Monday, March 20, 2006

Golf VI week: the unknown deficiency of the G5 platform

The G6 will feature a number of welcome improvements: more emotional design and improved quality of interiors. However we are yet to know if it will improve on a slight deficiency of the G5 platform: the fixed wheelbase. If one looks at cars from the competition several of them have different wheelbase versions according to the models. For example, Mégane break; 307 break; Astra Caravan have bigger wheelbases than their 5 door versions. The Astra caravan has a full 10cm longer wheelbase than the 5 door version. This benefits interior space (that can be distributed between luggage and occupants) and is consistent with a separation of versions with different requirements: in the case, breaks and people carriers need more space than 3 and 5 door versions.

However, such thing does not happen with VW’s G5 platform. If one looks at the wheelbase of such models as Golf, Jetta, A3, A3 sportback, Leon, Golf Plus, Octavia, Touran they have a very similar wheelbase – 2578 mm except for the Touran version. This feature limits space and versatility for versions like the Golf plus, a car that is too close to the 5 door version. And it limits design when they try to increase luggage space. For example, the Jetta features a longer rear overhang and a taller rear section but the same wheelbase as the Golf. Visually this ruins the proportions and spoils the design of the car.

Why does this happen? Ironically, this is due to
the biggest improvement of the G5: the rear multilink suspension. This arrangement
is more difficult to tune for different wheelbase versions than the more conventional torsion beam system. It can be done, the Passat shares a lot of suspension components with the Golf, but it had its own development budget, much bigger than the budget for derivative versions of the Golf. And it could be done in the Touran but with limitations in handling in a confort-biased vehicle. So it can be done, but at a price. It would a great improvement for the Golf family if the G6 can have different wheelbases. We will know if this happens when the Golf variant is launched. This version is scheduled to the end of the current year and we will then now if VW improved on this feature.

The sales numbers from the two first months of 2006 showed the Focus + Cmax in the first position in Europe, followed by the Golf and Golf-plus. Ford took a different approach here: it released the C-max before the conventional versions and its space, versatility and design has gained quite a following. The C-max is the main responsible for the sales performance of the Focus family (not the bland 3-5 door versions). Incidentally the Focus family also has a multilink suspension. Ford has the same problem having the C-max and 5 door versions the same wheelbase (2640mm). However Ford has chosen to have a bigger wheelbase thus benefiting the C-max version. VW should take note of this and make a proper, well-designed and versatile 5-seater people carrier, instead at the slow selling limited-space Golf plus.

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