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The Volkswagen Golf SV is a hard car to pigeonhole. It doesn't have the pseudo-4x4 toughness of most crossovers, can't match the cabin flexibility of the best small MPVs, or equal the luggage space of an estate car. Instead, think of it as a bigger Golf hatchback with a little more space and added practicality.
It's the same formula Volkswagen followed with the SV's predecessor, the Golf Plus, which failed to sell in large numbers in the UK. Golf SV volumes are also predicted to be modest, accounting for just 5% of Golf family sales.
It may be something of a niche product, but the Golf SV certainly has its strengths. Compared with the hatchback there's an extra 48mm between the axles, which benefits rear legroom. It's considerably taller than the hatch, too, with plenty of headroom for six-footers to be comfortable, even in the back of the car.
Boot space is significantly more generous than in the Golf hatchback, especially if you make use of the SV's sliding rear bench. There's 500 litres with the rear seats fully back, and 590 litres with the seats pushed forwards. Fold the back seats down for 1520 litres of luggage space.
From the driver's seat, the Golf SV springs no surprises, driving much like the hatchback on which it's based. All the variants we test drove were fitted with VW's adaptive damping system (an £815 option) and all showed the same adept balance of comfort and control. As impressive as this optional system is, we look forward to trying cars with the standard set up, which the vast majority of customers are likely to choose.
Emissions-wise, the 1.6 TDI Bluemotion is the stand-out model. Volkswagen quotes 76.3mpg and CO2 emissions of just 95g/km (subject to confirmation closer to car's arrival in showrooms in late July). That puts the car in the 15% BIK bracket.
The best-seller is expected to be the regular 110hp 1.6-litre diesel, which itself is none too shabby in terms of CO2 output, emitting 101g/km (again, subject to confirmation). That compares well with a Ford C-max 1.6 TDCi 115, which emits 117g/km.
Unfortunately, no 1.6-litre diesels were available to test drive, so we concentrated on the 150hp 2.0-litre diesel. It offers considerably more punch than the 1.6 diesels for a relatively small economy and emissions penalty. The manual achieves 65.7mpg on the combined cycle (or 60.1mpg with the DSG transmission) and emits 112g/km (DSG: 122g/km).
The more expensive DSG changes gear smoothly and is the gearbox we'd pick for a stop-start commute, but it does sit two tax bands higher than the manual.
We also drove the 125hp 1.4 TSI petrol. It's a lively, willing engine, but it's more likely to appeal to retail buyers rather than fleet customers.
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The SV is a niche product, but it's practical and emissions are low