Three of the best: Volkswagen

Motor expert Mark Gallivan takes a look at three of the best Volkswagen cars on the market in Ireland today.

You don’t get to be the hottest ticket in car sales by accident. In the first half of 2019, Volkswagen sold 11,967 cars in Ireland making it the nation’s favourite brand with an 11.35% market share. Putting behind the fickle sentiment of the 2015 diesel emissions scandal, Irish buyers are back voting with their wallets. Leading the pack is the Volkswagen Tiguan followed by the Golf and Polo models. If you take a quick peek at the Volkswagen range today you will see a car for almost every buyer. Superminis, crossovers, saloons and big SUVs – they’re all there. To be clear, Volkswagen hasn’t a sub-standard car in its range. But which are the exceptional ones in their own right? I’m picking three choices that go about their business so well that they deserve to be a three of the best winner.

2019 Volkswagen T-Cross from €22,495

Where did this come from? Right out of nowhere the all-new Volkswagen T-Cross blindsides with two achievements. Firstly, it’s a plucky small SUV that’s immensely likeable. Secondly, it proves small dimensions with a puny 999cc engine – not just one of Volkswagen’s best engines but the probably best 1.0-litre on the Irish market right now – is suited so well to city driving as it is on the motorway. The new T-Cross sits on a shared MQB platform as the VW Polo and SEAT Arona, and is available across the range in a 999cc petrol engine in 95hp or 115hp output. Weighing up to 1,750kg gross, it’s no featherweight small SUV but the short 2,251mm wheelbase makes it adept at scything quickly through narrow country roads while being arrow-straight on motorways. A recommendation is to go for the engine with 115hp.

Another strong T-Cross trait is the ride. For a small SUV it is very smooth and lacks the slightly fidgety ride you’ll find in the SEAT Arona or weirdly, the Volkswagen Polo. If you’re a keen driver, you won’t be too disappointed by the T-Cross’s handling. The composure and mature steering feedback may trail the Arona but the pleasing neutral feedback will allow you to settle back a bit on 200km plus journeys. On half-day slogs you will climb out of the T-Cross impressed and satisfied that the €22,495 plus you stumped up was well spent. Good looking and fabulously constructed the T-Cross is the best small SUV for sale on the Irish market. Stuffing in the superb 1.0-litre engine, it easily makes the three of the best category.

You’ll like: It drives like a T-Roc and it looks like a T-Roc, just costing less money. Sparkling 999cc petrol engine. Strong standard tech and nicely proportioned exterior design.

You’ll grumble: Four adults will struggle to fit comfortably. Ignore the 95hp engine.

2019 Volkswagen Golf R from €48,750

Could the Volkswagen Golf R be the world’s greatest everyday car? Taking the world’s very best hatchback – over 33 million Golf’s were sold so far – as a template, Wolfsburg went all banzai with the R. And just to be clear, that’s not the R-line Golf but the R singular with 4-Motion and meaty 300hp. It’s hard to recommend any new car that betters the Golf R in the category within the very fast line-up of hatchbacks. You could argue that the Golf GTI is a better car, but it simply isn’t when pitched against the R. If you try to seriously lay down power in the GTI it will lose out to the R due to wheelspin. There’s the accessibility of the performance.

I’ve driven every two-door Lamborghini that Sant’Agata currently makes and on a narrow side road, the R will not only keep up but with a little luck pass it. Yes there are more extreme hatches out there but the R’s overall competency is the best. Available as a dual-clutch sequential auto (actually that’s the best combo) the way the thing hurls itself through corners without losing grip is uncanny. You may yawn at the fakery of piped exhaust sounds filling the cabin and it trails the Hyundai i30N for exhaust tomfoolery, but the Golf R’s biggest talent lies in the car’s chameleon abilities. Here then is a fast car slayer and a weekly driver all in one package. Few cars I’ve driven do this so well. Did I mention superb practicability, strong residuals, easily best-in-category quality, and premium image or the perfect size that fits Irish roads? Of course, I didn’t. It’s a Golf but much faster. So is the Volkswagen R really the world’s greatest everyday car? Yes, it might be. Certainly a three of the best from Volkswagen.

You’ll like: The world’s greatest everyday car. 0-100km in 5.9 with 300hp. 4-Motion permanent four-wheel drive. Brilliantly practical and superb quality.

You’ll grumble: Invisible ubiquity. Expensive for a hatchback.

2019 Volkswagen Arteon from €40,195 (main image)

Time to add another SUV? Maybe the Volkswagen Touareg, an Irish Car of The Year 2019 category winner. I’m afraid not. Say hello to a forgotten gem buried deep in the Volkswagen range – the 2019 Arteon.

As Irish buyers have gone all SUV-crazy, they’ve forgotten how satisfying a slinky coupe-saloon with four proper doors is to own and drive. There’s proof – in the first half of 2019 only 219 Arteons were bought by Irish consumers against 1,474 Passat saloons. The Arteon is largely a Passat with a sexy shape that guarantees second glances from passers-by. If you ignore the fact that owning an Audi A5 saloon or BMW 4 Series for the Arteon’s €40,195 asking price is possible, you’ll be left with car that cocoons and congratulates the owner with smooth feedback and lowers heartbeats a little while driving. The interior is perfectly normal and easily understood with no silly quirks to confuse (that’s you Citroen).

The Arteon earns itself a maximum five-stars in the Euro NCAP tests for safety. Speaking of the cabin, it’s massive in there with a generous 1,233-litres of boot space with the rear seats folded down. And we haven’t even come to the Arteon’s best bit. From €40,195, it’s the best-looking car at that price point by far. You could almost say the Arteon is desirable. A controversial three of the best, then.

You’ll like: Volkswagen’s best looking car. Separate image. Huge rear legroom. Great to own and drive and an all-round lovely car.

You’ll grumble: Pricey in this category. Struggles in targeting Audi and BMW head on.

Written by Mark Gallivan

Published: 28 August, 2019