Downsized engine technology comes to the Golf with mixed results

What is it?

The Volkswagen Group is at the forefront of the downsizing trend with its small-capacity turbocharged petrol engines. The larger 1.4 TSI has won numerous awards for its impressive mix of power and economy, but VW hasn’t stopped there; it’s now launching its new 1.2 TSI engine in the Golf and Polo models, and it’s tested here in a five-door Golf.

What's it like?

We’re already familiar with the Golf’s capabilities; the competent dynamics and impressive interior quality are particular highlights. But the real story here is the engine

The 1.2 TSI unit is smooth, quiet and refined. Off the line it can feel underpowered, as it does near the top of the rev range, but progress is swift when peak torque kicks in between 1550rpm and 4100rpm. But this sprightly performance comes with a question mark over economy.

In its week with us, the Golf covered several hundred miles of motorway runs and city commutes, but not once did it get near VW’s claimed combined figure of 49.6mpg; mid-30s was nearer the mark.

Should I buy one?

This is a Golf with an element of compromise. It’s a fine car with an engine that delivers impressive refinement and performance.

However, the real-world economy means it’s not for those in pursuit of as few fuel stops as possible on long-distance runs; they should try the 1.6 TDI. Instead, it’s more suited to daily driving around town.

But the tech is getting there; a bit of work improving economy and emissions without sacrificing the mid-range urgency would make it hard to fault.

Mark Tisshaw

Title: Editor

Mark is a journalist with more than a decade of top-level experience in the automotive industry. He first joined Autocar in 2009, having previously worked in local newspapers. He has held several roles at Autocar, including news editor, deputy editor, digital editor and his current position of editor, one he has held since 2017.

From this position he oversees all of Autocar’s content across the print magazine, website, social media, video, and podcast channels, as well as our recent launch, Autocar Business. Mark regularly interviews the very top global executives in the automotive industry, telling their stories and holding them to account, meeting them at shows and events around the world.

Mark is a Car of the Year juror, a prestigious annual award that Autocar is one of the main sponsors of. He has made media appearances on the likes of the BBC, and contributed to titles including What Car?Move Electric and Pistonheads, and has written a column for The Sun.

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theonlydt 8 June 2010

Re: Volkswagen Golf 1.2 TSI

Thanks J400 - I was under the impression that the 105 was 16v and the 85 was 8v - maybe both are 8v because with direct injection you decrease the space available on the cylinder head for valves? That and low down torque to work with the low pressure turbo. Information on the engines is pretty poor actually - looked high and low for reliable info.

J400uk 8 June 2010

Re: Volkswagen Golf 1.2 TSI

Also just to answer an earlier question, both the 85PS and 105 PS 1.2 TSI engines are 8v. This is comfirmed in VWs internal publications - Page 9

J400uk 8 June 2010

Re: Volkswagen Golf 1.2 TSI

I think its a good engine. The 85PS variant has replaced the ancient 1.4 80PS and the 105PS variant tested here replaces the even older 1.6 102PS. The TSIs are faster and more economical than their predecessors, simple as really. On paper look like great entry level engines, and now means the whole range is turbocharged.