You might not have twigged, but the upgraded Golf has arrived, with important enhancements. So why isn’t VW making more noise?
DON’T read anything untoward into the updated edition of Volkswagen’s most important car making an especially low-key arrival here.
The local distributor for the refreshed Golf 7.5 range which brings an unaltered lineup but more standard spec, slight power increases for the performance petrol and diesel engines and modest pricing changes - of between $400 and $900 - has been quick to explain why there’s been less raa-raa than usual.
VW New Zealand, part of the Giltrap family-run European Motor Distributors’ stable, agrees it is a bit unusual that a car which in all previous formats has been worthy of a media launch has this time warranted nothing more than a media release.
However, it says the low-key approach doesn’t suggest lessened interest in pushing the Golf at a time when consumer swing toward crossovers and sports utilities, including their own Tiguan.
While acknowledging that the car has been sliding in local popularity – from 1592 units in 2013, to 1688 in 2014, 1377 in 2015 and 1306 last year – whereas Tiguan is ramping up, and is very much caught in the headlights of Dieselgate, the Auckland operation says these matters haven’t coloured the release strategy.
So what’s the cause? In one word: Fieldays.
Though tailored as an ag fest, the NZ national agricultural showcase kicking off at Mystery Creek, near Hamilton, on June 14 is also a new vehicle sales fest – mainly, unsurprisingly, for one tonne utes. Including the market’s current traydeck hero model, the V6 Amarok.
That rig gets priority – for now at least – over the Golf.
“It (the launch) has timed so close to Fieldays that we didn’t want to do anything before then. The planning for Fieldays from a manufacturer perspective is quite immense.”
This year’s is a big show for the V6 Amarok, the most powerful traydeck on sale, and accordingly that push has overshadowed the Golf launch.
Also, the spokesman said, there’s also the fact that what we’re seeing now is a mid-life facelift for a car that has been here for three years.
The lineup starts with Comfortline, then climbs through Highline, R-Line, GTi and R grades, with a price span starting at $33,990 for a 92kW 1.4-litre manual Comfortline hatch and topping out with the $75,390 direct shift gearbox-fitted Golf R hatch with a performance 2.0-litre petrol now pushing out 228kW, a 7W increase.
The R-Line, GTi (now with 169kW, also a 7kW climb) and Golf R climb in price by $400; the grade taking the $900 hit is Highline, which represents in 110kW 1.4 TSI petrol hatch and wagon and 110kW 2.0-litre (up 8kW) turbodiesel hatch formats. These now respectively cost $40,890, $42,890 and $43,390.
Even market interest in diesel hatches has waned, VW NZ is keeping that engine. “We think our lineup still works well for us,” the brand spokesman said.
There’s expectation that this year’s volume will be on par with the 2016 count.
“The private market for that segment is down around 15 percent and we are finding that the SUV sector keeps on booming.
“Obviously it is hard when the segment declines but we have added some good features to the car.”
On that subject, every model now has front assist and lane assist and a new eight-inch touchscreen, though a 9.2-inch screen with gesture control is optional. There are also five new colours.
This means the base Golf features as standard autonomous emergency braking, dual zone air con, sat nav, App-Connect and Bluetooth, rearview camera, LED tail-lights and daytime running lights, driver fatigue detection system, multi-collision braking system and 17-inch alloy wheels.
The line is still incomplete. One notable addition later this year will be the wholly battery-driven e-Golf, VW’s first fully electric car and the forerunner of a fossil fuel-exempt drive that will step up further in 2020, when the similar-sized but futuristic-looking I.D. comes into production.
The e-Golf runs with the latest 36kWh battery that will enable a genuine operating range of around 230km.
Evaluation vehicles for demonstration are set to land within eight-10 weeks, but the car won’t be on sale until later in the year.
“Those first cars, around half a dozen, will hit us around July-August and will effectively be used for testing and some corporate trials. We do hope to have it (on sale) in greater numbers before the end of the year.”
Price? “We’re still in final negotiations. We’re very close to being locked in and we’re keen to resolve this because, as you can imagine, we have fleets that are very, very interested in this car.”
The Golf GTE, a plug-in hybrid version with the same 110kW 1.4-litre petrol and 75kW electric running gear as the A3 e-tron from sister brand Audi that has been on sale here for two years is no longer being considered, the spokesman said.
“We don’t see a demand for the GTE at this stage. It would effectively be based in regard to specification on the GTi and the added drivetrain complexity would just price it out of the market.”