashion, the Golf remains the jack-of-all-trades. Even with its hefty price tag under scrutiny, the product comes with far better and greater levels of standard-fit technology, and a nicer selection of options to jazz things up. If you want to assess cold, hard dollars and cents, you’re paying more but receiving somewhat parity in terms of value compared to before.
The near on $45,000 drive-away price tag for our test car means it’s also expensive considering the driveline and power, but in reality it’s not much more than the top-rung products from other brands.
Plus, I’d wager you would trade a level of performance you don’t use often for refinement, kerb appeal and comfort that you’ll be benefitting from every day.
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