Golf 2 Arrives

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Flawless and Desirable

The first reaction of people seeing Golf 2 for the first time is: “Where did the £500 million go?” Assuming, that is, they are journalists and have been told the total investment in the model which succeeds the best-selling Golf 1. The newcomer resembles Golf 1 so closely that it could not be taken for anything else – and yet, during the first days in our hands, it created more interest than the Treser Quattro we’d been driving the week before.

Six million customers cannot be wrong. That number, plus 5,635 to be precise, is the total of Golfs sold between August 1974 and October 1983, creating a legend, or a cult even, among those who found that the Beetle’s successor, though in a well defined mould, established new levels of comfort, interior space and controllability.

Golf 1 had some drawbacks, giving the designers something to aim for with its successor. The main one was a failing common among hatchbacks, that with all the seats occupied there was precious little space for their luggage. It’s all very well extolling the amount of space available with the rear seats folded flat, if the car is unsuitable for a family holiday. So, Golf 2 has a luggage area 30% greater than before, at 14.4 cubic feet, and all of it is usable; the only noticeable intrusion in the luggage area (long enough, front to rear, to accommodate a suitcase 31 inches in length) is the protrusion for the spare wheel under the floor, a normal steel wheel being provided for the UK specification models instead of the usual space-saver.

In terms of overall dimensions, Golf 2 is 6.7 inches longer than its predecessor, 2.1 inches wider, the wheelbase is 3 inches longer, the front track is 1 inch wider and the rear track 2 inches wider. Translated into interior space (most of the length accounted for in the luggage area, except 1.4 inches on the legroom) there are 3.6 inches more elbow room at the front and 4.4 inches more at the back, some of this due to the space-efficient door linings with scalloped areas for armrests and oddments boxes.

So Golf 2 really is completely new, every panel changed. The braking system is from the GTi, and the GTi2 will have an all-disc system when it arrives in May. We also illustrate Jetta 2 which will be imported to Britain in May, this the traditional Golf-with-a-boot and rectangular headlamps to complete the distinction.

In essence Golf 2 has softer, more rounded and more aerodynamic lines than the model before, the drag coefficient having been lowered to 0.34. The profile is less clean-cut, and not quite so distinctive maybe, but it’s a shape that will last out the decade and into the ‘90s without doubt.

Facts and figures that would fill a book are available, but Golf 2’s admirers all wanted to know what it’s like. Very competent indeed, more comfortable than the familiar Golf both as regards seating and ride, quieter, more roomy, more economical and with better braking too. Maybe the steering has lost a little of its crispness, and though we cannot compare like model with like we feel that the handling was somewhat less taut, but by any other standards the newcomer is virtually flawless, and that is the highest compliment we could pay a medium size family saloon.

The range of power units starts with the basic 1,043 cc unit developing 45 bhp (costing £4,597), includes three 1,272 cc versions at 55 bhp (£4,971 to £5,502) and three versions at 1,595 cc – the Diesel at 54 bhp (£6,310), the 1.6 carburated GL at 55 bhp (£6,696) and the automatic version at £6,982. The GTi at 112 bhp will come later, but no decision has yet been made about importing what could be a most interesting version, a carburated 1.8 litre model rated at 90 bhp.

We have the 1.6 GL on test, the quickest model available in the UK at present, and although it would be regarded as mid-range later on we find it to be lively and interesting to drive. The “4-speed + E” gearbox is fitted as standard, which effectively means 5-speed transmission with fifth being an overdrive “Economy” ratio. The gearbox is smooth and positive, with the minor reservation that third and fifth are so close together on the gate that, until we were familiar with the box, we were never sure that top gear had been engaged.

VAG (United Kingdom) Limited have not spared any expense or effort with the launch of Golf 2, expecting to sell 26,000 examples in the remainder of 1984 – and that will include 4,000 GTi models. A Concorde trip to Munich last autumn was followed up by the loan of brand-new Golfs to 100 magazines and newspapers, our 1.6 GL painted in an attractive shade of dark blue having 58 miles on the clock when handed over. There seemed to be no mechanical defects in the car, though we noted a tiny indentation on the trailing edge of the bonnet and minor damage in the front offside wheel arch, as though a retaining clamp had been snagged when reversing the car off the transporter. Unfortunately we collected a stone chip on the windscreen within the first few days, while minding our business at a legal speed on a motorway.

The driver’s door aperture had been waxed rather too liberally, and for the first couple of weeks the car had a waxy smell that lingered in the occupants’ clothing, but this presumably is the price one has to pay for a six-year anti-corrosion warranty. The service handbook shows that service intervals are 10,000 miles, and that even includes the first service from new (rather a long time to wait if there had been any defects).

The level of public interest came as a surprise, though it should not have done. More than 180,000 Golfs have been sold in Britain in nine years with 26,400 being registered in the UK in 1981, the best year. Volkswagen’s target of 26,000 Golf 2 sales in nine months this year, rising to 33,000 in 1985, seems very ambitious in this light, especially when on recalls that VAG stand steadfastly against discounting, and that the Golfs are premium price cars in Britain, the 1.6 GL as tested working out at £686 more than the equivalent Ford Escort 1.6 GL, and £140 dearer than the Escort Ghia. But still, if you consider that many of the 180,000 Golfs are now on their second or third owners, you can imagine that more than a quarter of a million people have a personal interest in Golf 2.

Inside Golf 2 everything is as familiar as on the exterior. The seats seemed to have softer cushions, though that may have been due to the newness of the car, but the fascia is almost identical which seems a pity; it’s rather plain and plasticky, though the instruments are legible enough. The GL has a rev-counter to match the speedometer, a digital clock between the dials, and 10 warning lights for all the essential functions.

One very retrograde step that more and more manufacturers are taking is the direct linking of the fresh air system to the heater, so that if warm air is selected for the interior warm air will come out of the fascia vents, if they are open. Makers say they have to do this to meet an EEC regulation about demisting the side glass within a minute of starting from cold, and in that case we have nothing to thank the legislators for. If they were drivers they would know how essential it is to have fresh, cold air coming in at face level to maintain alertness.

We like the interior lighting arrangement which, on one setting, gives a 10 second delay after shutting the doors, allowing the driver enough time to put the key into the ignition and fasten the seatbelt (or, on leaving the car, time to lock up). There are thankfully no buzzers or warning sounds, and no voice synthesizers to distract the driver. The options list of the GL includes tinted glass, electric windows, power steering, central locking and a sunroof; all but the standard models have a radio fitted, a mono set with stereo cassette.

At the time of writing the Golf test car has covered only 1,000 miles and is not fully run-in, but the 0-60 mph acceleration time of 13.0 sec can be matched quite easily, and the top speed of 104 mph seems comfortably on.

Not only does the Golf have much more luggage space, but the fuel tank has been enlarged from 10 to 12 gallons (55 litres to be precise) and fuel economy has been improved too. Golfs were not renowned for their fuel economy, though different drivers in different parts of the country could get figures between 30 and 45 mpg according to how and where they travelled. To us, an average of 34.55 mpg on fast journeys out of town, and 32.95 mpg driving daily into central London, represents an appreciable improvement of Golf 1, and a range of approaching 400 miles if one dares get right down to the fuel in the tank! However, when filling up while the needle was in the reserve sector, indicating five litres remaining, the car accepted only 43.7 litres so there must have been over 11 litres actually in the tank… quite a discrepancy.

Part of the improvement is due to improved engine efficiency, the inlet manifold now having a rapid warming device, and part is due to the improved aerodynamic efficiency. The rain channel for instance is almost flush with the bodywork (making it impossible to use anything but a VAG designed roof rack), the window glass has been moved out as far as possible and the fixed front quarter-lights are actually flush with the bodywork, while underneath there is evidence of effort to tidy up the airflow, including a deflector in front of the torsion beam rear axle.

The suspension has been revised to improve the ride quality and to reduce transmitted road noise, and the negative steering roll radius geometry has been retained. Suspension travel has been increased front and rear, the front upper spring strut mountings have been made larger, and longitudinal compliance has been increased on both pairs of wheels to improve directional stability.
Certainly the ride is better, the whole car perceptibly quieter than its predecessor, and there is precious little to criticise. The brakes feel more positive with their direct acting servo and larger area, asbestos free lining materials, and it is interesting to note that the newcomer was designed with right-hand drive application in mind, hinting perhaps that the original model was not.

While there is nothing new on the Golf for the sake of change, Volkswagen have gone right through the car from end to end carrying out improvements in the light of customer experience and criticism. The new model is superior in just about every department, as customers will find when they trade in their old Golfs for new ones, yet we are unsure of Golf 2’s pulling power as regards conquest sales, that is, taking customers from rival makes. The first 12 months should be easy enough, but after that the Golf will need to have earned itself a formidable reputation if it is to continue to sell at a markedly higher volume.