To better understand the rather oddly named Golf Sportsvan, you first need to understand the people this five-seater MPV (think of it as a slightly smaller Touran) formerly known as the Golf Plus is aimed at.
According to Volkswagen, the Golf Sportsvan is designed to appeal to young families and “best agers” (the latter we assume is an euphemism for retirees). While these two target demographics may seem quite disparate, they may have more similar needs than most would think.
For example, both target groups want a car that’s big on interior space, but with a relatively compact exterior. In the Sportsvan’s case, it has 500 litres of cargo space (120 litres more than the Golf hatchback), and with the rear seats folded down, it serves up 1520 litres, with room for items up to 2.5m in length. It also has a wheelbase 50mm longer than the standard Golf’s, though handily enough, at 4340mm long, the Sportsvan is just 85mm lengthier overall.In addition to the added practicality, the Sportsvan also boasts a number of family- and retiree-friendly traits, in the form of an elevated seating position with a hip point that’s at least 59mm higher than in the Golf hatchback.
Granted, I may not be in the Sportsvan’s target demographic (I’ve no intention of spawning little demons of my own, and early retirement for me, sadly, is out of the question), but it’s easy to see this MPV’s appeal.
There’s the aforementioned acres of loading space, with some smart little touches thrown in, such as a cubbyhole on the upper dashboard (if you don’t opt for the uprated sound system with the centre speaker), capacious doorbins and drawers located under the front seats. As for the rear bench, its three seats can be individually folded down (in a 40-20-40 split) and provide some 180mm of fore-aft adjustment (the leftmost two seats and right seat can be independently slid forwards or backwards).And despite the increase in overall dimensions compared to the Golf, the Sportsvan is no more intimidating to drive than its hatchback cousin, thanks to the higher driving position and the overall increase in glazed surface area (the windows) from the bigger glasshouse, which makes for better all-around visibility.
All that, and the Sportsvan is exceptionally quiet on the move – almost eerily so. While cruising on the highway, I had to strain to hear the engine, quite possibly due to the galactic seventh gear. It eats up miles with ease and remarkable levels of refinement, though if you’re in a terrible hurry, it’s more than likely you’ll be disappointed.
The sole Sportsvan variant that’s set to arrive here early next year will come with a 1.4-litre engine that develops a relatively modest 125bhp (though this means it’ll attract a Category A COE), which gets it from zero to 100km/h in 9.9 seconds.This relatively sedate performance makes the presence of the variable-ratio steering rack and XDS electronic differential (that can brake the inside wheel imperceptibly during hard cornering to “tuck” the car’s nose in) from the Golf GTI a bit of an odd choice.
Of course, should you decide to give the Sportsvan a bit of a thrash, the car won’t disappoint too much. Like all other cars in the VW Group that share its ultra-stiff MQB mechanical underpinnings, the Sportsvan is remarkably good-natured, even when called upon to do some very un-MPV activities (flung around narrow hilltop streets, for instance).
However magical though the Sportsvan’s new chassis may be, it can’t magic away the laws of physics (it’s 165kg heavier and 130mm taller than an equivalent Golf hatchback), so while it’ll tolerate and perhaps even indulge your silly behaviour, it’s clearly been made for more serene tasks. Tasks like ferrying the kids to/from school (with a healthy amount of their sports equipment in tow), or acting as a nippy little runabout to get you to that impromptu afternoon mahjong session on time.
So, is the Sportsvan compact MPV nirvana, then? Not exactly, unfortunately. While it looks far less gawky in the metal, and more importantly, far easier on the eye than its predecessor, the Golf Plus, it still can’t match the Gallic flair served up by the Citroen C4 Picasso. That said, in the Citroen, you’ll have to deal with its rather clunky semi-automatic gearbox.
In short, the Sportsvan may not be perfect, but it’s inoffensive and about as practical as they come in a non-oversized package. It’s not the perfect compact MPV, but it does come quite close.
ENGINE 1395cc, 16-valves, inline-4, turbocharged
MAX POWER 125bhp at 5000-6000rpm
MAX TORQUE 200Nm at 1400-1000rpm
GEARBOX 7-speed dual-clutch with manual select
0-100KM/H 9.9 seconds
TOP SPEED 200km/h
CONSUMPTION 17.9km/L (combined)
CO2 EMISSION 130g/km
PRICE INCL. COE
To be announced