Goodbye, VW Golf Plus, we´ll miss you. Hello, VW Sportsvan.
Some readers may have missed the news that VW´s much loved GolfPlus nameplate has been discontinued. The new name to watch is Sportsvan and doubtless it will win as much affection as the outgoing one. The replacement car was shown at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2013 and is now on sale.
Let’s have a fond look back at the departing car. Dating from 2004, the GolfPlus concept took the best features of the Golf and added a few percent to them seemingly at random. The Golf Plus was thus a bit bigger in most directions and, I suppose, was exactly as the name suggested, a bit more Golf. When I heard of its launch I was among those who rolled their eyes in exaggerated expressions of amazement. It was hard to believe that VW would bother going to 100% of the expense of engineering car that differed only by 1%-4% in most dimensions from the Golf. Not only did the Plus seem to risk cannibalising sales of the ordinary Golf, there was the question of the Golf Estate. Was that going to lose sales too?It is curious to consider how VW spotted this gap in the market as focus groups are poor at saying what they want. Did customers say “I like the Golf but I´d like it just a small bit bigger – but not as big as Passat or as tall an SUV. You know, a tiny bit bigger, please.” Of course, VW did indeed know better than me and one in four of Golf-type vehicles sold was a GolfPlus. Hence the new version. But why the new name?
Despite the apparent success of the GolfPlus in capturing sales, especially in Germany, VW have decided a new name is needed for the successor to the Golf Plus. The Sportsvan moniker is supposed to spell out the van’s dynamic qualities. According to reports of what VW executives said, the new car combines the agility of the classic Golf with the roominess, easier access and higher seating position of a minivan. What they don´t say is that this means it´s aimed at older drivers who are known to like a higher-set seat. The car is based on the famous MQB platform which has been a bit problematic. The executive in charge of wheeling the system out, Michael Macht has left the firm “by mutual agreement”. Autoblog reports that “one of the most important MQB cars, the new Golf, has faced delays at VW’s Wolfsburg factory…. Those delays have led to some pricey overtime, which was apparently the straw that broke the camel’s back for VW’s supreme boss. …sources inside the company said [Martin] Winterkorn was “unhappy” with the MQB rollout.”
Returning the Sportsvan, VW say the it is more dynamic than the outgoing car, with a lower roofline but a wider body to emphasise this. The reduction of the roofline is curious though. One might have expected that this aspect of the old Plus – a higher roof- was part of its appeal for buyers. The wheelbase is 107 mm longer than the standard Golf, adding to rear legroom (a Chinese market concession?). As usual with VW, a whole host of engines will be available. Petrol: a 1.2 litre 4 cylinder with 85 and110 PS, and a 1.4 litre with 125 and 150 PS. Diesel-likers can get the car with a 1.4 litre 110 PS engine and a 2.0 litre unit with 150 PS. That data is from VW Deutschland. Other markets i.e Ireland and Denmark may make do with fewer.
A decade is quite a long time for a car to remain in production. For this reason the new vehicle contrasts very strongly with the old one, despite a 2008 facelift. The newer car is more rectilinear in the current VW idiom whereas the previous car was penned during the middle of one of VW´s rounded-styling phases.
DTW will soon be taking a more detailed look at the engine range of VW and also Ford and Opel to see how they compare.