VW Golf Plus In Nameplate Dropped Shock!

Goodbye, VW Golf Plus, we’ll miss you. Hello, VW Sportsvan.

VW Golf SV. Image: Topspeed

Editor’s note: This piece originally aired on DTW in August 2014. The Golf Sportsvan ceased production in 2020.

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 dimensions 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.

2004 Golf Plus. Image: automobilesreview

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.

Golf Sportsvan interior: ideal for the taxi run. Image: machinespider

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 and 110 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, for instance the Republic of Ireland and Denmark may make do with fewer.

Image: mad4wheels

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.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

32 thoughts on “VW Golf Plus In Nameplate Dropped Shock!”

  1. I never understood the Golf Plus. Well, I did, but I just found it another bit of half thought out marketing. A Golf is a model, not a brand. Based on that premise, whereas it’s OK to have an estate with the same front section, but a glassy box welded onto the back and call it a Golf, if all the bodywork is different, it’s surely a different model. Renault and Citroen did this with their small people carriers, but then they were desperate to up the Megane and Xsara/C4 sales figures as much as they could – not really a problem for VW.

    In my eyes, it waters down the Holy Word of Golf but, presumably, the pragmatists at VW think that the magic name is too good not to be spread over as much metal as possible. It seems Audi are doing the same with TT. Interestingly, this idea worked for VW, but not for Ford when they produced an upright Fiesta. But they made the mistake of calling it Fusion and not, say, Fiesta Zimmer. As regards the new version’s name, it’s not a Golf, it’s not sporty and it’s not a van, otherwise spot-on.

  2. Good morning Richard. The Golf Plus / Sportvan always seemed to me to be niche marketing gone mad, a vehicle for the tiny percentage of potential buyers for whom the regular Golf was too small and the Touran MPV too large. I don’t think the automotive world was bereft at its passing in 2020 and, in any event, it’s now back in EV form as the ID.3.

    In other Golf/ID news, I read during the week on the Autocar website that the iconic Golf nameplate will live on in the EV6 era: it is to be applied to Volkswagen’s forthcoming ID.2 smaller EV. Exactly how, one wonders: ‘ID.2 Golf’ sounds like VW hedging its bets, which raises suspicions that the company is having a crisis of confidence about how its new ID series has been perceived? Witness the hasty facelift of the ID.3 in order to improve its perceived (and, hopefully, actual) quality.

  3. Sadly, for the ID.2 production car, Volkswagen has ditched the pleasing ID.Life concept, which looked like it could have been from Honda, a crossover big brother to the Honda E, in favour of a scaled-down ID.3 which is OK looking, but very generic. Here are both:

    1. Daniel – that’s really weird news about the Golf nameplate. I thought Volkswagen might actually reintroduce an electric Golf – I guess it depends how sales of the revised ID.3 go.

      Re the photos, the top one, by Jozef Kaban, reminds me a bit of the Ford 021C from 1999.

    2. Volkswagen ID.2 in Design Dropped Shock!

      Sorry, couldn’t resist.

      Before I get my coat: the ID.2 is disappointing to me and the decision to name it “Golf” baffling. Surely it’s size equivalent would be “Polo”? I always imagined that in time (probably when the Golf Mk.8 had run its course) the ID.3 Mk.2 would be VW’s sole c-segment offering and be called Golf.

      Oh, and the Golf Plus/Sportsvan was a car.

    3. Hi Tom. Golf or Polo sized? It depends entirely on your temporal reference point: the current Polo has a wheelbase and overall length of 2,548mm and 4,053mm respectively. For the the original 1974 Golf Mk1, the comparables are 2,400mm (the same as the classic Beetle, incidentally) and 3,705mm. That makes the current Polo 348mm (13 3/4″) longer overall than the Golf Mk1!

      The ID.3 has a wheelbase and overall length of 2,765mm and 4,262mm respectively. The comparables for the ID.3 are 2,636mm and 4,284mm. So, if you want a Golf Mk8 owner to trade in for an EV ‘Golf’ of similar size, then it should indeed be the ID.3 that carries the Golf name forward. Old fogies like me who remember the petite early Golfs are unlikely to be persuaded to buy an ID.2 just because it’s called Golf!

    4. The Golf Mk1 was designed around the Beetle’s wheelbase because it had to use as much of the old production equipment as possible.

    5. Hi Dave. I’m sure it’s my lack of technical knowledge regarding car assembly that’s at issue here , but I’m struggling to imagine what wheelbase-specific production equipment would have been shared between a rear-engined RWD car built on a separate floorpan and a transverse front engined FWD car with a unitary body. As I understand it, production lines that can handle different models are a relatively new innovation.

    6. Hi Daniel, so essentially, the ID.3 Mk.2 should be the Golf and the ID.2 should be a retro New (old) Golf… or maybe, analogous to ID.Buzz it’ll be ID.Golvv or something.

      Now where’s my coat?

    7. A shorter Golf? I suppose that would be a Gol:

      Those A-pillars…yikes! 😁

    8. Hi Daniel,
      they reused production equipment and processes that were not only designed for a car with an air cooled engine in the rear to make a car with front wheel drive and a water cooled engine, they even used production methods for a car with a separate platform frame to make a car with unitary body design. And in addition to this the Beetle’s body and as a consequence the Golf Mk1’s was made following a unique production process that is completely weird from the perspective of today on equipment not seen anywhere else.
      As an examnple early Golf Mk1 bodyshells were fully welded up without a floor pan, just like the Beetle’s.
      The last piece to go into the body was the floor, just like the platform frame of the Beetle, only that in this case the parts were spot welded instead of being bolted together.

      Production equipment was not flexible enough to handle both cars at the same time or alternatingly but it was converted for Golf production without changing the way the body was built. Giorgetto Giugiaro has to be highly admired for designing a car that could be produced this way on the existing equipment.

    9. Thanks Dave, good stuff. One of the many reasons to admire Giugiaro.

      Daniel: the first Gol (how did they dream that name up?) looks like an alternate-universe Polo with definite VW character, but later iterations were very generic. Apart from the nose the could have been Renaults or Fiats.

    10. They’ve just invented the 2002 mk5 Fiesta, which is nice. Okay, enough sarcasm; I like it and it’s packaged well – front motor and front wheel drive, fast charging, good range, as roomy as a Golf, etc. I’m sure it’ll sell well.

  4. The Golf Plus had exactly the same wheelbase and length as the Golf V. The only dimension in which it was bigger was height.
    It was VW’s attempt at creating a competitor to the Peugeot 307 but unlike Peugeot VW was sensible enough not to make it their only offer in the class and have the more conventionally proportioned ‘normal’ Golf as their standard offering.
    In its home country the target group were elderly buyers who didn’t consider themselves fit enough to enter a standard Golf. This and the way the cars all too often were driven very quickly gained it a reputation as a motorised Zimmer frame (which brings us to the question whether people unable to enter a standard Golf should be allowed to sit behind a steering wheel at all but that’s another topic).
    And here might be the reason for the new name. Since everything automotive has to have some connection to sports they should have called it Zimmer RS but seemingly Sportsvan was more appropriate.

    1. DaveAR – While I am able to enter a standard Golf, I do not enjoy the sensation of sitting in a bucket on the floor, nor having to climb out of one. To each his own.

  5. I know of the Golf Plus – a dearly departed friend owned one, and I drove it over a long distance once – and I thought it made some kind of sense. I just thought it had faded away, I don’t remember ever seeing or hearing of the Golf SV.
    I always thought the Passat CC should be called ‘Passat’ and the regular Passat should be ‘Passat Plus’
    As regards cars that are difficult to get into, how about Lotus 7, with the hood erected ?

    1. Getting into a Lotus (any Lotus) is usually no problem. The problem is at the end of the ride. Not only does it take longer to get out than it does to get in, it’s best not to do it in front of an audience – unless you’re a trained acrobat or dressed in something that distracts the audience.

      Here in our area, I mostly see younger women driving a Golf Plus (or Sportsvan). Not exactly the target group the marketing department in Wolfsburg had in mind. But maybe grandpa left the vehicle behind on his last trip. And who, with a small wallet, would leave a well-maintained practical car to an ungrateful used car market.

  6. We had the Golf Plus. Is there room for a Golf Minus? Or would that be a Polo Plus?

    1. That would be the Scirocco – the one that looks like an elephant sat on the roof…

  7. What most people don’t seem to mention with the original Golf+ was that it was leveraging a lot of Caddy parts so wasn’t full “100% new bodywork” – to my eyes at least everything up to the A pillar, and maybe even the front doors were Caddy parts so less of a crazy proposition. It’s like VW saw those original Berlingo ‘Bulle’ Car concepts based on the van and decided to do the same, but actually delivered, rather than just showing them as car concepts. I always thought it looked like an overinflated football. There was a fun ad with a chubby chinese kid in it – the mum thought he’d shrunk because he looked so small in the bigger car.

    The mystery to me on the Golf SV model was how it was basically the same as the Touran, also a Golf-ish based MPV.

    Same-era Caddy – same front clip.

    Berlingo Bulle – Car-based Van-based Car!

    Touran – model overlap much?

  8. Good morning – well, it’s morning here. Names, ah…
    Product names are at best an abstraction, something of a nebulous concept, but how we can get attached to them. Or repelled by them too, I guess.
    All too often I find my understanding of a name is not the same as the company’s perception of it – like when Toyota Australia does a barely-perceptible nose-and-tail job on the Camry, puts in the V6 and insists it’s now an Aurion not a Camry at all. I’ve never understood that. These days I can sit back and let it go through to the keeper rather than writing letters to the magazines – not that I ever did, mind you. Holden did the same miscue back in the seventies, insisting the four-cylinder version of the LX Torana was now a Sunbird.
    But the Golf Plus to Sportsvan? Weird. Not what I would think of as a van, and Sports? But still, it’s their name on the building, so….
    Oh, one last thought before the coffee kicks in. Speaking of names on buildings, remember how we were discussing the other day how the positioning of all the VAG brands was a bit murky? VW kind of moved upmarket to the point where it was something of a richer-person’s car rather than a literal Volks Wagen, that position was now taken by Skoda. So how about they rename the Volkswagen brand in honour of the vehicle that saved them?
    Call the entire brand Golf!

  9. Thanks for all the comments on a piece I had forgotten all about. And indeed a car I had forgotten about. I notice that very quickly conversation turned to the lack of continuity over the Golf name. It would seem to me self-evident that a well-established and respected nameplate like “Golf” could withstand transfer to an electric drivetrain. This ID stuff would do for other models. Golf customers don´t care about tradition and engineering. They want a Golf-sized car for a Golfy price that does Golf-like things in a Golf-esque manner for 450 km between refills. For Ford it´s a complete disaster to have let the Focus nameplate die but they did put up a fight by fielding cars in the sector. VW on the other hand seem not to see they have a name that can withstand transfer to another technology.

    1. True. I wonder if they wanted to hedge their bets, though. The current combustion-engined Golfs have some time to run and we’ve already had the e-Golf. It would make sense to have launched an ID range in the meantime so as not to dilute or tarnish the Golf name while problems were ironed out. They could then transfer to the Golf name at a later date. I think Volkswagen see the Golf name as being extremely valuable – it means something to people who aren’t interested in cars – and don’t want to mess it up.

      I see Renault are using the Mégane name for EVs, so it can work, although they had a lot of EV experience and therefore confidence things would work, prior to launch.

      With respect to Ford, I think they might want to signal a new direction and I don’t think the Focus name has the strength it once did. Perhaps it’ll make a return at a later date. By coincidence, I saw the most recent model in a silvery-brown/metallic beige colour, very recently. It looked very nice – I hadn’t previously liked the shape.

  10. As I understand it, isn’t Volkswagen’s argument that the interior package of the upcoming ID2 is broadly equivalent to a current Golf’s, given that most of the mechanicals have been replaced by underfloor batteries?
    There might be something in it, given that my (well-remunerated) colleague reckons his BMW iX offers the space of an x5 in the footprint of an X3. I’m happy to take his word on this, so long as I don’t have to look at the thing…

  11. The best detail of the Golf+ were the taillights. The first VW parts with LED technology.

    To add another story of the VW nameplate jungle, the Cross version of the Golf+ came as a Cross Golf without +….

    The delay of the Golf 6 was a result of the problems with the new scandalous Diesel engine, VW had to struggle in finding a way for a cost-cutting production of the new “clean“ Diesel engine, which was introduced with the new Golf…..

    1. The Golf 5.2/6 hardly was delayed because it originally was not meant to exist. It came into being because VW couldn’t solve the production line problems of the Golf 5’s doors. Since the doors had to be completely redesigned they could facelift the rest of the car as well, eliminating the points for criticism of which there was aplenty for the 5. At the same time they greaetly improved the quality of the materials used in the interior, something for which (or the lack thereof) the 5 also was blamed very often.
      The extended production run paid for the changes.

      Those Flash Gordon rear lights are some of the typical details of the Murat Günak era just like the silly chrome bib. Both disappeared not one day too early.

  12. I can not understand VW and their tactics. ID series cars are not gaining any quality, beauty or sales prize. I drove an ID3 when it was first announced a couple of years ago and was happy to return in my first generation e-golf (material quality, ride quality, driving position, ease of function, pretty much everything apart from battery was better in the e-golf). Why on earth do they cut the tree they sit on by discarding their most iconic ( and I assume profitable) car is beyond me. And beyond VW salesmen here in Norway as it shows, the people I spoke to said they complained that there is no improved e-golf for them to sell in stead of the ID but the bosses in Wolfsburg ” will not listen us salesmen from a small country”

    1. +1. I think the ID.3 was created at the height of the dieselgate panic and I see the organisational stress the company was going through reflected in that car (and some other models).

      I imagine that Volkswagen are going to give the ID.3 one more push, with improved quality. If that doesn’t succeed, then I suspect that there’s a ‘plan B’, possibly involving an e-Golf. I’m certain that Volkswagen recognise the value of the Golf – the vehicle and the brand.

    2. The ID.3 and its lousy quality are what you get when you make BMW’s former purchasing director your CEO.
      Herbert Diess never understood VW and he was removed not a single day too early.
      Following his direction VW will need another Toni Schmücker or Fugen Ferdl in a very short time. I hope they can do a turn around.

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