Just Perfect!

2014 Volkswagen Golf 1.6 / 105 DSG BMT

If you are searching a modern compact car, there are plenty of reasons to consider the new Golf. This is the car that most Europeans have chosen for years and years – and years to come. I have tested the “seventh wonder” – Volkswagen Golf MkVII.

Put yourself behind the wheel. Everything is where it is supposed to be. Everything, – from the door handles to the seat adjustment handles – to the radio. You find yourself intuitively at home in a nice, firm, but comfy seat. The interior is simple, but stylish. Everything you put your hands on, feels solid and consistent. You get a good grip on the steering wheel. The DSG gear lever asks to be put in “Drive”. I want to give the new Golf a top score for look and feel, but realize that the “6” should be saved for real luxury cars. After all, the Golf is not a luxury car.

I wondered if I had picked a two-liter TDI, instead of the 1.6. I had not. A single exhaust pipe tells the world that this definitely is the 1.6 TDI, but it feels stronger. It is said that the DSG robotized automatic transmission shifts better than even the most experienced driver. I like the way it works. It works its way through the 7 gears extactly how I would shift myself. The DSG is actually a dual transmission, where the inboard computer prepares your next gear before you need it. The computer has to decide whether you are going to shift up or down. It made right decisions for me most of the times. There were a few conflicts between me and the technology, – but none that were inexplicable.
Anyway, the powertrain is absolutely fantastic for such a modest engine! And the Golf has a class-leading good handling, everywhere – on the highway, on winding mountain roads. It is remarkably easy to drive. It almost runs by itself.

The first drive took me two hours on the motorway, effortlessly at speeds around 130 km/h (80 mph). The noise level was low. I also had the pleasure to take the Golf on trips over mountain roads and backroads. What I especially like about driving the Golf is that it is firm and responsive, but comfortable at the same time. It’s a perfect match between the two.

On the outside, the Golf is slightly shorter than its competitors such as the Opel Astra and the Citroen C4, but it does not feel smaller on the inside. Still, this is not a real family car.

Passive safety is one of Golf’s best selling points. I also want to emphasize the car’s good active handling as well. On the road, few compact cars in this price segment feel so predictable and safe.

The first two hours in 130 km/h (80 mph) gave an average consumption of 4.5 litres per 100 km (52 US mpg). Not bad, although it can easily be matched by other competitors. But few can match the Golf’s resale value. Our test car had the Start & Stop where the engine turns itself off when you stop at traffic lights. This feature does not work well with DSG, the engine starts unexpectedly several times, just by changing the pressure on the brake pedal. I always turn it off.

My conclusion is that the TDI and the DSG is a perfect match.

• Excellent powertrain with the TDI and the DSG
• Low fuel consumption
• Comfortable noise level
• Safe and comfortable handling

• The Start & Stop feature does not work well with automatic transmissions


Blue Polo

2010 Volkswagen Polo 1.4 / 86 DSG Comfort 5 door

This Polo Mark V is finished in Shadow Blue metallic paint. The pictures are taken around midsummer in Oslo.

I don’t know if it’s supposed to be secret, but Polo comes in two sizes, – small and big. Although they look exactly the same on the outside, they are quite different underneath. The small Polo has a 3-cylinder engine. It runs on a quite soft suspension, stops with disc brakes on the front wheels and drum brakes (!) on the rear wheels. The big Polo has 4-cylinder engines, runs on a more firm and sporty suspension and has disc brakes all around. It also has wider tires. Believe me, the difference is very noticeable. The small Polo runs like a small car. The big Polo runs like a Golf.

The Polo on the gallery is a “big” Polo. With its 7-speed DSG automatic gear box, it is a pleasure to drive.

Ready to Go Automatic?


If you were considering buying a new car with automatic transmission 15 years ago, chances are that someone would warn you, like:

-You won’t be able to resell it.
-Automatic is for the disabled and old people.
-Automatic transmissions break down all the time.

This is Europe. In the United States everyone has been driving automatic for ages. Cars with “stick shifts” are for a handful of oddballs.

I have noticed that the demand for automatic cars in the Nordic countries is higher than ever before. New computer assisted transmission systems have made it technically possible to shift automatically without loss of power and without extra fuel consumption. Basically, there are 3 different transmission systems available. If you plan to choose an auto-shifter for your next car, make sure to pick the solution that suits you best.

• Conventional automatic transmission (hydraulic system with torque converter)
• Continuous Variable Transmission (CVT)
• Robotized shifting

Conventional Automatic Transmission
The power between the engine and the driveshaft is connected via hydraulics and not mechanically linked. That gives fabulous comfort because harsh vibrations from the shafts and gears do not find its way into the cabin. However, the solution absorbs some of the energy from the engine on its way out to the wheels. It affects fuel economy and performance negatively. Lately, conventional transmissions make extensive use of electronics to monitor the vehicle’s movements and driver’s response in order to make intelligent shifts – for better fuel economy and performance.

Continuous Variable Transmission (CVT) transfers power between the engine and the drive shafts via a metal chain that adjusts seamlessly. The solution provides almost no energy loss, and since the shifting is seamless, it is possible to keep the engine ticking constantly at a favorable speed for power and consumption. This is probably a good thing for the engine, but some profound drivers miss the entertainment of listening to an engine that works its way through the gears. A constant humming from the engine can be a bit boring. And what’s even worse: It brings memories about your first scooter …

Robotized Shifting is the solution that has had the greatest emergence in recent years. The system is based on a robot that operates the clutch and engages the gears according to an electronic analysis of the engine revs, the rolling speed, the up-hill and down-hill sensors, and whether the driver is braking, accelerating or keeping a steady pace. The problem with this system has been that the robot shifted a lot slower than a skilled driver. Today, there has been some major improvements to this solution. The most advanced system – the so-called dual clutch solution – uses two gear boxes. One of the gear boxes is being used, while the computer anticipates the next gear and engages it in advance in the other gear box. When it is time to shift, it happens instantly – clutch in – clutch out – done! By calculating the optimum gear change, both fuel consumption and CO2 emissions are reduced. Even the most experienced driver cannot do better.

Conventional automatic transmissions keep the car from rolling backwards more than a few inches, even when the driver takes off from a steep upwards hill. Inexperienced drivers never have to worry about the car rolling backwards. The other transmissions systems mentioned here, need a Hill-holder or Hill-start Assistant to effectively prevent the car from rolling backwards. However, no Hill-holders hold the car more than about 3 seconds, – just enough time to move the right leg from the brake pedal over to the accelerator.
Hill-holders are now standard also on many cars with manual transmissions.

Driving on Snow and Ice
Generally, there are no problems whatsoever about driving with automatic on snow and ice. I know that some of the first – and primitive – Robotized Shift solutions could be a challenge when driving in extreme snow and ice conditions. I think the first transmissions were not designed for Nordic driving conditions.

I have also heard that some CVT transmissions fail to operate smoothly when they get worn. I think similar things may happen to Conventional Automatic Transmissions as well.
To be able to drive well with automatic on snow and ice, you need a transmission that can do the following:

• Lock-into-gear, or manual selector.
• Shift rapidly
• Operate smoothly

The problems can be described in the following scenario:
You are about to drive up a steep slope full of snow. As you accelerate, the transmission shifts from the first gear into the second (good) … and, woops, it shifts to… third! Then, at the most critical point of the slope, the transmission decides to shift down to second gear, and the car loses traction …

Traffic Jams
In congested traffic all the 3 automatic transmission solutions have major advantages over manual cars when it comes to comfort and easiness. Instead of coordinating clutch and accelerator, you just hold the foot on the brake pedal and eases it as the traffic snails along.

When you drive a manual car in congested traffic you may get a lot of clutch wear. This is not a problem with Conventional Automatic Transmissions and CVT Solutions, since they do not use any clutch. A Robotized Gear Solutions, however, has a clutch and uses it extensively, just as much as in a manual car.

My Choice
I would prefer a robotized shifter from one of the major car manufacturer. It provides the most benefits and makes the driving more entertaining. If I can choose between a driveline with a Robotized System and CVT, I would take the Robotized System. I would probably never choose a Conventional Automatic Transmission unless I am choosing a very powerful engine at the high-end of the price list, – or I am searching for something very simple – at the very low end.

Here are some of the solutions available today:

S tronic or Multitronic
Robotized (S tronic), CVT (Multitronic)
Chevrolet (Korea)
Ford (DE)
PowerShift or conventional
Robotized (Powershift)
MMT or Multidrive
Robotized (MMT), CVT (Multidrive)
Geartronic or conventional
Robotized (Geartronic)