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Brazil Scores A Gol – Possibly

I might not be the world’s biggest soccer/football fan, but I’m still vaguely interested in the latest FIFA world cup held in São Paulo, Brazil.  Now, if you’re at all interested in cars, Brazil means two things: biofuel (honestly, these guys are keen on their their ethanol!) and Volkswagens.  Brazil has their very own VW factory, which explains why Beetles and Kombis are some of the most commonly seen vehicles on the roads throughout South America.  There’s also a car that the Brazilian VW factory produces that doesn’t make it over here but has a name that reflects the Brazilian love of “the beautiful game”: the Gol. You’ve heard those Latino sports commentators?  If you have, you know exactly what “gol” means, although it usually comes out “goooooooooooooooool!”


So, in honour of the current FIFA World Cup, here’s the low-down on the surprisingly popular VW Gol (not to be confused with the VW Golf , another vehicle with a sporting name).  Thankfully, I’ve got enough Spanish to get the info off the Mexican and Argentinian websites.

The Gol is a rather popular hatchback that has been in production since the 1980s, although it’s gone through a few upgrades and updates since then, like most cars.  Similar to the Golf and other small hatchbacks, it’s got a smallish engine (1.6 litres, in-line four-cylinders, 101 horsepower at 5250 rpm, 143 Nm at 2500 rpm) and it’s got a 5-speed manual transmission.  It’s designed to run on flex fuel, which isn’t surprising, given the Brazilian taste for ethanol biofuel. It’s got a few bells and whistles like Bluetooth preparation, a decent stereo system, air con, fog lights and electric windows (part of the exterior trim on the Argentinian versions of the Gol Cup include a decal of the national flag!) It’s also pretty cheap.

gol2The Gol comes in a number of versions, with the Argentinian VW site listing the Gol Trend and the Gol Cup (I wonder what this crossover/light SUV is named after), and the Mexican site listing the plain Gol and the Gol sedan. It seems to be pretty popular.

So why aren’t we seeing the Gol on Aussie roads? It’s the safety.  The Gol is cheap because they cut costs in the safety department (thankfully, this isn’t true of the VWs we get over here). It got one star in the Latin American NCAP tests, at least according to one source. However, the Gol Cup does boast airbags and ABS brakes (something the Mexican site for the Gol didn’t mention – nothing turned up on the safety/security page at all).  Three-point seat belts of the ordinary kind, are listed as a “feature” of the base model.

From my own memories of the cars on South American roads (Peru and Bolivia in the late 1980s in my case), even ABS brakes and airbags is pretty good going.  As far as I could make out, the only roadworthiness test was whether or not the car started and could run.  Seat belts were optional and squashing several people to one seat was considered sensible (I’ve been one of eight people crammed into a Beetle – three in the front, four in the back and one (me) in the boot).  Buses would trundle along with holes rusted out in the floors where you could see the road passing underneath.  Scary stuff, although we took it all in our stride, like the other quirks of life over there.

Safety may also be the reason why other Brazilian-made WV models don’t make it over here. There are quite a few of them that are unknown here.  On the Mexican and Argentinian sites, alongside familiar names like the Beetle, Passat , Amarok  , Polo, Touareg, Scirrocco , Tiguan and Jetta , you’ll also find exotic names like Fox, Crossfox, Suran, Bora, Sharan, up!, Nuevo Vento and Saveiro.  But who knows? If they are decent safety-wise, we may yet see them over here.