Archive for VW Golf

What recession?

Posted in General opinions with tags , , , , , , , , , on 27/03/2012 by Alexander


For those that don’t know it, I live in Portugal. It’s one of the three countries of the Eurozone that had to be bailed out because it was verging on bankruptcy, which would lead the average person to think that the Portuguese wouldn’t have much money to spend on things, especially cars. Now, I like to think of a country’s habits when it comes to the acquisition of cars as a sort of barometer of said country’s economic health, since buying a car is usually the second biggest personal investment people make in their lives, after a house.

This should be especially true in Portugal, where buying and running a car is extremely expensive, both compared to what people earn and what it costs abroad. Fuel prices are astronomically high, and according to official figures, only Denmark, Greece, Italy and the Netherlands have dearer petrol. Toll-free motorways are a thing of the past, and though that might not seem so bad to foreigners, but to us it means every journey or commute out of town is precious dosh lining someone else’s pockets instead of our own. Plus, lots of areas of the country depend on tourists coming in from Spain, and these tourists now don’t come here because it’s awkward and expensive to use our motorways, but I digress.

To top it off, cars here are amazingly overpriced, both used and new, but I’ll stick to new cars since that’s complicated enough as it is. To illustrate, let’s use Europe’s best-selling car, the VW Golf, as an example. In its native Germany, prices start at €16,975, in France, at €16,790, in Spain, a more expensive €18,820 and in the UK, £15,865, which for the purpose of this comparison, is €18,968. Portugal? A whopping €21,800, nearly €3000 more than the most expensive of the other aforementioned markets!

So one would think that cars wouldn’t sell much, in Portugal, what with gargantuan prices and deep recession. And on the face of it, you’d think that was the case, with January 2012 sales plummeting nearly 50% when compared to the same month in 2011, and February 2012 sporting the same sort of numbers. However, look again. In both January and February, Audi, Mercedes and BMW made the top ten. In February, Merc, BMW and Audi sold a combined total of 1,332 cars. So of the 6,932 cars sold in Portugal, 1 in 5 was a German luxury car. And that’s not counting the thriving used-car import market, which consists mainly of E-Class Mercs and Audi A3’s.

I could go on and lace some more layers of fact on this already iron-clad evidence that Portugal is living beyond its means, that it’s chock-full of idiots who only look at badges and how unevenly and third-worldly money is distributed here, but I think the point’s been made. It’s a miracle Europe bailed us out.

Shrug and go “meh” #1 – VW Golf

Posted in Shrug and go "meh" with tags , on 13/05/2011 by Alexander

I can’t think of more of a paradigmatic example of the average car. The fact that it’s been the best-selling car in Europe for ages suggests it’s very good, which it is, but only at the very median tasks it’s made for, in that very “get-the-job-done” sort of way. Does anybody, in this day and age, go around all day and lay in bed at night aspiring to own a Golf? Methinks not. Vehemently. People dream of owning fat Mercs and Ferraris, big Citroens and stylish coupés, even perhaps Minis or Fiat 500s if they’re of the mini-bourgeois.

The Golf is the picture child of hatchbacks, whether in family or simple utilitarian flavour. It’s certainly not the sort of car you wave your arms about when you see one, or, if you own one, turn to look back at when walking away as if it were your hot girlfriend. It lacks flair and panache, making up for it with quality and very German seriousness.

So imagine your sister or friend told you they’d just bought a Golf. You’d just shrug and go “meh”.

VW Scirocco

Posted in General opinions with tags , , , , on 19/03/2010 by Alexander

When Volkswagen announced they were bringing back the Scirocco, I have little doubt that it brought a a smile to the faces of most car enthusiasts. Personally, I’ve always had VW’s coupés in high regard. I’ve always thought the original Scirocco to be very cool, and the Corrado was something that, as a teen in the early 90’s while the Corrado was still in production, I imagined myself driving one day. So news of the Scirocco’s return bode well indeed. And the first pictures of it certainly led me to believe the auto world was in for a cracking car. The styling cues were in line with VW’s current trend, which I personally find very satisfying. The aesthetic choices regarding both the Golf and the Polo are spot on, and the same brand DNA shows through on the Scirocco. The Scirocco takes the styling a step further away from the mundane with its strong, outward shoulders, something that accentuates the sportiness of the coupé-shape. The shoulderline itself is also very contemporary, following the current zeitgeist, which all cars seem to have nowadays.

If there’s anything I’ve always liked about Volkswagens, it’s the interiors. They’re always so well-made, and so good-looking, and simply just such nice places to be. I get the same impression from the Scirocco, from both the photographs and peeking in the windows of ones parked in the street. But – and here’s the first but – VW seems to think it’s a good idea to add chrome framing around bits of the interior. Mind you, this is a sin nearly all car manufacturers are guilty of, as the logic seems to be that the more chromed bits you have on a car, whether it’s on the inside or outside, the more upmarket it seems. How bits of plastic painted with mirror-like reflecting paint and randomly glued on a car makes it seem better is beyond me. Another VW, the fantastic Passat CC, is also a victim of this practice, and this gives the interior a much more chintzy, nouveau-riche feel than it deserves.

My biggest disappointment regarding the Scirocco is that it’s one of those cars that in pictures, it looked absolutely mouth-watering, while in real life, it looks… how should I put this… odd. And on trying to analyse why this should be, I come to the conclusion that the rear of the car could and should look better. That back window is just too vertical, and hinders that sweeping coupé form. It’s something that I don’t really fancy on both the Golf and the Polo, but on them, they make sense, because they’re predominantly utilitarian cars. The more vertical back window makes it easier to lug cargo into the boot, thus making the car more practical, but it’s a rule of thumb that coupés are impractical, non-family vehicles. No-one should really care about being able to get a chest of drawers in the boot, and no-one would want to if that means that car has to look like a brick.

So in the face of more-or-less direct competition, like the Volvo C30 or Renault Megane, the Scirocco doesn’t cut it. Because if you’re not buying a coupé for its looks, what else other reason is there to want it?

CC: doesn’t mean just “cubic centimetre”

Posted in Desirable machines, Upcoming cars with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 11/10/2009 by Alexander

The 4-door coupé isn’t a recent fad that the Mercedes CLS and its fans and ignorant motor journalists would have us believe. Sweeping coupé designs for saloons have been around for longer (take Robert Opron’s fastback saloons of the 70’s, or the Volvo S60), though the CLS somewhat popularised it. The band wagon is roomy, as many cars since have jumped on. The Citroen C6, the VW Passat CC, the Opel Insignia, the hardly-convincing Audi A5 Sportback (after all, it did start life out as a coupé to begin with) and the hideous and stupid BMW 5 series GT.

I’d say from this it’s a clearly a predominantly German fashion, with the funky little VW Passat by far the most attractive of the Kraut-auto flock (The Citroen C6 is by far the most attractive in the Global Auto range, but I digress). The BMW 5-series GT looks like a dwarfish, handicapped, stunted SUV, and the A5 Sportback comes across as a coupé with those extra doors jammed in to meet a marketing niche for stupid people. The VW looks balanced and smooth, with nice lines and a striking presence, which the Opel has, but in less measure. If I were ever to buy German (and I hope one day I’ll have the money to even consider these things), the Passat CC would be a probable choice.

However, VW has been like my old Citroën BX’s hydropneumatic system and has been leaking, though in this case, interesting information.

First, was a glimpse of the future Golf VII, which I found rather strange since the Golf VI was released this year. It’s like VW are saying “Yes, we know this current Golf is disappointing, so we’re making another one.” The Golf IV was so brilliant both the V and VI are but pale images that simply don’t have the same appeal (though the rise in quality from competitors also helps this notion). The Golf VII is trying to get VW’s family hatchback into the arena of ball-bashing success.

Second, was none other than a Golf CC (original link). Which on the surface seems a good idea, building on the Passat CC’s appeal and widening the choice amidst the Golf range. But then I think: this will kill the Jetta (unless it’s the next-gen Jetta) and probably overlap the Passat range. Doesn’t sound so smart any more, though I must admit I personally find the idea of a Golf CC very clever and appealing, especially if it has a panoramic roof like the Passat version.