Posts tagged ‘volkswagen’

Text and photos by The Lenspeed Team

From carving corners down a B-road, to shuttling the family off for firefly viewing, the ‘7.5’ iteration of the Golf GTI sharpens a familiar formula further

Forgive us for being quite critical of the Golf GTI. We are hardest on those we love the most, and with the GTI, at least three of Lenspeed’s staff have at least owned one at some point. Two still soldier on with Mk5 GTIs, festooned now with freshly renewed COEs. You could consider us fairly passionate about this hot hatch.

You would have known the old story by now, about how the Mk5 changed the game for the GTI, and thereafter the formula stuck. It literally reads off a textbook: TFSI/TSI + DSG = the hot (insert car variant here) of today. Everything from Nissan GTRs to Porsche 911s to BMW M5s now have some form of a turbocharged engine paired with a dual clutch gearbox, so needless to say it was quite a watershed car, the Mk5 (yes, it may not have been the first, but it certainly was the most popular). The latest imitator is the Hyundai i30, which is maybe proof that there is still life to the now age-old concoction yet.

So it is with great familiarity that we swoop up the keys to the Mk7.5 Golf GTI. Yes it’s all very mature and polished, so much so that the facelift – for enthusiasts – is hardly noticeable in terms of drivability. The Mk7 already set the standard so high that the extra 10 PS in the 7.5 is more for the paper chase than anything else. In fact, it does lag a fair bit so when boost kicks in it overwhelms the front tyres more than expected (but it could have also been due to worn tyres).

The most major change for us is the gearing of the steering, which feels almost as meaty as in the Mk5, but far sharper and accurate. The pre-facelift Mk7 felt a tad light and lacking feel, but they dialed it back in here. Otherwise, everything else is business as usual. Perhaps there is a tad more finesse to the gearbox shifts, but we’d be none the wiser. It’s going to be a moot point anyway as Mk7.5 GTIs will soon come with a brand new DQ381 7-speed gearbox that currently does service in the Mk7.5 Golf Rs.

Perhaps what’s more noticeable is that the signature red stripe now creeps its way into the headlights more definitively and there are snazzy dynamic turn signals for the rear lights. The interior received a strong touch, with the newest toy in the car world – a screen replacing the instrument panel – that Volkswagen calls Active Info Display (AID). The 9.2-inch infotainment system is also redesigned, as if the last one was bad at all, and features gesture control now. All very fancy, but we would be just as happy do without the technology as well.

What’s very cool for a Mk5 owner though coming to a Mk7.5, is discovering how much better the interior is packaged in the newer car. There is so much more space around the footwell, with smarter and neater design. Now that’s an improvement!

On a whim, we decided on a slightly extended test drive by driving into Johor to catch some fireflies at Kota Tinggi. Thus, the GTI was subjected to a gamut of stress tests – from the dead slow traffic on the Second Link, to the maddening crowds in Johor Bahru and the winding B-roads towards Kota Tinggi.

It didn’t surprise us, and neither would it you, that the GTI excelled in all of these situations. With Auto Hold, a small footprint and a cool Dynaudio sound system, sitting through the traffic was no sweat at all. On the B-roads, the GTI was pure entertainment. With tyres a little worn, we could get the chassis to work a little more with the road, and discovered roadholding is infinitely secure; if one could nitpick, maybe a little dull. But you can really go faster than you think without feeling at all worried you’ve overestimated yourself. Body rigidity is up there with the best of the lot, and the MQB chassis doesn’t feel aged at all next to competitors.

If there was anything surprising, it was that the Mk7.5 rode a bit harsher than the Mk5, more sports car like, even with its larger rims factored in. Brakes are also direct and some may say even a bit too grabby, but it all contributes to a more committed experience. It is by no means unpleasant, but combined with an exhaust note that can sound a bit synthetic at times, it could feel a tad contrived. All things considered though, we are picking on minor grievances.

We finished off the weekend with fuel consumption logged at 11.1km/l, so we could have easily achieved a range of above 550km even when pushing hard. That is a GTI all right – a car for everything and everyone. It still remains the swiss army knife of hot hatches, but we think we’re ready for the next revolution in the Mk8 GTI. The formula is already close to perfection, so something new is due. Perhaps a hybrid GTI is in the cards?       



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Text and photos by The Lenspeed Team

The new Mk7.5 Golf 1.0 TSI showed us, in spectacular form, once again how much technology advances in a matter of years.

It wasn’t quite so possible to get this mix of enjoyment and economy even with the pre-facelift Mk7 Golfs, at least when considering the Singapore line-up. If you wanted a bit of poke you got the 1.4s, and while frugal for its time these days its just about middling the pack. So if you really wanted to conserve fuel you would have went for the 1.2, which for all intents and purposes is a fine engine except that it lacked a bit of character.

The 1.0 TSI replaces the 1.2 TSI; and startlingly, at least for the time being, it’s the only Golf you can buy besides the hot GTI and piping hot Golf R. It seems VW is taking longer than usual to get the new 1.4/1.5 Golfs into the market, presumably not for lack of wanting (the Golf 1.4 TSI Highline has just been homologated).

But there’s reason to cheer. The 1.0-litre wonder is truly superb. Call us coloured, but ever since we tried a three-cylinder engine in a Mini Cooper many years ago, our impression of these thrumming motors were formed (mostly good). Somehow, they love to be thrashed to a heady redline, and even though they aren’t the smoothest you don’t really care because there’s a bit of character to the off-beat idle. And the best thing is, the harder you drive them, the smoother and sweeter they become. So you keep caning the thing in anger and it must be said, it’s rather fun.

But surely that means fuel economy suffers? Astoundingly, it wasn’t the case for the Golf 1.0 TSI. Any attempt to worsen its fuel economy is quickly recovered with a short cruise, even if it meant heading only to the next traffic light in an urban commute. It was remarkable how the fuel consumption readout refused to go below 16km/l. At best, we hit 23km/l and were confident to do better had we not run out of highways. Everything seemed geared to preserve the black gold, and yet it is fantastic how little it compromised the everyday driving experience.

If we had a gripe, it’s that the start-stop system is rather rough, especially with the 3-cylinder – and this is the unfortunate disadvantage with these engines. But overall refinement is great, maybe even better than the Mk7 models. It just feels so efficient and clean, as if everything is optimised perfectly.

Yet when you find a good road, the car won’t disappoint. Nevermind the torsion beam rear suspension; you’d be hard-pressed to know unless over severe compressions. The basic handling of the Golf is already agile, precise and some say clinical. But for this class of car, it’s already one of the best. Damping is spot on (with small rims no less – always our preference), body roll is well-managed and the chassis is unflappable. You can really feel all four wheels working in a hard cornering stance, and that for us is always a mark of a good handling car.

So everything about the 1.0 TSI is improved over the old car, almost. But one thing stayed the same which perhaps could be the Achilles’ heel of the car. Its extremely basic in its specifications. With a stiff asking price, one is expecting a lot more bells & whistles that comes as standard. Unfortunately, the most you can get here is Bluetooth, LED rear tail lamps, reverse sensors and… Nothing much else to write home about. One can’t even retrofit App-Connect to the Golf 1.0, for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. I know this is almost a premium product, but, it needs to be better equipped! Just look at the Kona 1.0 to see what we mean…

But that aside, this is Golf 1.0 TSI is a stunning achievement. If this is the last of the downsized petrol engines, we are very happy that it has come this far for the entry-level class.


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Text and photos by The Lenspeed Team

It’s hard to imagine an automotive giant like Volkswagen being a little slow to the SUV game. But it’s not had a new SUV in a while: the Touareg is nearing the end of its model life cycle, and the Tiguan has been a familiar sight but clearly based on an older chassis that has none of the bells and whistles of the MQB-equipped Mk7 Golf.

So when we finally set our eyes on the new Tiguan, we can’t help but think VW must be anticipating for this car as much as we did, given that SUVs are all the rage now. Any later and VW might have let the ship sail and then some.

The new Tiguan is actually the first VW SUV on the MQB chassis, which is remarkable considering the Mk7 Golf was unveiled in 2012 using the same platform. So MQB isn’t new to us, and as loyal Lenspeed readers will already know, we are fans of it. But it is noteworthy to point out that it’s not the newest kid on the block now, and other manufacturers have certainly used the time gap to close in on any advantage. So just how good is the new Tiguan?

We certainly like the looks. While the last model was too conservatively designed for its own good, the new Tiguan looks rough and tough. Squarer and chiselled-off dimensions mean that it is better than most at its price point in warding off the Prius in front hogging the overtaking lane. It’s not all just cosmetic, though – there is a reduction in overall height yet this has not compromised on interior space. There is now 29mm more knee room for rear passengers, and 1,655 litres of boot space if you fold all seats down. On the utility front, it’s certainly got you covered. We also like the small details, such as how VW reduced drag on the door mirror housings by 40% by streamlining the design.

Build quality and design is everything you’d hoped for, and the Tiguan is clearly and strongly thrust into the contemporary competitive set with deep credentials. The interior is classy and well put together, and there is no escaping the fact that the Tiguan is fully loaded with technology, some that you will adore and some you will not need. We had the top-of-the-line Tiguan R-Line for this test drive, and it came with toys such as Adaptive Cruise Control, Easy Open and Easy Close and Head-up Display. The last feature made its debut in Singapore for VW with the Tiguan.

Thus equipped, the Tiguan R-Line also comes with the familiar 220PS / 350Nm 2.0-litre engine that also powers the Golf GTI. Thus performance is never left wanting and like most contemporary MQB VWs, it is very willing to tango with you. It is immensely drivable, and feels like an AWD Golf GTI raised up to take the dunes. The steering is light but accurate; the grip is lovely and you could almost imagine each of the four corners of the car right in your mind, such is how compact and lively it feels. You won’t be selling yourself short if you picked this over a BMW X3 in terms of handling.

It felt like VW really positioned the Tiguan at the premium end of the market this time. With so many standard features, it’s no surprise that it currently retails for $203,400 with COE at time of writing. It’s certainly pricing itself out of big sellers locally like the Harrier Turbo ($163,988 for the top end model), and expectations are great when the asking price is high. We think the Tiguan meets them well, but we just wished for a little more pizzazz to set itself apart from the competition. It’s a tried-and-tested formula that has worked well in the past but one wonders whether it’s still enough to get enough skin in the game. Cars like the Peugeot 3008 already impresses from the showroom floor with its class-leading exterior and interior design, which for some may already be enough to lure the heart to sign on the dotted line.

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Text and photos by The Lenspeed Team

When I was in the army, there was always a white Caddy driven to camp by a fellow soldier. Equipped with DSG and a fashionable red interior, it was the first time I actually found a van attractive. I thought it would be a great idea as a starter car too, as I loved diesel engines and at that time the tax on diesel cars was simply too prohibitive. Fast forward to today and now Volkswagen will sell you a Caddy that seats 7, albeit with a petrol engine (diesels only come with the commercial-only Caddys unfortunately).

At first, the idea of a passenger van sounds utilitarian in the greatest sense of the word. The Caddy traditionally was only used almost exclusively for transporting goods, but now with passenger seats, Volkswagen is keen to sell it as a family vehicle too. It is a bit of an enigma, but with so many crossovers and segment-hoppers, I guess it isn’t that big of a surprise. That dovetails with the fact that quite a fair number of commercial vehicle owners in Singapore actually do a “DIY” solution of rear seats too, never mind that in the eye of the law it could be a bit of a pudding.

The new Caddy now looks sportier, with a front bumper and rims that could be off an R-Line equipped Golf. The rear lights are smoked, and the windows tinted, but nothing can hide that it is still a high-riding vehicle. The rear boot for example opens just like a conventional Caddy and is gigantic. Parking in a HDB car park may be a problem if you need to open the rear boot regularly. Overall, however, it looks good in a tough go-anywhere sort of way. There are some nice ‘jewelry’ details too like its LED licence plate lighting, silver anodised roof rails and bi-xenon headlamps.

Looking through the features list, the major points a family may look for are ticked. There is nice alcantara leather upholstery, cruise control, a modern 6.33-inch touch screen display, folding tables at the back of front seats, a rear view camera and even curtain and side airbags. Don’t for a second think that because it’s a van, Volkswagen would scrimp on equipping this car to the hilt. There is also a huge amount of storage space, certainly more so than nearly any car out there. Maybe it’s something about van drivers just generally carrying more Stuff, but it’s more than you’ll ever need. A word of caution if you’re thinking of a long road trip though – with all 7 seats up, there is not much luggage space to speak off in the boot for the standard Caddy (the Maxi should ease this restriction considerably and also add more rear legroom).

This is actually not the first Caddy we have driven. The last one was a true commercial vehicle though, and while we liked its drivetrain we were not so sure about its rear leaf spring suspension in terms of comfort. Now this fact will be even more important now that the car is used as a passenger car. Does it do a better job this time round?

It is clear to see that Volkswagen has definitely worked hard to bring up the refinement of its latest Caddy. Bumps are now soaked a lot more in a car-like way, and there is less of the “rebound” sensation that comes in waves right after passing unevenness on the road. It is still there though, and you will definitely notice the commercial roots of the car whenever you see the car through a corner. But at least it has improved.

The noise levels are now pleasingly low, especially with the 1.4-litre engine taken straight off a Golf. It’s quiet, efficient and punchy enough for the Caddy, feeling like it does better than the on-paper stat of 11.3 seconds for the 0-100 km/h sprint suggests. Still, we would prefer a diesel engine for this type of car, though.

As a whole, while we love the idea of a practical, bargain basement van that can function as a 7-seater MPV as well, there is a caveat here. The Caddy Maxi isn’t the bargain basement, because with 7 seats you have to pay passenger car COE. So the price adds up to $125,900 (as at publication) – you do not enjoy the current amazingly low COE figures for commercial vehicles, even though in reality you would be driving one! It is more sensibly compared to the next 7-seater in the Volkswagen range, the Touran. If you ask us, if you could shell out that bit more for a Touran (a $11,500 gulf between the standard Caddy and base Touran; even less at $6,500 if you opt for a Caddy Maxi), it is a much better car with a passenger-focused overall concept that is fit for purpose. It shows, from the refinement, interior design, drivability and handling.

However, if you must, the Caddy isn’t a bad way for 7 to travel, too. It certainly is the best passenger van in the market though, if this is the segment you are in.


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Text and photos by The Lenspeed Team


My back really hurt when I got back to Singapore.

Not because of the Passat Variant I had over the weekend drive into Malaysia, not at all. It was because I jumped into my old Honda, and suddenly its suspension felt creaky, stiff as a plank and inexplicably harsh. What could have caused this?

I initially suspected heavy loads could have taken their toll on it, but as time wore on it slowly dawned on me that because I was so pampered by the VW, my own car just didn’t match up any more. It felt broken next to the utterly excellent, supremely comfortable Passat.


I actually never planned to take the car up north. But at the spur of the moment, and in the spirit of testing the car properly in varied environments rather than the humdrum of urban Singapore, I decided to do it. It’s been a while since the family has been back in Malacca, and it’s durian season (sorry for the aftermath, VW).


What can I say? Predictably, the Passat shines on the North South highway. It rides beautifully, even on its large rims, the engine is flexible and more than capable at a high-speed cruise, and second row legroom is just awesome. There was nary a complaint at all from all passengers. What’s appreciably special about the Passat is how good it is in town as well, when we entered Malacca. With the dependable 6-speed gearbox, it shifts efficiently and manages to retain most of its fuel sipping nature in the urban landscape too. The engine pairs well with the smooth gearbox, and this is the combination we’d always pick over the 1.8 engine with the 7-speed gearbox.


It’s worth mentioning about the chassis. Yes, we have already spoken praises about MQB. Honestly, the one in the Passat is so good and continues to astound. It trumps almost anything in its segment with its rigidity and integrity. It feels like a one-piece item hewn from solid metal, yet it is so light and makes the Passat feel very agile. On rough roads to the durian plantation the chassis is totally unfazed at all with the bumps and dips, neither flexing nor complaining with creaks.


The interior is also wonderful, high quality and an exercise in German restraint. It wouldn’t look out of place with an Audi badge. Being a wagon, the Variant also helped us to load all the massive amount of shopping that the women did. It must be said though, that while the electronic instrument cluster is novel, it seems a bit overly complicated at the end of it. I found it useful for navigation purposes, but I am in the camp that prefers a head-up display to this.


If there was anything to improve on (and we are struggling here), it’s that the car lacks a bit of soul. It’s perfectly executed, but a little playfulness would be nice. Then again, the looks of the car are already a huge step up from before, and it is genuinely handsome and classy now. Who are we to complain?


It was the perfect road trip companion, and we now feel a little worse for wear in our own car. That is full praise for the VW and how it completed the trip so effortlessly that everyone in it got used to its high standards. This could be the most complete wagon in its segment today… Volkswagen does a winner again.

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Text and photos by The Lenspeed Team


Wagons have always been a rarity in the Singapore market. Our traditional saloon-loving population failed to see why they’d want to buy something that resembled a hearse – at least that is what they’d think, anyway.

Step forward to 2016 though and you’d see hearts and minds are changing. Wagons are now on regular offer by distributors, with models like the Mazda 6 wagon, Subaru Outback and Mercedes C-Class estate being on sale for some time now. There is growing appreciation for the extra space afforded by a wagon, yet with car-like driving characteristics and handling.


This brings the Golf Variant which we test drove recently to the fore. A particularly poignant example of its breed, the Variant is destined for greatness, based on the already-excellent Mk7 Golf, which feels at least a generation ahead of its competitors in refinement, its drivetrain and chassis rigidity.

The very familiar 1.4 TSI does duty in the Golf, which is no bad thing at all, with its smooth power delivery and torquey characteristics. The 7-speed DSG feels particularly suited to the car too, being even more intuitive to your throttle inputs than you’d hope it would be. Although acceleration to 100km/h on paper is 9.5 seconds, you’d always feel it is faster than it is.


What made our test car a bit special was its R-Line kit. Never mind that it’s technically not a real “R” product from Volkswagen; it at least has some mechanical differentiation from its standard cousins, with sports suspension and larger alloys. Truth be told, the car rides harder than we thought it would, but for most situations it is entirely comfortable and easy to live with. Only but the worst of potholes may unravel it and jiggle some of your passengers.


The interior, needless to say, is wonderfully put together and is an exercise of German sensibility. The panoramic sunroof is a bit of a party piece too for passengers. Apple CarPlay, which came on our test car, is probably the next best thing since sliced bread for iPhone users. You can project whatever you see on your phone, onto the centre console screen. No more relying on a phone mount to fumble with.

As you may be able to tell, we like this one a lot.

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Text and photos by The Lenspeed Team


The benefits of Volkswagen’s MQB are now well covered in the press, but it is hard not to see why. When one gets into a vehicle blessed to be based on this platform, the incredible torsional rigidity and refinement of the chassis can be felt even without an expert behind the wheel. Then after a few days you realise even more gains when you see how slow the fuel needle drops.

The new B8 Passat is a true benefactor of MQB and has done very, very well to make sure it left no stone unturned to maximise this opportunity to make the Passat better in every possible way.


For instance, the car is now much bigger in every way, but for once it also looks incredibly athletic and dare I say it, even beautiful. It’s all in the details – the sharp creases that could only have been possible with some delicate manufacturing techniques; the LED tail lamps; the way the roofline rakes in an elongated, coupe-like way. It has been a while since we have seen a Passat that looks this good, and for that reason alone would have drawn some people to the showrooms.


But the good news continues in the interior. It seems to have been designed to be incredibly airy, with lots of interior space optimised by making the door and dashboard panels as thin and unobtrusive as possible. This can only come with decades of experience in building these saloons, day in and day out. The buttons, instruments and controls are all fantastically classy, and can easily pass off being in an Audi. You’d then start to wonder, perhaps unfairly, how amateur the attempts of other manufacturers are in trying to compete.


Drivers will enjoy a massage function that’s been orthopedically approved, although this may stoke the anger of passengers who do not get the same privilege! It is a seriously good massage, more shiok than what I can remember in any car I’ve driven in recent memory. Well, at least the rear seat space is now generous rather than adequate, so that should appease the driver’s companions somewhat.


The Passat we tried came with a 1.8 TSI and 7-speed DSG combination. The way the steering feels, the handling, the power delivery and the ride all feels very similar to a Mk7 Golf, which is no bad thing of course, as in our eyes that is the class leader among hatchbacks. It feels light on its feet, super efficient, yet super intelligent, being able to be supremely frugal whenever it can yet also responsive when it needs to be. An example of how brilliantly sorted it feels is its engine start-stop system, which is the smoothest I have tried in any car. The gearbox and engine tuning seriously takes some beating, the onboard ECU almost feels like an extension of one’s mind!


The fact that you get an efficiency of a Golf in something the size of an Audi A6 is also a revelation – the Passat is seriously frugal! Without batting an eyelid, you can see a range readout comfortably above 700km and the fuel gauge refuses to budge from full even after traveling 100 or so kilometres (although this could just be down to how it is tuned).


So is it perfect? No. One area which we feel it could be even better in was the ride comfort. In general, the ride of the Passat is firm and never cushy. This means over some roads it can feel a tad harsh, which is surprising in a luxury sedan. It is not bad, but for our local road conditions a softer suspension would be appreciated. The other is insulation from tyre noise, which is more noticeable given the excellent all-round refinement of the car.


We’ve never expected to say this, but a Passat has won our hearts in a way that no other recent VW product we’ve tried, had. What a car!

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Thoroughly competent coupe takes to the open roads in Singapore

By Team Lenspeed

We’re huge fans of modern Volkswagens, not from a driver-centric standpoint, but we appreciate its ability to be effective on literally any type of traffic condition. Even in base-spec VWs, these force induction 4 potters produce more than sufficient punch to pull you out of sticky situations. Now, the Scirocco is the latest car in the family to utilise the 122bhp 1.4-litre TSI motor. How will this pan out for a car that sits comfortably in the Category A COE bracket, while boasting head turning looks especially in this Flash Red hue?

First things first. This is the facelifted Scirocco, and you could tell it from a couple of aesthetic changes. The headlights are largely unchanged apart from the LED contour beneath the xenon light, and the front air intakes are now accompanied by what Volkswagen label as “aerodynamic blades”. Over at the rear, you’ll notice a slightly revised rear bumper. But what’s important here is the VW emblem that now doubles as a boot latch just like the Golf – a neat touch taking into account that you had to unlock the boot from the driver’s seat in the predecessor.

It’s interesting to note how well specced the Scirocco was at least for our test unit. There’s a panoramic sunroof, bi-xenon headlights with separate LED daytime running lights and a rear view camera. And we’re told that these are only available for the “Equipment Pack” (EQP) variant for a cool S$15,500 premium (for a grand total of S$141,800). Don’t get too excited yet if you’re scrolling through the interior pictures, because the triple gauge cluster and DCC (suspension setting) is only available in the test unit. But you’re still getting the flashy 18” rims, a flat bottom steering wheel and a “RCD 510” radio – that’s still pretty well equipped for a base-spec Roc. And we reckon that this is as good as it gets in terms of equipment levels, as I’m sure the product specialists at VCS would have done their homework to fit the Scirocco into the appropriate target segments.

How does it drive, then? To be honest, it drives very similarly to other Volkswagens. The power delivery is consistent throughout the rev range, with the low-end grunt of the 1.4-litre TSI unit gathering a peak torque of 200Nm way under 2000rpm. That’s not a stratospheric figure, and it won’t set your pants on fire if you put pedal to metal. But allow the light pressure turbo to spool and you’ll be covering ground at a respectable pace. You’ll be disappointed if you treat it as an out-and-out sports car, but the Scirocco (at least in VCS-spec) was never intended to be that hardcore right from the get-go. If you dial it up a notch, you’ll find that it’s a pity VCS didn’t include DCC as standard. Because the Scirocco’s character is best suited when left in “Comfort” setting, as it soaks up bumps much better than “Normal”. The sportiest suspension would be best left untouched if you’re pottering about ripped tarmac.

We’ve managed over 400km on local roads over the course of three days, and its safe to say that we’re more surprised by its eco-friendly credentials, although it looks far from green-centric. Interestingly, the Mk7 Golf 1.4 TSI comes with a “Coasting” function that reduces “mechanical drag” by decoupling the engine from the transmission to save on fuel. Not for this Scirocco. But we’re not really complaining if it can rake up more than 750km per tank – impressive number given that its running on rather broad 235/40R18 rubbers.

There are not many competitors in this segment for the Scirocco, especially at this price range if we factor in style to accompany performance numbers. And we reckon that’s why the predecessor was such a massive hit. But the game has changed significantly over the past four years with loan restrictions playing a major factor in consumer buying habits. Would you splash the cash on a brand new Scirocco? That boils down to how much you’re willing to sacrifice practicality for a perceived increase in style. Opt for the Golf 1.4 TSI with EQP if you prefer to play it safe. But this Scirocco won’t be bad a choice either if you want a quirky touch as a daily drive.

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By The Lenspeed Team


The Golf GTI seems to fill the gap of the do-everything car pretty convincingly, whichever generation you pick. From the stellar Mk1 which first spawned the hot hatch fever, all the way to the latest tech-laden Mk7, Golf GTIs serve their owners faithfully and, at most times, tirelessly.

In Singapore the MkV Golf GTI really re-launched the badge back into mainstream view, thanks to the quantum leap over its predecessors as well as the favourable moderate-low COE climate back in 2005. While nobody really paid attention to the Mk4 Golf GTI (which offered less performance than a diesel Golf in some cases!), mid-level execs looking to inject some excitement into their lives lapped up the MkV by the hundreds. It helped as well that going into its model year cycle, COE prices dipped to its lowest levels in recent memory in 2009 – sustaining the sales boom even right up to the point the MkVI came by to replace it. It almost felt like the MkVI came too early and disrupted the hay-making of the MkV.


With its direct shift gearbox (DSG) and 100bhp/litre output TFSI engine, the MkV was a potent machine and stands proudly amongst other performance cars even today. Handling has been tuned to err on the side of caution (read: understeer), but for most situations the car will reward you with stability, comfort and vast point-to-point pace. It is even fairly economical, with reported real usage figures around 10-11km/l.

These days, MkV Golf GTI are available by the bucketfuls in the market, so you can take your time to choose. Early cars (2005) are by now either exported or scrapped, so few can be had but you will have your pick from 2006 onwards. Best picks are from the run-out 2009 models, and there are some special editions worth a punt too, including the Pirelli Edition, ED30 as well as the VP1 (the last unique to the Singapore market). For bangerwatches however, 2006 models are the ones to watch out for as they are now asking for as little as S$30,000. A good Chinese New Year gift to yourself, maybe?



Lenspeed staffers have had a fair bit of experience with Golf GTIs. Between us we have owned the Mk2 8 valver, the Mk5s (early year and late years) and at least one of us are now pining for pristine Mk1s for keepers. At some point Golf GTIs (especially MkVs and above) are likely to have been modified, and while the EA113 engines are typically hardy, you’d be well-advised to watch out for heavy modifications which may affect the longevity of the drivetrain, especially the DSG which is only rated to be able to handle up to ~380Nm.

DSC_0072Modifications are common on the GTI, such as this Pivot gauge mounted in what used to be an aircon vent

The most common modifications include an ECU Stage 1 upgrade (various brands are available or custom maps too), catback exhaust systems and big brake kits. Cosmetically, what you see out there is as varied as your imagination but many designs are an acquired taste.

Oil changes are advised to be done every 15,000km, but if the car has been modified, it is a good idea to reduce that considerably. The EA113 runs very hot, especially under heavy boost, so make sure service records show the car has been cared for with top-notch engine oil. It is common to have oil consumption between services (up to 1L per 10,000km is our experience), which is a point of annoyance for many owners, so keep an engine oil bottle handy with you always (check if the owner does!).

DSC_0491To dial out understeer, rear sway bars are commonly installed which are thicker than standard items. Standard suspension is from Sachs

It is common to find coil packs failing (if you find this in service records) for modified cars, so check that these have been dutifully replaced. The 6-speed DSG rarely has any issues but earlier cars can feel slightly jerkier due to wear and tear. The gearbox is supposed to last the lifetime of the car but there are shops out there which can do a refurbishment for you. Volkswagen will also do a recalibration for you to reduce the jerks, which has been reportedly a good way to solve the issue.

Some GTIs imported to Singapore are made in South Africa (as opposed to Germany), and these usually do not show any major differences between each other. However, if you are looking at a parallel import model, note that OMV values tend to be lower and therefore will have a bearing on the asking price.

VW-Golf-GTI-Pirelli-07A no-nonsense interior, pictured here is the Pirelli Edition with special yellow stitching and seats inspired by tyre treads.

On the inside GTIs have lovely Recaro seats up front which only show excessive wear on its side bolsters – try to see if this can be rectified to prevent further damage but it is not a major point. It is common for early year cars to have peeling plastic buttons and knobs; these are generally easily replaced but can be costly. Check a collapsed rear headliner too, which looks more severe than it actually is – probably due to our hot weather, the glue holding it together gives way. It’s an easy fix, but will set you back a few hundred dollars.

Look out also for aftermarket head units, which were a common modification because MkVs were brought in to the country with extremely low-spec RCD500 units that offered no navigation, Bluetooth or USB connectivity. China-made units are generally to be avoided as they are slow, laggy and unsightly (operating system wise), but if you see RNS510 units installed you know the owner has put in some good money. Early 2005/2006 GTIs also have a limited functionality split-screen onboard computer (as opposed to a full screen in later models), so watch out for this if you like to tinker settings yourself. Generally, rattles are also common and can be a hide-and-seek affair to solve, but it is not a major issue unless it bugs you.


All in, the MkV Golf GTI is a quality product that warrants a new COE renewal, especially in this atmosphere of sliding prices. The MkVI that followed seems more polished, but it has the new EA888 engine which some say lacks a bit of character. It also feels a little bit “in-between”. The MkV, if well taken care of, will be a keeper. Our staffer with a MkV had this to say: “Every time I get the itch to look for another car to replace the Golf, there are many flights of fancy but nothing that can quite offer the all-in-one package that the GTI does. The great fuel economy, effortless torque from the engine and can-do attitude gives me no reason to ever sell it.”


Sold in Singapore between: 2006-2009, 3-door and 5-door
Prices: $30,000 – $75,000
Engine: 2.0-litre TFSI, EA113
Gearbox: 6-speed DSG
Performance: 0-100km/h in 6.9 seconds (stock – but a Stage 1 can bring that to low 6s)




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By The Lenspeed Team


Lenspeed received an unusual assignment when Volkswagen called up one day to offer us the Caddy Maxi for a test drive. As it turns out, it was a wise decision on their part – we’ve been in the market for commercial vehicles before, firstly for their immense practicality and then more reasonable price (vans have a different COE). More recently, we were again on the prowl for a dependable van, this time for a family business. However, we had a slightly different buying decision compared to the typical corporation – we either wanted a diesel car or a van, so it wasn’t a choice between different vans. Why so?

The changing diesel vehicle landscape in Singapore was one of the reasons. Lowering of diesel tax surcharges on oil-burning cars meant that they make a lot more sense than they did before. That brought an influx of diesel cars into the market, albeit on a slew.

With this greater choice, one would not immediately go for a van when the car can offer the same fuel economy, but with greater freedom and features. Take the 70km/h limit on vans which do not apply on cars, for example, which turned out to be a very annoying thing in the Caddy (not through any fault of the van itself).

The other reason is the vehicle in consideration will be used more than just transporting goods. We need a do-it-all – to bring the dog to the vet, to bring the grandma for dinner and to buy groceries from the market. So a diesel car would immediately come to mind, although Volkswagen says the Caddy Maxi would be available with rear seats too, in due time. And, with all of those stickers of bicycles and sofas on the Maxi, one would be led to think it has a lifestyle purpose too. So it would be right up our alley when picking a vehicle.


You may have noticed this isn’t just a normal Caddy, with the ‘Maxi’ name tagged to it. With its staggering wheelbase, the Maxi is an enlarged Caddy specifically designed for tradesmen and deliveries. That explains its cavernous rear space, which feels unnervingly hollow when one first slams the door shut in the Caddy – it feels like one has just stepped in a huge room! After familiarising with the strange but not unwelcome sensation however, it doesn’t really bother as the Caddy is sufficiently quiet at speed.


It is very car-like too – at least from the front seats. The instrumentation gauges and major touch points are standard Volkswagen high quality fare, although you will get a steering wheel that is plastic instead of leather-wrapped (admittedly, it feels more hardy that way). The dashboard layout reminds of the Touran, although there are thoughtful storage areas everywhere in the Caddy that you wonder why they don’t have in the passenger cars.


Perhaps the most car-like association of all is the DSG gearbox. Seen in nearly every Volkswagen model, it works brilliantly in the Caddy, perhaps almost too well. It is so efficient and so quick, you get to 70km/h in no time and the built-in alarm starts beeping! The engine, however, is noticeably rougher than in the Touran TDI we tried previously.


The handling too, is a tad too van-like for our comfort. The rear suspension feels like a fixed beam, lacking a sense of fullness to the damping, although the front suspension seems to work a lot more familiarly. Perhaps putting a heavier load in the storage space may help to explain away some of the ride irregularity.


There are many thoughtful features in the Caddy that endeared it to us. From the rubber floors of the front row, to the double sliding doors, to the indented soft floors of the storage area, to the little hooks there and here to secure your loose items, it’s clear that the Caddy was built with utility in mind. Attention has been paid to its primary purpose.


Volkswagen will also offer a 5-year / 200,000km on any of its commercial vehicles, which should put your mind at ease if you’re calculating costs for your business. Servicing is done only every 20,000km, which is substantially less frequent than a normal car (half that of a typical Japanese car).


So would we buy one over a diesel car? We’ll have to see that version with seats at the back to be sure, but judging from its price, servicing proposition and extended warranty, it has a strong case for itself indeed, especially if one prizes value and utility over creature comforts. Just remember to tune your driving style to suit the speed limit, or just don’t get on long highway journeys…



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