Rivals have reason to fear latest incarnation of old favourite
Volkswagen New Zealand's plan with the latest Golf hatchback is to get it on prospective customers' "shopping list" - and for Kiwis these days that list is very long.
When the Golf Mark I was introduced to the world nearly 40 years ago, the vehicle put into play a new segment - the hatchback.
The original Golf was designed by Italian Giorgetto Giugiaro and built in Germany. By 2012 more than 29 million models had been sold, making the car one of the world's best-selling models (after the Toyota Corolla and VW Beetle).
But the hatchback sector is now chocka-block full of competition.
In New Zealand, the Corolla sits at the top of that segment with the most sales, with the Ford Focus and Mazda3 taking the next spots. Last year, Golf took out eighth spot with 864 sales, but it's time for the competition to be afraid, to be very afraid.
The seventh generation of the Golf hatch has just been launched in New Zealand with up to $8000 cut off the price over the previous Golf - there's bound to be a few new customers heading into VW dealerships this weekend.
VW NZ has "extended the range to meet the market and to move into the mainstream", says general manager Tom Ruddenklau.
There are now five Golf models available, three in the Comfortline segment is aimed at attracting corporate buyers (see below) while the two Highline models are pushed towards the private customer.
The $32,250 base model TSI Comfortline has a 1.4-litre petrol engine and is paired with a six-speed manual gearbox, with a DSG seven-speed automatic for an extra $2500. A 1.6-litre diesel auto rounds off the Comfortline models for $37,250.
The Highline range includes a 1.4-litre petrol with the DSG transmission ($39,750) and a 2-litre diesel auto ($43,750), both with 17in alloys (up from Comfortline's 15in alloys), plus rear camera as standard.
But fans of the GTi will have to wait until probably early 2014 before the sports hatch arrives here - with pricing to be announced closer to the date.
While there is no mistaking Mark 7 is a Golf , if you check it out against a Golf 6 you immediate see the latest incarnation of the iconic hatchback has a more dramatic styling. It is also wider, lower to the ground and has a longer wheelbase, but it's the sharper lines and streamlined appearance that give it a more mature look.
Inside, the five models in the range all have a touchscreen infocentre that is simple to use and a personal favourite. The infocentre combines radio/navigation systems with Bluetooth connectivity which has the ability to handle media streaming and phone calls on two devices at the same time.
The clean lines from the exterior continue inthe cabin - the VW family style that is seen in the Polo through to Passat are in play here.
Reduced road noise means an easy road trip and over a three-hour drive - around Auckland city for the photo shoot and heading to open roads during the launch - the Golf 7 proved an easy drive, with clean road handing and a comfortable driver's seat that it was a shame to hand the keys back.
Combine performance, a competitive price and a firm advertising campaign and you're bound to see more Golfs on the road.
Just what VW New Zealand wants.
Taking on the fleets
Toyota sits at the top of the hatchback segment with the Corolla thanks in part to fleet sales, an area VW NZ is determined to push into with the new Golf.
During its Golf launch programme VW is hitting up the usual suspects in fleet and rental sales plus, for the first time, approaching small to medium-size businesses.
''For some corporations, lowest purchase price [is the deciding factor],'' says VW NZ's Tom Ruddenklau. ''But for the majority of companies it's the whole-life costs, fuel price, servicing, insurance.''
With the addition of BlueMotion technologies in the Golf, including a Stop/Start system and battery regeneration mode, CO2 emissions have been reduced by 18 per cent and fuel economy has been improved by up to 19 per cent.
For fleets, reducing the fuel bill is important, and with international businesses having that ''green'' tick for work vehicles is compulsory. That's why Coca-Cola New Zealand is a customer of VW with nearly 300 Golfs in its fleet for sales reps.