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Volkswagen Golf 1.5 eTSI DSG Life Review: Less Really Is More

The new 'rightsized' Golf is the first Cat A VW to receive the 1.5-litre 4-cylinder engine.
James Wong
James Wong
26 Jun 2023
Start it up from cold, and there is a MkV GTI-esque bassy hum that’s most unexpected and very welcome.
What we like:
Still good fun to drive
1.5-litre engine has potential despite qualifying for Cat A
Simpler interior makes for a better overall UX
What we dislike:
Paddle shifters don't respond as quickly as we'd hoped

When Volkswagen introduced the TFSI + DSG concept to the masses, it was a hit. Then when they brought it to the Cat A COE class, it got even more popular.

While having lesser horsepower, the high torque figures are still a good deal better than what you’d get on a naturally aspirated engine. It made sense especially for Singapore-style driving, where we don’t usually go above 100 km/h.

But actually, when we do, the Cat A engines still make a decent job out of it, as witnessed when I organised my first ever press drive event overseas to Kuantan as a VW press representative, and more recently at a VW/Skoda drive to Desaru.

Except this time, one just gets so much more from the same entry-level car, albeit several generations on.

The most important point to make about the Cat A Golf is that it’s the first VW Cat A car to sport the 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo engine, with 131 PS and 200 Nm. Previously, all Cat A VWs used the familiar 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine. It’s good, but the 1.5L adds added refinement and response that’s well worth the extra 500 cc. There is even a decent exhaust note, which is a real pleasant surprise.

Start it up from cold, and there is a MkV GTI-esque bassy hum that’s most unexpected and very welcome. Even on the move, you can hear the low frequency sound like a reassuring voice.

By now, the engine’s pairing with the DSG gearbox is so good, it shifts almost imperceptibly and makes full use of the engine’s power, which comes in a sweet spot between 3-4,000rpm. But it’s pleasurable to rev and not at all harsh or bland. However, what is slow is response to the paddle shifters, which lets the cat out of the bag that this is still, after all, an efficiency biased car.

While I initially disliked the Mk8 Golf for its sometimes unnecessary advancements in interior technology, things seem to be a lot more agreeable in the Cat A car with the omission of haptic steering wheel buttons and a simplified central screen. It’s pretty easy to use and feels a great deal more user friendly. Some say the Mk8 Golf signalled a drop in quality from the Mk7.5 too, but I did not really feel this. On the contrary, it seemed to be more mature and better built as a whole.

Like all Volkswagen AG cars in Cat A, the Golf utilises torsion beam rear suspension but as before, the driver would not feel a tangible difference behind the wheel unless it is really scrutinised upon. One perhaps could experience it if there was a more complicated situation presented to the car, for example to deal with a pot hole and a fast lane change at the same time. Otherwise, the sweet handling of the Golf still very much remains, despite the fact that the steering remains a tad too light. Despite being a mild hybrid, braking is rather natural too.

The MHEV setup in the Golf seems to be in ‘shy’ mode as there is no battery indicator showing the car recharging its battery or anything of the sort. I guess it could be to lower expectations that the car would deliver the economy of a hybrid, because it doesn’t. I returned 12.5 km/l in a near 300 km weekend drive, which I would say is average.

Finally, I think the exterior design has grown a little on me and while I think it still looks too corporate, I think with the simple wheels and innocent white paint on the test car, it looks more appealing than it does festooned.

The Golf has returned to Cat A in a big way, and may just come back to take its crown again, finally.

Photos by New Gen Marketing


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