Road trip: Volkswagen Golf
2014 Vw Golf 5-door
PRICE: Base $19,995. As tested $28,495
ENGINE: 1.8L inline four, DOHC, six speed automatic
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 6.7 — 7.1L/100km
POWER: 170 horsepower, 185 lbs.-ft. torque
COMPETITION: Ford Escort, Chev Cruz, Honda Civic, Mazda 3, Hyundai Elantra, Dodge Dart, Kia Forte
WHAT’S BEST: Comfort, handling, German engineering
WHAT’S WORST: Interior looks a bit dated
WHAT’S INTERESTING: Built for the Autobahn
Renowned German handling makes for a smooth week-long journey through the Maritimes
Within 30 minutes of Moncton, N.B., you’ll find the highest tides in the world, fossils 100 million years older than the dinosaurs and some of the best seafood on the planet.
No wonder we love the Maritimes.
From the GTA, the quickest way to New Brunswick is the Trans-Canada Highway, a most uninteresting stretch of pavement. It’s much more scenic, stress-free and economical (fuel and accommodations are significantly cheaper) to head for the U.S. and cut across Vermont, New Hampshire and up to New Brunswick through Maine.
Just prior to Montreal’s traffic Armageddon, we steered the Golf along 30 south, then the 10 toward Vermont. Just outside of Magog, a car with Quebec plates travelling at what had to be the 150 km/h (try that with any other plate and you’ll get a ticket, guaranteed) chucked a stone creating a windshield divot with a spiderweb of cracks.
Fortunately, it didn’t directly impair the driver’s vision, but it wasn’t a great way to start a trip to the east coast.
The roads through rural New Hampshire and then into Maine are generally in pretty good shape and, because the area is sparsely populated, there aren’t many small towns and villages to slow the average speed.
Being loyal Canadians, we stopped for lunch near Bangor, Maine, at a sure sign of the coming apocalypse — a Tim Hortons. Attention Americans — you will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.
We crossed the border at Calais (pronounced “Callous” by the locals, which is not very continental) and then into St. Stephen, N.B. This border crossing is usually very busy, but it was practically deserted when we arrived and within minutes, we were tooling along the wide, smooth, Trans-Canada at a civilized New Brunswick legal 110 km/h.
Like all German cars, the Golf is designed for the autobahn and, at this velocity, it’s loafing along at 2,000 rpm.
Three hours later, we arrived at our friend’s house in Sackville, N.B., just in time for dinner.
Some fun facts about New Brunswick: it’s Canada’s only constitutionally bilingual province, the scuba tank and snow blower were both invented there, as was the sardine can.
Thirty minutes from Sackville is Joggins, N.S., site of some amazing fossils and, with the Bay of Fundy’s 15 meter twice-daily shoreline-eroding tides, more history is uncovered almost on a daily basis.
Before venturing onto the beach, consult the posted tide tables as to the safe times for viewing the cliffs as you could be caught in a serious, treading water situation.
Speaking about the tides, and returning to Moncton for a moment, in the downtown there is a walking path and several city parks allow viewing of the impressive Bay of Fundy’s Tidal Bore as it rolls up the Petticodiac River. The Tidal Bore is not some blowhard who talks endlessly about the tides — although there was one guy who did just that — it’s the tide surge that happens twice a day.
When we were there, it was almost a metre high and came in like a long, low wave. Once the wave passed, the unrelenting tide continued and the speed of the current was surprising.
Several years ago, surfers rode the Bore for 29 kilometres over a two-hour period and said it was like a “little tsunami.”
Leaving Joggins, the 105-kilometre loop of Hwy. 209 to Advocate Harbour, Cape D’Or and then to Parrsboro is one of the nicest twisty roads I’ve ever been on and many times I wished I was on a motorcycle.
Still, the Golf handled the curves, twists and turns admirably with surprisingly little body roll, quick turn-in and stable handling. The suspension is both taut and somehow compliant in that mystical way that the Germans do so well.
Almost as good is the 50-kilometre stretch to Springhill, N.S., home of Anne Murray and several mining disasters. The most recent was in 1958 when a shaft 4.3 kilometres long and 1.3 kilometres under the surface collapsed, killing 75 miners.
The Springhill coal mines were closed shortly after and the site is now operated by the Province of Nova Scotia and visitors can enter some of the old mine shafts to see what it was like.
Uh, no thanks.
It’s amazing how relaxed life in the Maritimes can be and it’s a real culture shock coming from the GTA, especially when you consider that Greater Toronto’s population is more than four million and the entire province of New Brunswick is around 750,000. And Moncton, the largest city, has only about 70,000, which means lots of wide open spaces.
We basically retraced our steps back through Maine but took a jog up over the top of Lake Champlain into New York state and back into Canada at Prescott.
Overall, the Golf returned between 6.7 and 7.1 L/100 km, it was fun and comfortable during a couple of long days and easily held all the necessary “stuff” for two adults for a week on the road.
The vehicle tested by freelance writer Steve Bond was provided by the manufacturer. Email: email@example.com.