AH YES, I remember the Golf. Driving down London's King's Road on a sunny day in a GTi convertible: roof down, hair backcombed to within an inch of existence and wearing a suit with two pairs of shoulder pads. Next to me is a dashing man sporting an aggressive shirt and pinstriped suit with a phone the size of a Bible clamped to his shoulder. And Betty Boo playing on the stereo. The VW Golf was the car of my youth. We were young and glossy and had large telephones. The Golf was part of our armoury, and the GTi was the holy grail. The Golf and I have gone through many incarnations since the late 1980s. The boxy design of the Golf I (and my big shoulder pads) has long gone. In line with the new caring, sharing generation, the Golf has lost its angles and become gently curved. Also like me, it's expanding around the middle with age. The largest Golf yet, the Mark V has an interior that you'd expect to find on a much more sizeable car. The seats are leather and seriously comfortable. They're also fully adjustable, although this involves pumping a handle in the style of those reclining chairs beloved of couch potatoes everywhere - which is disconcerting and seems out of sync with the slick presentation of the rest of the car. There is lumbar support, but I've never mastered those things and they always remind me of sleeping on a lumpy mattress. Entertainment is provided in the form of a moveable steering wheel, which is useful to make more room after a good lunch. The steering wheel has buttons to control a mobile phone, putting me in a high state of excitement until I was told that this option was available only to drivers in Europe. Volkswagen has gone out of its way to minimise effort on the part of the driver. The windscreen wipers have a rain sensor and kick in automatically when required. This saves you the tedious task of having to flick a lever (far too much work, my dear) but comes as a bit of a shock when they operate without warning. The lights are also on a sensor system. The illuminated instrument panel is backlit in a mood-enhancing blue with a dimmer that creates a space-age glow. The 'climate control' is icily effective. Being a sensible German car, the Golf V comes with all manner of safety features. Six airbags cushion passengers from injury, and the front seats move forward on impact, preventing whiplash. There's a traction-control system to prevent wheel lock when skidding. I can attest that the ABS is invaluable in the struggle against taxi drivers who obviously believe that signalling isn't necessary for anyone driving a red car. The 1.6-litre Golf I drove has six-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic. The gear changes are long, giving a slightly laboured ride, but this improves dramatically in sports mode and gives much more impressive acceleration. In a quiet, understated way, these cars can shift. The cabin noise is minimal, so you don't really get to enjoy the engine, although everything about the Golf indicates that this car is about quiet power and relaxed comfort rather than steering-wheel-clinging excitement. The six-disc CD and luxurious interior make for a happy, mellow driver. This is a car that's designed to get you to your destination with the minimum of decision-making on your part. Apparently, a significant number of flight attendants have been buying Golfs recently. The reason? Cruise control, apparently. Just set the speed and sit back and relax. No need to worry about speed cameras as you inadvertently put your foot down. I have visions of fleets of semi-comatose drivers heading to Chek Lap Kok. Mind you, eating breakfast while driving to a morning flight would be hard because the Golf V doesn't have cup-holders. There's a box in the arm rest that you could try to jam a cup into, but it would end in tears and a trip to the dry cleaners. The back seats fold down flat, giving 350 litres of room for transporting wheel-ed suitcases or suit carriers. There are three rear seatbelts, although I think seating three is optimistic, unless the one in the middle is either under seven or has been on a strict diet for a few months. The Golf packs a lot of technology and gadgets. It's comfortable and the engine is efficient and has pull in Sports mode, but spirit and excitement is missing. This is a car that's crept into middle age. The Golf has opted for the pipe and slippers. It's perfect if you need something to move you around town in safety and cocooned luxury, but not if you want to live on the edge or feel the wind through your hair (or what remains of it). As for me, I'm going to dig out my shoulder pads, backcomb my hair and drive off into the sunset in a Mini Cooper S singing along to Duran Duran. Tested: 1.6-litre Volkswagen Golf Mark V What drives it? In Hong Kong, either a four-cylinder, 16-valve, 1.6-litre or sports-tuned two-litre fuel stratified injection petrol engine with direct fuel injection and a six-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic. Suspension consists of McPherson struts with lower wishbones on the front and a four-link apparatus with separate spring and shock-absorber arrangements in the rear. Steering is dual-pinion Servotronic power steering. How fast is it? Not bad. Fast enough for commutes and airport runs. The 1.6-litre has 115 brake-horesepower and 155Nm of torque at 4,000rpm, the two-litre has 150bhp and 200Nm at 3,500rpm. How thirsty is it? A moderate drinker, at about $1 per km in the 1.6-litre and $1.1/km in the two-litre version, the dealers say. If you consider higher oil prices, you've still got an economical drive. Available: Harmony Motors, G/F Elizabeth House, 250-254 Gloucester Rd, Causeway Bay, (tel: 2882 8938). The dealers say the plusher, upgraded two-litre version is more popular in Hong Kong and production of the 1.6-litre Hong. Kong batch won't begin until August. Alternatives? Loads; the Mazda3, Honda Civic and the new Opel Astra could haunt it, but we like Volkswagen's sales and service set-up in Hong Kong. Whatever you think of the Golf, Harmony Motors seem helpful and friendly.