"The Golf Plus offers the luxury and comfort of the standard Golf hatchback with an added dose of practicality."
The Volkswagen Golf Plus is a case of VW wanting to have its cake and eat it too. The Golf is a class-leading small family hatchback, but what if it could also snag family buyers looking for something a little bigger? Thus, the Golf Plus is a taller and therefore more spacious and more practical version of the extremely popular five-door Golf (albeit, like the Cabriolets, based on the previous model). That makes the five-seater family hatchback Plus a baby brother to the seven-seat Golf-based Volkswagen Touran. Inside, the rear seats fold and slide, allowing for adjustments in legroom or boot space, whichever is needed, and the driving position is higher, which means better views of the road ahead. Lots of adjustment in the seats generally means it's easy to get comfortable. The Volkswagen Golf Plus comes in two specifications – the entry-level S comes fitted with air-conditioning as standard, while the top-of-the-range SE adds Bluetooth connectivity, alloy wheels and Volkswagen's clever park assist system, which uses cameras and a computer to parallel park the car for you.
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
As with all current Volkswagens, if you’re looking for the cheapest to run, most efficient model possible, you need to plump for one with BlueMotion Technology. The 1.6-litre TDI diesel fitted with BlueMotion can then return 65.7mpg in fuel economy and emit 114g/km of CO2. You can’t get the 1.6-litre without, so the nearest then is the 1.4-litre TSI petrol, which averages in mid-40s mpg and between 138 and 153g/km of CO2, depending on the model. The 138bhp SE 2.0-litre TDI diesel returns 55.4mpg and emits 132g/km – but pair it with the DSG automatic gearbox and those figures become 51.4mpg and 144g/km.
Interior & comfort
Like the standard Golf it's based on, the more family-focused Golf Plus is a terrific car to make long journeys in. You get firm and supportive seats in both the front and the back, while the suspension is soft enough to smooth over any imperfections in the UK's ever-worsening road network. You get plenty of leg and headroom thanks to the larger dimensions, and engine noise is low. You do get some wind noise from the edges of the windscreen, but not enough to be particularly intrusive. If space equals comfort for you, then the Golf Plus should most definitely be on your list.
Practicality & boot space
The Golf Plus’ extra length adds 45 litres of extra boot space with the back seats in place, offering 395 litres. This expands to a maximum 1,450 litres when you fold down the standard-fit split-folding rear seats, which rivals the Golf estate for sheer carrying capacity. In fact, you can even add a little bit extra space by sliding the rear seats forwards, while the 60:40 back seats make carrying longer loads a lot easier. The flipside of that is that you can also increase legroom for taller rear passengers by sliding the seats back. The rear doors open nice and wide, while the seats are positioned quite high, so fitting child seats in the back is a lot less stress on the back compared to more conventional hatchbacks. The Plus also comes with ISOFIX child seat anchor points to make it even easier. The top-spec SE model also comes with a false boot floor for hiding away valuable items from prying eyes.
Reliability & safety
Volkswagen has a strong and hard-earned reputation for dependability, and the Golf Plus also has a good reputation for build quality. Volkswagen itself ranked 16th in the 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, a performance that doesn’t quite match the number of cars that VW got into the top 100 cars, which is probably a better measure of how much you can rely on your VW. The MkV Golf Plus, for instance, managed to rank 75th, even though it is no longer in production, so you can expect the current Golf Plus to perform much better when it makes its first appearance in the poll. And with the standard Golf models all ranking higher up, you know that the Plus is using tried and tested engines and parts from other reliable cars, with no major problems reported so far, with there only being one minor recall in its first few years of production. The interior certainly feels robustly constructed and the Plus also secured the maximum five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests, coming equipped with traction control and electronic stability control as standard. Driver and passengers all get front, side and curtain airbags.
Engines, drive & performance
With great dimensions comes greater responsibility – in this case to drive a bit more carefully, because the added height means that the Golf Plus isn’t quite as agile going through the corners as the standard Golf, with noticeably more body roll and steering that isn’t quite as responsive. Where the Golf Plus really scores is with its undeniably comfortable ride, with soft suspension that makes short work of soaking up any lumps and bumps you encounter. There's a decent choice of engines on offer: the entry-level 79bhp 1.4-litre petrol can feel somewhat strained, and the Golf Plus works much better with the diesel engines. There are two: a 104bhp 1.6-litre TDI or a 2.0-litre TDI with 138bhp. If you choose the 104bhp 1.6-litre TDI in VW's eco-focused BlueMotion specification, and it’ll return up to 65.7mpg in fuel economy. All in all, the Plus is nearly as sharp and fun to drive as the standard Golf. Nearly.
Price, value for money & options
You will have to pony up some money for the extra space and practicality that you get with a Golf Plus over the standard Golf hatchback, but it is still reasonably competitively priced – even for a car based on an older model. However, many newer rivals do offer more versatility and if you’re able to look at the more expensive models, it may well be worth considering the VW Touran instead, a seven-seat MPV that is even more flexible. Also, there isn’t much demand for the Golf Plus on the used car market, so resale values are pretty low and you’re very likely to lose money compared to a standard Golf when it is time to sell it on second-hand.