The roomier and refined Golf 5 has big boots to fill. Will the fifth generation subcompact from Wolfsburg be as big an improvement over its predecessor as the successful Golf 4 was over the Golf 3?The roomier and refined Golf 5 has big boots to fill. Will the fifth generation subcompact from Wolfsburg be as big an improvement over its predecessor as the successful Golf 4 was over the Golf 3?

The Golf 5 is significantly bigger than its predecessor, 24 mm wider, 41 mm higher and 55 mm longer. There is more interior space, with 52 mm added to the rear seat legroom and 24 mm to the rear head room (8 mm more in front) and the luggage compartment now holds 350 litres.

The Golf 5’s spring strut suspension layout was optimised for accurate directional guidance and stability and consists of McPherson struts in front and a new multi-link suspension at the rear. There is also a new Servotronic power steering system, which provides a degree of power assistance that matches road speed.

Inside the cabin, the seats have been re-designed to provide maximum comfort and lumbar support and there are five head restraints. Semi-automatic air conditioning is standard and a Climatronic system, which has separate controls for the driver and front passenger, is optional. Cruise control is fitted to all but the entry-level Golf 5.

In addition, the multi-function computer (its display is situated in the front instrument cluster) provides information about fuel consumption, average speed, exterior temperature, driving time etc.

The Golf 5’s safety systems include ASR and ABS with EBD, six (front, side and curtain) airbags, ISOFIX child seat preparation at the rear, side impact bars and a high-level brake light. There are also a new type of safety steering column and a pedal assembly that yields to minimise the risk of injury in the event of a crash.

The 1,6-litre petrol Golf 5 will be offered in Trendline (five-speed manual) and Comfortline (five-speed manufal or six-speed Tiptronic) trims. The models are powered by a 75 kW four-cylinder engine, which produces 148 N.m of torque at 3 800 r/min.

All 1,6 models have electronic brake pad wear indicators and space-saver spare wheels. The Trendline runs on 15-inch steel wheels and the Comfortline on 15-inch Misano rims.

A radio with front-loaded CD player is standard on the Comfortline, with the 6-CD changer (optional across the range) mounted between the two front seats.

The four-cylinder, eight-valve pump injector engine of the 1,9 TDI has a maximum power output of 77 kW at 4 000 r/min, produces 250 N.m of torque at 1 900 r/min and is mated with a five-speed manual transmission.

In terms of performance, Volkswagen says the TDI, which is fitted with 15” Misano alloy wheels shod with 195/65 tyres, will accelerate to 100 km/h in 11,3 seconds and reach a top speed of 187 km/h.

The TDI’s standard specification comprises two-speed windscreen rain-sensing wiper system with intermittent control,remote central locking system with headlight coming or leaving home function,semi-automatic air conditioning system and a 10-speaker radio system with front CD loader.

The six-CD changer fitted beneath the centre armrest and Volkswagen’s high-end satellite navigation system with a colour screen are optional extras. The sat-nav system’s operation is said to be a further improvement to what was available in the Golf 4.

The front seats are height-adjustable, while the head restraints front and rear are also fully adjustable for height and tilt. Electric windows are standard for front and rear occupants, while the electric sunroof is an option. The colour-coded side mirrors are electrically operated and separately heated.

The 2,0 TDI Sportline pushes out 103 kw at 4 000 r/min and 320 N.m at only 1 750 r/min, while taking 9,3 seconds to reach 100 km/h from a standing start. Its top speed is claimed to be a hasty 203 km/h.

Volkswagen's next Sportline offering is the 2,0 FSI Sportline which produces 110 kw at 6 000 r/min and 200 N.m of torque at 3 500 r/min.

Armed with FSI (Fuel Stratified Injection) to make fuel injection and combustion more efficient, the 2,0-litre petrol version accelerates from zero to 100 km/h in 8,9 seconds and is capable of reaching a top speed of 206 km/h.

Drive is transmitted to the front wheels via a new six-speed Sportline manual gearbox and apart from the Golf's regular base specification; the Sportline also receives an upgraded interior and exterior.

On the inside, subtle touches like the leather gearknob, boot and handbrake levers and titanium-coloured dash inserts are evident. Customers have a choice of Burr Walnut wood inserts as well as body-hugging sports seats with leather trim as an option.

All Golf5 models are sold with a three-year/120 000km warranty, five-year/60 000 km AutoMotion maintenance and a 12-year anti-corrosion warranty. Service intervals are set at 15 000km, with an oil change required at every 7 500km for the diesel alternatives.