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15 Mar 2017 | Text by Nigel Yong, Photos by Nigel Yong and Manufacturer. Direct from Majorca, Spain
If there's a car that can encourage Singaporean car buyers to accept wagons, it's going to be the new and impressive Volkswagen Golf Variant.
The Variant gave buyers who love the Golf, but just needed the extra cargo-hauling space, more reasons to get the car. It drove just as well as the hatchback and was handsome to boot. But for some reason, the car never really caught on in Singapore. It's probably because estate body types aren't exactly the crowd favourites here.
Together with the rest of the Golf family, the Variant has received an update for 2017. Are Volkswagen's improvements to the car enough to nudge buyers into accepting it more?
It's got that new engine and gearbox, for starters
Volkswagen's new 1.5-litre TSI Evo engine is available, too, in the Variant. Codenamed the EA211 EVO, it's the exact same unit, which we tested in the regular Golf, pushing 148bhp and 250Nm of torque to the front wheels.
However, because of the Variant's extended posterior, it's slightly heavier at 1,360kg. Thanks, or no thanks to the extra weight, its 0-100km/h sprint takes 8.7 seconds - the hatch does this in 8.3. Compared to the outgoing car that's got the 1.4-litre TSI, it's noticeably faster.
What potential buyers can look forward to is also the car's new-found refinement. Married to a quicker 'wet-clutch' seven-speed DSG gearbox, the improved powertrain is distinctly more polished. In fact, it's possibly the smoothest in its segment.
Does it drive better than before?
If you're talking about its ability to punch out of corners faster, that's a given. What the Variant also does best in its segment is tackling bends efficaciously, a characteristic that's already been proven by the pre-facelift car.
Compared to the hatch, you won't notice the existance of its extra rear overhangs unless you throw it violently around corners Even when you do, its nicely-weighted and precise steering ensures that the car gets to whichever direction you point it in.
And yes, it's got the same new range of tech
In Highline trim, the Variant we drove was fully loaded with all of Volkswagen's goodies.
Inside, there's the new 9.2-inch Discover Pro interactive display interface, 12.3-inch digital Active Info Display cluster and gesture control feature.
For Singapore, depending on the local specifications, we can expect to receive electric nannies like lane-keep assist and active cruise control, which work hand-in-hand to enable a semi-autonomous traffic jam mode that works up to 60km/h.
I noticed some new lights and such, as well
Sharp eyes, my friend. Yes, like the hatch, full-LED taillights will come as standard, with the animated indicator function optional for higher-specced variants like the Highline. Up front, LED head lights, which are either standard or optional depending on local trims, replace the existing xenons.
The car also receives more stylish bumpers and chrome trim panels for additional style points.
What hasn't changed, then?
Well, the best bits of the car, since you asked. Because dimensions haven't changed, there's the same generous amount of cabin and boot space; 605 litres with the rear seats up and 1,620 litres when you knock them down.
On the roads, the Golf Variant remains a quiet and comfortable cruiser when you require it to be, and a rather fun proposition when the going gets faster.
In Singapore's rather unpopular estate market, it's going to take more than just practical offerings to sway the opinion of car buyers. If there's any car that can, we're putting our money on the now even more handsome, more luxurious and more powerful facelifted Volkswagen Golf Variant.