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The Volkswagen Golf Plus offers extra space but little in the way of added versatility. Is that enough?

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You might not have thought there was room between the Golf – itself not exactly a compact car any more – and the Touran mid-sized MPV, but VW thought otherwise. It is, then, what it seems: a slightly more spacious, bigger and more versatile Golf.

Initially introduced in 2005 the Golf Plus has been around for a while now, receiving a ‘new’ Volkswagen makeover in 2009 to incorporate the brand’s sharper front grille and angular headlamps. Behind that neater face it’s largely the same, save for more advanced engines and a higher standard equipment count. 

There's nothing particularly clever about its interior packaging

Look at the Golf Plus as essentially as a practical Golf with lots more room inside (mainly headroom thanks to a higher roof) and easier access. Unsurprisingly there are no hot GTI or GTD versions - presumably because of a predicted lack of demand. It looks a touch strange, too, but if it’s a Golf you want and space you need then perhaps this is for you

As such it’s never a car you’re going to get hot under the collar about, but it you value its greater practicality, the easier access its higher driving position affords, ease of use, high quality interior and inoffensive style then the Golf Plus isn’t without merit

Underlining its age is the lack of anything particularly clever about its interior packaging. Admittedly, it’s more spacious, but there’s no third row seats - for that you’ll need a Touran - and some of the more clever stowage and seating solutions available today you’ll need to look at newer rivals. 

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DESIGN & STYLING

Volkswagen Golf Plus front end

Most Volkswagens err on the side of conservatism when it comes to styling and the Golf Plus is perhaps the best example of that. Despite a re-style in 2009 its basic shape remains the same as the car that was launched in 2005. That’s not to say it’s offensive, it’s just rather forgettable. The smarter headlamps and sharper grille that denotes VW’s current design style does lift interest a bit, but alongside more adventurously penned rivals it’s more than a little dull. Understated, perhaps, which in fairness will suit many of the people it’s targeted at. 

The additional height it brings over its hatchback relative is apparent in its rather slab-sided profile, it actually looking more like an inflated VW Fox than enhanced scale Golf. If there’s one area where it looks good it’s around the rear, where the neatly detailed LED rear lights add some visual appeal - looking great when lit up at night.

Dash looks very dull if you don't spec the optional integrated infotainment screen

What it does avoid is the boxy look of many midi-MPV rivals, with its one-and-a-half box silhouette definitely retaining its hatchback DNA despite the increased height and space inside. That height gives great access too, with larger doors front and rear, which open wide to the generously spacious interior.  Avoid S trim with its poverty-specification steel wheels and wheelcovers, these only adding to the somewhat under-wheeled look. The larger alloy wheels of the SE specification help, but even so equipped it’s never going to turn heads like some more glamorous rivals do. 

INTERIOR

Volkswagen Golf Plus dashboard

This is where the Golf Plus is alleged to come into its own. Designed to offer all the comfort and quality people have expected of the Golf for decades, but with an added level of ease of use, the idea behind the Golf Plus might seem sound.

But never escape with the idea that this is actually an MPV in disguise. Yes its rear seats slide, split, recline and fold, yes the front passenger seat will fold in half too and, yes there are 43 separate storage units dotted about the cabin, but you can’t remove the rear seats and overall carrying capacity is more akin to what it is – a large hatchback – than a conventional mid-sized MPV like the Touran.

Steering wheel rim is just the right thickness

Many owners, however will appreciate the extra interior room – though most of it is actually taken up providing spare headroom that only the freakishly tall or top hat fetishists will appreciate. Even so, there’s the raised driving position so beloved of MPV owners and excellent leg room front and rear for five occupants.

And, of course, you get to enjoy a smart, well-built Volkswagen dash with its intuitive ergonomics and attractive design, a flawless driving position with a reach and rake adjustable wheel and first class all round visibility.

That alone will be enough to attract buyers, but despite a refresh in 2009 the Golf Plus’ interior lacks the latest, near premium level of quality and hushed refinement you’ll get in its non Plus hatchback relative. If you value a higher driving position over everything else though, the Golf Plus should suit.

ENGINES & PERFORMANCE

Volkswagen Golf Plus rear quarter

Four engines give performance ranging from slovenly to respectable - no Golf Plus is ever being bought with traffic light Grand Prix in mind. Just as well if you opt for the 1.2 TSI, which with just 84bhp feels a bit overwhelmed in the heavyweight Golf Plus, taking 13.4 seconds to reach 62mph and running out of go at 108mph.

The 104bhp 1.6 TDI turbodiesel fares no better against the clock, indeed it’s slower, with a 0-62mph time of 13.5 seconds. Its advantage is its additional torque, with 170lb ft arriving at 1500rpm. It’s got quite a narrow band though, so you’ll be busy with the five-speed manual to keep it in its sweet spot. 

Four engines give performance ranging from slovenly to respectable

Opt for the 120bhp 1.4 TSI petrol and you’ll reach 62mph quicker, but it’s a more frenetic drive, lacking the mid-range pull of the diesel choices. It’s smooth though, even at high revs. 

Best of the bunch is the 2.0 TDI, which offers 138bhp and 236lb.ft of torque - delivered from 1,750-2,500rpm. It’s the only Golf Plus to slip under 10 seconds to 62mph with a time of 9.8 seconds. It’s not its sprinting prowess among its relatives that marks it out though, instead it’s the relative ease by which it manages the Golf Plus’ bulk. If you’re planning on using the Golf Plus as VW intends you to, that is with a family on board, you’ll appreciate the more muscular delivery from the 2.0 TDI. Mate it to the six-speed DSG for the greatest all-round and easiest driving Golf Plus.

RIDE & HANDLING

Volkswagen Golf Plus cornering

If you’re looking for surprises, you’ve come to the wrong place – people don’t buy Golf Pluses to have their conventions rearranged. Its mechanical specification, from its strut-type front suspension to its multi-link rear end, is pure Golf. Unsurprisingly then, it drives very much as you might expect a slightly taller, heavier Golf to drive. 

However, we have always admired the latest Golf platform for its ability to serve up something approaching the best blend of ride and handling of any car in its class and these talents are passed on to the Plus in largely undimmed form. If you have the two side by side you could doubtless measure and maybe even subjectively detect the extra weight of the bigger car holding it back on the straights and making it more sluggish in the corners, but for most people most of the time, the Golf Plus has more than adequate dynamics.

The brakes are a little over-sensitive in the initial pedal travel, but very effective

Either the S with its standard 15-inch steel wheels or SE with 16-inch alloy wheels rides decently, the suspension isolating all but the worst bumps from occupants while retaining good control and comfort. There’s a bit more roll in the bends thanks to its increased height, but the Golf Plus goes about its business ably, if not with any real verve.

The steering is decently weighted, though don’t expect much in the way of feel through the wheel’s rim, it lacking the sharpness offered by its key Ford C-Max rival. That’s unlikely to bother most buyers though, who will appreciate its all-round ability and comfort in all conditions. 

MPG & RUNNING COSTS

Volkswagen Golf Plus

Only two trim levels are offered, S and SE, both additionally available with economy maximising Bluemotion technology in 1.6 TDI guise. The S comes with air conditioning, a CD player, a multi-function computer and body coloured bumpers, mirrors, side strips and door handles. It does however make do with 15-inch steel wheels. For standard alloy wheels you’ll need SE, it adding 16-inch alloys as well as a leather steering wheel and cruise control. The big gain in SE specification is Park Assist system, which will automatically steer your Golf Plus into a parking space just 1.1 metres longer than the car itself

Engine choices are limited to two petrol and two diesel units. The entry-level 1.2 TSI petrol and 1.6-litre TDI turbodiesel make do with 5-speed manual transmissions, the 1.2 TSI only delivering 84bhp but countering its lowly output is a decent 48.7mpg combined fuel consumption figure. The 1.6 TDI betters that with 60.1mpg, or if you’ve specified it in Bluemotion guise 65.7mpg and CO2 emissions of 114g/km (64.2mpg and 115g/km if specified with the optional seven-speed DSG automatic).

2.0 TDI is our pick of the diesels. It's more refined, and barely any less economical than the 1.6 TDI in the real world

Larger 1.4 TSI and 2.0 TDI engines deliver 43.5mpg and 55.4mpg respectively, each coming as standard with six-speed manual transmissions and also available with a six-speed DSG automatic. 

Running costs should be reasonable in all, with VW servicing costs no more than the mainstream norm and insurance costs are sensible, too. 

VERDICT

3.5 star Volkswagen Golf Plus

Tough to love but equally difficult to be overly critical, the Golf Plus is exactly as its name suggests. It’s perhaps an answer to a question no-one asked? But on balance we still feel reasonably well disposed towards the Golf Plus.

It’s not a great-looking car but it will be bought by people who value form over function and, to them, the fact that it offers an extra degree of interior space and flexibility without smiting them the spectre of MPV ownership will be temptation enough. It should cost less than it does but its residual value should ensure the shirt stays on its owner’s back. It’s not a car that rewrites any rulebooks, but for a certain sort of person, it may prove to be just the job.

It’d be more appealing if it were a bit cheaper and a bit more exciting to look at

The diesel engines make most sense, the Bluemotion equipped cars returning family budget friendly economy mixed with decent performance. Refinement is high in all, though ultimately it lacks the sophistication of the latest Golf - the Golf Plus still being based on the previous generation Golf’s platform. A halfway house then, but a car that has its place in the VW range and can justify its existence in the family car market. It’d be more attractive if it were a bit cheaper and a bit more exciting to look at, with rivals’ showrooms filled with sharper styled, less expensive alternatives. 

Volkswagen Golf Plus 2009-2013 First drives