Tag: Volkswagen South Africa

Living with the legacy of a local legend – the VW Golf 8 GTI

It takes generations to build up a near-immortal legacy with an adoring customer base at the core. In Mzansi, there are staples for different types of mobility where everything else in the segment becomes an outlier. Our go-to bakkie is the Hilux while the Golf GTI is glorified in its hot hatch segment. We lived with the 8th generation of the beloved German derivative to see if the recipe has deviated from its predecessors.

Volkswagen may not have been the first automaker to culminate the recipe of the hot hatch many decades ago, but the Giugiaro penned GTI MK1 from 1975 was perhaps the most refined option to enter the mainstream market. It gained instant success for being sports-car fun with a supermarket price tag. By definition, the GTI is a fast Golf which is inherently an economy hatch built to appeal to the masses. While the sales of normal hatches dwindling in comparison to their SUV siblings on an annual basis, the hot hatch remains a symbol of success and prosperity in South Africa in a hotly contested market. None can portray this individually better than the GTI.

But is the new generation any good? If you are dreading reading an in-depth article with tabulated statistics about the performance and engine upgrades that have been implemented in the new model you will be relieved to know that the new GTI is much the same underneath as the 7th generation. That was launched in 2012 and that was a long time ago, so naturally technology has changed quite a bit. For context, we still had Blackberry as a primary cellular device when the Golf 7 GTI was launched. The trustworthy cast iron EA888 series motor resumes its service while our test car implemented the same 7-speed DSG as transmission from before. 

The 2.0l turbocharged engine now develops 180kW with a torque peak of 370Nm, an 11kW improvement in power over its predecessor. This means it has a claimed sprint to 100km/h from stationery in 6.4 seconds which is the same as its predecessor. So, where has almost a decade of development gone into? Well, Volkswagen are at the forefront of committing to future electrification, especially after the Dieselgate scandal and reprimand. This means that budget is being channelled into optimising the efficiency and longevity of their existing powertrain range as there is little interest in developing future internal combustion engines. 

In other words, the production of the 8th generation GTI has been streamlined and the build complexity has been reduced which in turn should keep true to its identity of affordable performance. A base spec GTI is priced from R669 300 while an endless list of additional features like IQ. Light, Harman Kardon Sound and a Tilting and sliding panoramic sunroof can push the price all the way up to R800k. Our test car was fortunately fitted with all of the niceties which do improve the lavish GTI experience. The price includes a 3 year/120 000km warranty, 5 year/90 000km service plan and a 12-year anti-corrosion warranty.

While performance has been slightly improved, more strict conditions over emissions have been implemented too. This means from both within and outside the cabin, the resounding and iconic VRR-PHA has been muted significantly. The entire exhaust system for that matter seems restricted by mandated filters and catalytic converters but that is nothing that entrepreneurial locals can’t resolve with a software update and enlarged downpipes. 

The underwhelming symphony is not where it ends unfortunately. It’s just not a very inspiring car to drive. Don’t get me wrong – it’s quick and has the ability to get you into a lot of trouble very quickly but it feels numb to experience, devoid of character and enthusiasm. What the experience does yield however is a forgiving hot hatch that does not have the exciting boy-racer torque steer of its competitors but a refined and comfortable drive that is more civilized for everyday use. It will also get you a lot of nods and looks from pedestrians and opportunistic souped-up cars yearning for a highway drag race while running your errands.

While this 8th generation is the most digitally advanced generation of GTI ever produced, much of the interior tech is swing and miss. They have done away with physical buttons and replaced almost every interface with touch capacitive functionality. While they instill a futuristic aesthetic to the cabin, they can be frustrating to interact with. There are buttons directly below the infotainment screen which make operation during driving near impossible without accidentally bumping the heat adjustment function and bringing up the climate control screen.

What we found particularly annoying was the heated steering button on the steering wheel, which is inconveniently placed where the palm of the hand meets the protrusion of the thumb. Regardless of how enthusiastically you yank the steering wheel, any movement seems to engage the haptic touch surface and render the steering wheel hotter than a mid-summer Pretoria day. You will be constantly fiddling with the haptic surface to view the drivers display in an attempt to disengage the untouchable steering wheel. 

While this is still in essence still as good as you expect a GTI to be, it will always be judged not only according to its competitors but also against what the nameplate signifies in terms of the previous generations. Look at the 8 GTI as a tech elevated, although slightly gimmicky version of its all-round fantastic predecessor. It does everything really well and makes important strides in refinement and technology over its predecessor, but it doesn’t give you the fizz the way previous generations have. If you are a diehard VW aficionado looking for more thrill, your money may be better spent on a low mileage 7.5 GTI TCR, or for an out of the box, fun, boy-racer inspired hot hatch then the BMW 128ti is also certainly worth a look!

Is the Volkswagen T-Cross a better version of the Polo?

We got to spend a few days with Volkswagen’s popular small SUV – using it to run our errands and see how it stacks up to its smaller sibling – the Polo.

The local automotive market has mostly recovered from the dismal sales caused by Covid-19 disruptions in 2020. New car sales numbers are more or less where they used to be and the popular automakers namely Toyota, Ford and Volkswagen are back to duelling for the top spot in the passenger vehicle segment. While the top two titles are always occupied by South Africa’s preferred vehicle of choice; the bakkie, the third and fourth spot are taken up by Volkswagens Polo Vivo and Polo models which sell in droves. 

These cars are successful for a variety of reasons but chiefly because they are compact, affordable, have an abundance of spare parts and are from a well loved automotive brand locally. Volkswagen have transferred all of this ideology into the T-Cross and while it is not a brand new vehicle to enter their lineup, it is their best-selling SUV according to the June 2021 sales report with 465 units being sold. Which is about a third of the total number for the Polo. 

The popular compact crossover SUV from the German brand can be had in three different levels of trim starting at R352 300 for the basic Comfortline and ranging all the way up to the R-Line priced from R464 900. Our test car was a base Comfortline with the R-Line package. This expectedly costs a little bit more but comes better equipped with features such as a reverse parking camera, roof rails, park distance sensors and an 8” integrated infotainment screen. 

In some respects, you do get a very familiar looking car to the Polo, on both the inside and the outside. This makes sense since both models share the same platform and engines making the T-Cross a pumped up version of the Polo. While it shares some styling similarities to its bigger SUV siblings in Volkswagen’s lineup, the side profile, window-line and shoulder-line are almost identical to the Polo, albeit slightly stretched out on a vertical axis with a bit more rugged plastic.

Overall, its aesthetics consist of a well-proportioned design and restrained styling meaning it’s unlikely to snap pedestrians necks as you drive by, especially in Limestone Grey Metallic. Its purpose is far more focused on function by being a proponent of a more adventure-capable lifestyle.

At 180mm of ground clearance, 12mm more than the Polo, it can easily navigate onto pavements and tackle uneven off-road surfaces. The plush suspension is one of its most notable features as it can traverse speed bumps and loose gravel roads effortlessly. Since it is still only a front-wheel driven powertrain, we can’t advise taking this on a hardcore off-roading course but it wouldn’t look out of place on a dirt road or gravel track. 

Like the Polo, the T-Cross Comfortline is powered by a 70kW 1.0 TSI motor mated to a 5-speed manual transmission. The pokey 3 cylinder puts out an impressive 175Nm of torque that can often inspire a momentary spin of the front wheels before the traction control gets them back in line. As impressive as this torque figure is coupled to the 1154 kilogram body, the turbo only comes into boost above 2000rpm making stationery pull aways on inclines or fully laden stop-start journeys stall-inducing. In these scenarios, efforts to mitigate this can result in the front wheels screeching and very bemused looking pedestrians or passengers.

Despite this, after the turbo has come alive the torque delivery is smooth and linear all the way up to its redline – very impressive for a 1.0 litre motor! We achieved around 7.5l/100km during our time with the car which isn’t the most frugal but tranquil driving is stated to reward just below 5.0l/100km. 

The 5-speed manual gearbox on our test car was easy to use and comfortable in sedate urban driving scenarios. Where it fell short was on the highway where an additional 6th gear would have been ideal in lowering engine rpm and subsequently improving efficiency and engine noise. That being said, if you are looking for a nippy Volkswagen SUV runabout that is going to be predominantly doing open road/highway journeys then the full T-Cross range can also be specced with a 7 speed DSG which would be the better bet overall. 

The interior provides great forward visibility with a large expanse of glass around the drivers periphery. The front position seems much higher than a Polo yet the fully adjustable steering column and seat provide a platform to get completely comfortable in. The overall head, elbow and legroom in all seats is commendable while the rear door-wells are not awkwardly shaped to get in and out of either, making it more practical than the Polo. It scores well in the comfort and spaciousness department but does unfortunately fall short with interior fit and finish. 

There are a few cheap materials and crude plastic textures, more so than its hatchback sibling. Fortunately, the steering wheel and the main tactile points are soft and comfortable to use. It also comes with an integrated 8” infotainment screen which at times can be a bit sluggish with a reverse camera that isn’t the highest resolution.

If you prefer screen mirroring to the standard display then the T-Cross has you covered with both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay accessible via one of two USB-C slots. Easily accessible Isofix anchorage is found on all passenger seats, including the one up front which should appeal to young parents. 

The T-Cross also trumps the Polo in terms of boot capacity with an impressive 385 litres as opposed to equally impressive, but inferior, 351 litres of the latter. The compact crossover SUV from Volkswagen emerges as the victor in most categories except for pricing where the Polo comes out on top starting from R293 800 for the base spec Trendline.

For comparative sake, other competing models in the segment such as the beautifully finished Peugeot 2008 comes in at R364 000 while more affordable options can be had with the seasoned Ford EcoSport at R303 900 or the new Hyundai Venue at R311 000. Included in the R352 300 base price of the T-Cross is a 3-year/120 000 km warranty and 3-year/45 000 km service plan.

The subcompact crossover SUV market is a hotly contested piece of real estate with new entrants from different automakers entering the market almost monthly. Volkswagen fortunately have a customer base that is steadfast in their loyalty and thus the T-Cross can be expected to remain their best selling vehicle in the lineup behind the two Polo models. Like the ageing Ford EcoSport, we can expect this shape to remain in circulation for many years to come but for the price, the Peugeot 2008 in this segment would be a strong alternative with its more refined and pleasant interior design.

All You Need To Know About The New Volkswagen Tiguan

Excited about the announcement of the Golf GTI? Well, you should be excited about the new Tiguan too!

Launched back in 2008, the Tiguan nameplate has gone through multiple lifecycles – with some updates more significant than others. It has, however, been a firm favourite in Mzansi and Volkswagen hopes their new Tiguan will continue that success with new tech and a sharper design. 

The exterior includes a redesigned front bumper with wider headlamps which intersect the top grille creating an elongated front appearance. The Tiguan also includes IQ.LIGHT, a matrix of 22 individual LEDs per lamp which are claimed to enhance night-driving visibility. While the overall silhouette remains identical, the rear-end features a larger Tiguan badge placed centrally below the VW emblem. The Tiguan can be specced in a selection of new exterior metallic colours including Ginger Brown, Kings Red, Lapiz Blue, Night Shade Blue and Dolphin Grey.

On the inside, drivers are afforded with a refined cabin which includes a sleek steering wheel with new touch controls. The touch operated clusters have also replaced the previous variants physical climate control knobs with touch operated sliders and buttons. This new look Tiguan will also include an optional Harmon Kardon sound system for the first time, using a 16-channel amplifier, eight speakers and a subwoofer. Driver assistants will include Lane Change Assist, Side Assist and Emergency Braking with Front Assist. 

It will be available in three derivatives, the Tiguan, the Tiguan Life and the Tiguan R-Line. The base model will include 17” alloy wheels, LED headlamps, leather multi-function steering wheel, cruise control and the new eight speaker MIB3 Infotainment system’s Composition radio. The mid range Life model will include 18” alloys, cornering lights, Climatronic air conditioning, Park Distance Control in the front and rear as well as an electric tailgate in addition to the standard features. The highest spec Tiguan R-Line includes an aggressive exterior package, 19” alloy wheels and R-labelled leather seats. Both Life and R-Line derivatives have a small selection of alloy wheel designs to choose from as optional extras. 

Other optional extras include a panoramic sunroof, trailer hitch, exterior Black Style Package, Heads-up display and Trailer Manoeuvring System which includes Park Assist among many others. 

Powering the range is a 1.4TSI rated at 110kW mated to a 6-speed DSG gearbox while a 2.0TSI with 162kW and 350Nm includes the 7-speed DSG. For the fuel-conscious, a 7-speed DSG 2.0TDI rated at 130kW can achieve efficiency as low as 5l/100km in economy mode. 

The new German manufactured Volkswagen Tiguan, will be available to our local market from Q3 of this year with pricing to be confirmed closer to its release.