THERE must have been times when there were those who believed that the humble estate car had reached the crossroads of its long life and was about to take the road to oblivion.
The very term “estate car” seems dated when set alongside such modern variants of cars such as compact crossovers, super minis and SUVs (sports utility vehicles). I am sure our earlier ancestors — those intrepid first motorists — would laugh now at such self-conscious names.
Posh appendages have even been derived for our modest estate car, such as calling it a tourer. But my favourite remains “shooting brake” — another one for an estate car that originated from using an estate for shooting parties. (Actually, come to think of it, I think “tourer” is also a blast from the past.)
What is certain is that in this, the early part of the 21st century, car makers are wisely reluctant to banish this useful mode of transport. On the contrary, the trusty old estate has survived, and even thrived.
At first sight this week’s drive — the new Volkswagen Golf Estate — does not quite have the svelte good looks of the successful new Golf hatchback. There is nothing racy about this estate — maybe it was the colour of the test car which was a rather moderate blue. But to a degree its very “estate car” look confirms my earlier observation that this is a type of vehicle, though tried and tested down the decades, that continues along its merry way eschewing modern trends and fads.
Which is a good thing. The new Golf Estate reveals itself when you drive it. Because then you get the bang up-to-the-minute performance of the new Golf itself — which excels on motorways — while remaining with its large load space a useful utility vehicle when desired.
In fact I was pleasantly surprised when I took the Golf Estate on several longish motorway trips that it performed with the sort of exemplary thoroughness one has come to expect from Volkswagen. I was not aware of the car’s innate ability from my first view of it.
So, what is new about the new Golf Estate? I drove the Golf Estate 1.6-litre TDI 105 PS 7spd DSG. It has the adaptive cruise control with Front Assist and City Emergency Braking which I use on motorways most of the time now because it is safe and shows that the car is actually looking out for you, the driver.
It has 16in alloy wheels, rear map-reading lights, automatic lights and wipers, a Driver Alert System, driver profile selection, and the Pre-Crash preventive occupant protection system.
The GT model which I think would be worth trying if you are thinking of buying this car adds 17in alloy wheels, sports suspension, tinted rear windows, Discover navigation system, electrically-folding door mirrors and parking sensors, among other items. All UK Golf Estates (except BlueMotion) come with a spare wheel and tyre.
The Golf Estate’s load volume is 605 litres with the rear seats in place, versus the 380 litres of the Golf hatchback. The rear-seat backrests can be folded almost flat via a release in the boot to expand the load area — with them down, the Golf Estate can accommodate 1,620 litres. These terms of capacity may not mean much to you, but I assure you the load space is excellent.
An adjustable boot floor ensures a flat load area and offers somewhere to store items out of sight, while a roller-blind cover keeps items secure, and can be stored under the boot floor when not needed. All Golf Estates include roof rails, while the towing capacity is up to 1,600 kg (braked, 12 per cent incline).
Four petrol engines are available: a 1.2-litre TSI 85 PS with five-speed manual gearbox, plus a 1.2-litre TSI 105 PS, a 1.4-litre TSI 122 PS and a 1.4-litre TSI 140 PS, all with either six-speed manual or seven-speed DSG gearboxes. I found this DSG gearbox a treat with none of that “lurch” you get from some automatic transmissions.
The three diesel engines are a 1.6-litre TDI 90 PS with a five-speed manual gearbox, a 1.6-litre TDI 105 PS with five-speed manual or seven-speed DSG gearbox, a 1.6-litre TDI 110 PS BlueMotion with six-speed manual and a 2.0-litre TDI 150 PS with either six-speed manual or six-speed DSG gearbox. All Golf Mk VII models feature BlueMotion Technology Stop/Start and battery regeneration systems. This kind of technology can achieve 70mpg on the urban cycle.
Prices for the Golf Estate start at £18,175 on the road — £745 more than the equivalent five-door Golf hatchback.
Three trim levels are available — S (including BlueMotion), SE and GT. All Golf Estates include Bluetooth, a DAB digital radio with 5.8in colour touchscreen, iPod connector, seven airbags, XDS electronic differential and an automatic post-collision braking system.
This estate is picking up plaudits from critics: one right up-to-date is What Car? magazine’s Estate of 2014. The magazine said it was “everything a family estate needs to be, and more”.
Car tested: New VW Golf Estate SE 1.6-litre TDI 105 PS 7spd DSG
– Basic on-the-road price: £23,150
– Standard features include:
– Front comfort seats with height and lumbar adjustment and under-seat drawer
– Height/reach adjustable multifunction steering wheel and speed-sensitive power-assisted steering
– Automatic coming/leaving home lighting function
– Dusk sensor — automatic driving lights
– Rain sensor and automatic dimming interior rear-view mirror
– Bluetooth telephone preparation