Why the Golf VI is the last of its kind
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With the new Golf, Volkswagen has built a perfect compact car. But on closer inspection, it’s not just the design that’s more conservative. The whole car is from yesterday in a special way. Not only because of this, the Wolfsburg-based company will never be able to afford something like that again.
NOf course they always exist. The eternal complainers who complain about the "boring design" with every new edition of the VW Golf. And who ask the heretical question what should be new about this car. But you have to work for this status first. That you create an icon that is attacked again and again and at the same time is by far in first place. But this time around, for the first time, the criticism could mean more than envy.
Because VW has built a perfect compact car with the Golf, but on closer inspection not only the design is rather conservative, the whole car is also yesterday in a special way. When developing the Golf VI, the ultimate goal was "value". This cumbersome term now runs through VW advertising: "Experience value anew" is the slogan. And with the large-scale campaign “60 years of value”, VW has been looking to 2009 in advertisements and TV spots for a few days, when the Federal Republic will celebrate its milestone birthday and the company will be commemorating the restart after the war – as a look back, of course.
The Golf has been further developed from generation to generation over the past few decades and yet has always remained true to itself. The sixth generation Golf, however, is the most loyal of all; it is based on its predecessor like no other new Golf before. A lot is new about Germany’s best-selling car, but at the same time that is far too little. VW knows that too, because for the first time a Golf that has its own number will only stay on the market for three years, about half as long as any other car. What striking evidence for the thesis that the current Golf is a Golf that sits between stools.
Even before the premiere, VW announced that the car would meet upper-class requirements in the interior. That’s actually true. Today it no longer makes a difference whether you sit in a BMW, an Audi, a Mercedes or a Golf. The name giver of the golf class has never been better processed. This car has never felt better. And never before has it been possible to order so many luxurious extras.
A reversing camera is available on request, which peeps out from under the unfolding VW logo when reverse gear is engaged. And for a surcharge of a few hundred euros, the car even parks automatically: In the Golf, you can take your hands off the steering wheel and all you have to do is accelerate. Not even the brand new BMW 7 Series offers that.
Of course, nobody has to order these extras, they are an additional offer for people who do not have to look at the euro. But somebody has to develop these gimmicks and spend time on them. Time that could have been used for other tasks.
In the future, it will no longer be enough to build cars the way VW built the Golf VI. VW has not given the new Golf anything that can be considered future-oriented. The Golf could have become the first German car with a hybrid drive. Or the first lightweight compact. But instead there is not even a simple gearshift point display in the speedometer today. While BMW, for example, has been making its 1 Series, launched in 2004 – as standard – more and more efficient with automatic start-stop and many small technical tricks for more than a year, VW attaches importance to the fact that the current Golf is "the quietest Golf of all time". That fits in with upper-class thinking, but not necessarily with the times. Although VW has modern engines for its most important model in its range, they are out of the question for a large number of buyers.
Because the Golf is often bought in the basic version, which is available from 16,500 euros. For this money you have to be content with a conventional 1.4-liter gasoline engine with 80 hp, as has been built for several years. This also applies to the next higher engine version, a 1.6-liter with 102 hp, which is specified with an out-of-date 7.1 liter average consumption. If you want a really modern engine for your Golf, you have to invest more than 20,000 euros for the turbo direct injection in the 1.4 TSI (6.2 liters) or the diesel 2.0 TDI (4.5 liters) – that’s around 4000 euros extra on the base.
Opel wants to make the new edition of the Golf competitor Astra more economical and environmentally friendly right from the start of sales with a package of fuel-saving measures and, like BMW, at least take another intermediate step towards the automotive future. This means that they could be one step ahead of the competition from VW at Opel, something that hasn’t happened very often in recent years.
The economical Bluemotion is just a special model
Yes, VW has announced a Golf BlueMotion for 2009 that will get by with 3.8 liters of diesel and only emit 99 grams of carbon dioxide. But the car will only be one of many variants, it is basically nothing more than a special model. And what would this Golf use if the VW board had specified efficiency as a development goal instead of value?
The Golf VII will be able to answer this question from 2011 – it will have to. Unless Wendelin Wiedeking prevails once he has the say at VW with Porsche. "The car wins all comparison tests by a large margin, it could run a good year longer," says Wiedeking about the Golf.
The corporate driver can be dazzled by the sparkling clean design of the current Golf. Of course he sets standards, of course he wins his tests that way – but only today. Its perfection was already overtaken when the first model of the sixth series left the factory. It is a car the way cars have been designed up to now. For two, maybe three years, the Golf VI will remind us of how carefree driving used to be. When the main thought was whether to order your new car in red or rather in blue. And whether the savings aren’t enough for the larger engine. And when the dealers were happy when they bought a set of floor mats when paying in cash.
But those days are long gone, and so the next Golf will be a different Golf than we know it. After all, in difficult times very few people swap their Golf for a new one just because it is quieter and of higher quality. You can get from A to B very easily in a Golf IV or Golf V. To get a new car on sale now, you need more.
So the Golf no longer sells itself. Just two months after the start of sales, VW is giving its dealers 1,250 euros for a sold Golf, according to a report in the specialist magazine “Automobilwoche”. The money is supposed to boost sales, although only for a certain contingent, but a discount is a discount. Yet they designed such a good car in Wolfsburg, undoubtedly the best of its kind. And the last of its kind, because time has caught up with it. It’s a shame actually.
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