The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 3.0
There’s nothing particularly wrong with the Golf SV – it’s a perfectly decent car – but it doesn’t excel in any area. It’s also a slightly weird mix of hatchback and MPV, and it isn’t really accomplished enough in either role. Whichever sort of car you’re after, there are better options available for less cash.
Reasons to buy
- Prestige image
- Excellent ergonomics
- Decent safety kit
At a glance
- How good does it look? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- What's the interior like? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How practical is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- What's it like to drive? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How powerful is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How much will it cost me? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How reliable is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How safe is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How much equipment do I get? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- Why buy? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
How good does it look?
You can be fairly sure that any car whose name is an abbreviation of ‘Sports Van’ probably isn’t going to set the heart a-fluttering with its looks. However, while the Golf SV undoubtedly has the conservatism you’d expect from a compact MPV made by Volkswagen, it’s still a reasonably smart-looking thing. Many of the details at either end have a sharp, angular finish, and this does counteract the rather boxy dimensions of what’s found in between. The entry-level car makes do with steel wheels with plastic covers, but cars of SE trim and upwards have alloys. GT cars, meanwhile, have some extra chrome bits to spruce up the looks.
What's the interior like?
Volkswagens usually impress with their interior quality, but the Golf SV doesn’t feel like it’s up to the standards set by the firm’s other products. The materials on show aren’t as lustrous as in a regular Golf, with a few panels that are sufficiently grainy to feel positively cheap. The grey colour scheme also makes things feel rather drab.
At least the Golf SV has the same infallible ergonomics as other VW products. The various controls are logically laid out and well-marked, so using them is about as difficult as breathing in and out. The touch-screen infotainment system is also pretty easy to use, while the huge amount of adjustment for the seat and steering wheel makes it a doddle to find a comfortable driving position, even though you do feel like you’re perched up a little high. Big windows and flat sides mean you know where the extremities of the car are, which really helps with manoeuvres.
How practical is it?
Think of the SV as an MPV, and you’ll probably be a bit disappointed by how practical it is – there’s nothing particularly clever about the way the seats work. However, consider it for what it is – a hatchback that’s ever-so-slightly taller – and things start to look a little rosier. There’s bags of headroom in any of the five seats, and although rear legroom isn’t exactly class-leading, there’s enough for tall adults to get comfy. The wide middle seat and plentiful shoulder room also mean carrying three in the back isn’t too uncomfortable either.
The boot is a reasonable – if not exceptional – size by class standards, and all versions come with a variable boot floor that levels out both the lip and the step in the load area when you fold the rear seats down. It’s worth noting, though, that the entry-level S model misses out on some of the drawers and pockets you get for stashing odds and ends in – as well as fold-out picnic tables for those in the rear seats – which can make family life a little easier.
What's it like to drive?
Volkswagen’s cars usually impress with their ride comfort, and with the purpose of the SV being to carry families, you’d certainly expect comfort to be the focus. It’s a little surprising then, that the suspension doesn’t do a slightly better job of isolating you from the effects of a poor road surface. Things can be a little more jiggly than you expect over patched-up urban surfaces – especially in the Bluemotion models with their lowered suspension – and you’ll feel a right old clonk over bigger ruts and potholes. It’s far from uncomfortable, but you might expect things to feel a little slicker. That said, the Golf SV does handle corners pretty well. Grip is in plentiful supply, body lean is well suppressed, and with steering that’s nicely weighted and utterly consistent, the car changes direction neatly and predictably.
How powerful is it?
So far, we’ve only driven the Golf SV with a 1.6-litre diesel engine developing 108bhp. It’s not exactly brisk, but it has enough low- and mid-range pull to keep you bowling along without much effort, and it’s more than capable of keeping up with traffic on the motorway. It’s not the quietest or smoothest engine of its type, but it doesn’t do too bad a job on either score.
The other diesel engine on offer is a 148bhp 2.0-litre – which is strong and smooth in every other Volkswagen model we’ve tried it in – while the turbocharged petrol options include an 84bhp 1.2, a 1.0-litre three-cylinder with 113bhp and a pair of 1.4s with 123bhp or 148bhp. Slick-feeling manual gearboxes are supplied as standard, but most versions can be specified with a smooth twin-clutch automatic transmission instead.
How much will it cost me?
Like most Volkswagens, the Golf SV sits towards the more expensive end of the spectrum when compared with direct rivals, and the car’s resale values are about average for the class. The 1.6-litre diesel Bluemotion model is the cleanest version, being the only one that ducks below the 100g/km mark for CO2 emissions. The rest fall short by a surprisingly long way, and these mediocre emissions figures also equate to merely so-so fuel economy figures.
How reliable is it?
One glance at Warranty Direct’s Reliability Index is enough to tell you that – according to this study at least – the news on the SV isn’t brilliant. Volkswagen is entrenched firmly in the bottom half of the manufacturer standings, and as an individual model, the SV’s predecessor – the Golf Plus – does pretty poorly.
On the plus side, most of the issues reported were engine problems, and these have pretty much all been replaced with the SV. What’s more, the owner reviews on our site don’t throw up any particular horror stories. The car comes with a three-year/60,000-mile warranty.
How safe is it?
The Golf SV has earned the full five stars in Euro NCAP crash tests. It comes with mandatory active systems like stability control and anti-lock brakes, along with no less than seven airbags, including a knee airbag for the driver and curtain airbags that extend to the rear seats. Two Isofix child seat mounting points are provided in the back, and tyre pressure monitoring is also standard fit.
Upgrade to SE trim and you also get adaptive cruise control that keeps you a safe distance from the car in front on the motorway, a system that also includes emergency city braking. You also get PreCrash, which senses an impending impact and automatically rolls up the windows so the airbags can work more effectively.
How much equipment do I get?
There’s a mercifully simple three-tier trim structure for the Golf SV, but to be perfectly honest, the amount of kit you get isn’t all that generous.
Entry-level S trim has bits such as remote locking, air-conditioning, four powered windows and a touch-screen infotainment system that brings together DAB and Bluetooth, but you have to upgrade to an SE car before you get alloys and automatic lights and wipers.
Going for GT trim earns you sat-nav, front and rear parking sensors and a wifi hotspot, but these versions are very expensive.
Because you need a shade more space than your average hatchback can give, but you don’t need a full-on MPV. In truth, the Golf SV doesn’t do either job quite as well as a number of rival cars, and it isn’t cheap or particularly well equipped. Whichever type of car you’re after, there are better choices.