Available in all manner of styles, this ever popular vehicle never fails to live up to expectations. Known for its top quality spec levels and outstanding performance, it really seems to go from strength to strength and is now in its eighth generation.
The goodAlways delivers the goods
The badNever cheap (but nor is the quality)
VW Golf Life 1.5 TSI 130PS Manual (2020)
With 45 production years and a staggering 35 million sales under its belt, the Volkswagen Golf goes from strength to strength and with the arrival of the all-new eighth generation model the bar is raised even further.
That’s because this is the most intelligent and connected Golf to date and customers have a choice of punchy yet efficient powertrains and generously-equipped trim levels to choose from.
The Golf is new from the ground up, but this five-door model looks as dynamic as ever maintaining its instantly-recognisable profile. Our entry-level Life version featured a black radiator grille and rear diffuser, body-coloured bumpers, door handles and mirrors, a rear roof spoiler, LED self-levelling headlights and 16-inch alloy wheels.
Move inside and the cabin has been thoroughly modernised – it is clutter-free, upmarket and packed with kit. There is a new digital ‘Innovision’ cockpit featuring two 10-inch screens that are the main focal point – one for the infotainment and the other for driving data.
Creature comforts are plentiful and include full smartphone connectivity thanks to Apple CarPlay (wireless) and Android Auto (via USB), sat nav, a gesture-control system, a DAB digital radio and plenty more besides.
There are far less buttons and switches than on the outgoing car and thankfully quick keys allow you to access functions such as the climate control on the fly without too much difficulty.
Our car was priced at £23,900, but this increased to £26,775 with a few options factored in. It was powered by a 1.5-litre 130PS petrol engine mated to a six-speed manual gearbox and could sprint from 0-62mph in 9.2 seconds, topping out at 133mph. And, according to official WLTP figures, it could deliver combined fuel economy of 52.6mpg with carbon emissions of 122g/km.
The Golf has always been a great car to drive with engaging handling and this latest version maintains that hatchback appeal. It fires along the country lanes with impressive acceleration through the manual transmission and the front-wheel drive vehicle feels beautifully balanced with ample grip to really attack long sweeping bends.
On motorways, it cruises effortlessly at the national speed limit with barely a sound filtering through into the cabin, and the Golf is both agile and easy to manoeuvre through busier town centres with the driver benefitting from good all-round visibility.
The new Golf is fitted with Active Cylinder Technology meaning that two cylinders can be shut down automatically when the car is cruising to help maximise fuel economy. This clever technology goes on completely unnoticed in the background with just a message on the tft screen letting you know the car is operating in two-cylinder mode. And it certainly has its benefits as I was regularly seeing an average fuel efficiency figure in the low to mid-sixties which is notable.
Comfort levels are good and there is ample space for a couple of adults to sit in the back, provided the front seats are not pushed back too far. The boot can swallow 381 litres of kit and there are a number of handy storage compartments scattered throughout the vehicle.
As one would expect from VW, the Golf maintains its well-respected reputation for being a very safe and reliable vehicle with a wide range of features to protect occupants and help prevent accidents from happening in the first place.
Safety specifications include the likes of adaptive cruise control with front assist, city emergency braking, driver alert, traction control, Isofix child seat preparation for the rear outer seats, automatic post-collision braking and a full suite of airbags.
All in all, the new Mk 8 Golf picks up where the old model left off and moves the success story forward at pace. It’s fresher, more youthful in its design, packed with technology and yet still retains all its charm and exciting driving characteristics. It’s simply guaranteed to be another winner.
VW Golf (2017) – first drive
In 2016 Volkswagen sold almost 200,000 cars and by far the biggest seller was the iconic Golf which is now in its seventh generation and accounted for 77,000 sales alone.
The figures mean that the Golf was the third biggest selling car in the UK behind the Ford Fiesta and Vauxhall Corsa and that makes it the envy of many a manufacturer. VW could easily be forgiven for settling back and resting on its laurels, but that’s not how the German marque works and that means the Golf Mk VII model line-up has just been given a mid-life make-over and the really good news is that on average the prices across the range have been slashed by £650.
Admittedly, as far as design goes, there is nothing too radical to report because VW likes its Golf to evolve slowly, but the car has received a number of enhancements that improve its all-round appearance, some extra on-board technology has been added and a new 1.5-litre petrol engine has been introduced.
Design tweaks see restyled bumpers, along with standard or optional LED headlights in place of the Xenon ones, animated rear indicators, new wheel trims, LED rear light clusters plus a number of additional colour options.
Move inside and the upgrades are more noticeable and include a new infotainment system complete with smart instrumentation such as the distinctive 9.2-inch touchscreen with gesture control. The screen can be configured to show different information and the output is far clearer.
But possibly the most significant changes, especially for anyone who favours the high performance Golfs, is beneath the bonnet with a power increase in the hot hatch GTI and R models.
We Brits seem to have an insatiable desire for these dynamic versions of the car and, according to VW, the UK is the biggest selling market worldwide for the GTI. And if there are still any doubters about the appeal of the hot hatches then simply Google VW Golf Clubsport S. This vehicle powered by a 2.0 TFSI 310PS engine holds the Nurburgring record for the fastest front-wheel-drive car. Just 400 models were made worldwide and the UK market snapped up 150 of them priced at £33,995. They were all sold before the official asking price had even been announced.
The reason this is so significant is because the latest Golf R has a power output that has been increased from 300PS to 310PS (just like the Clubsport S) and that makes it the joint most powerful Golf made to date and the most potent currently on offer.
I had the opportunity to test out VW’s latest high performance Golfs and they certainly lived up to all the hype.
First up was the Golf R 2.0-litre TSI 310PS 4MOTION model with six-speed manual gearbox in five-door guise. It was priced at £32,520 (£37,720 with options) and could blast its way to 62mph in just 5.1 seconds with a top speed of 155mph. Combined fuel economy is a claimed 37.7mpg with carbon emissions of 180g/km.
The R styling pack means the car boasts uniquely shaped front and rear bumpers, rear roof spoiler side sills, plus unique ‘R’ badging along with a special grille with matt chrome strip. The sports suspension is also lowered on the car and black brake callipers complete the look.
Inside there is a three spoke sports steering wheel with ‘R’ logo, carbon-touch and piano black decorative inserts, sport seats with ‘R’ badging and stainless steel sports pedals.
The sports seats are snug and supportive and the Golf R starts up with a powerful roar – which is a hint at what’s in store. On slower 30mph roads the vehicle cruises along in a most composed manner – a little bit like a well-behaved teenager awaiting a reward for good behaviour. But the more delinquent side cannot stay hidden for too long and the car seems relieved when it’s true potential can be unleashed on faster country lanes, where the road-holding is super grippy as it hurls itself into the sharp bends for fun. You will feel the odd bump or two and the car’s dynamic handling certainly encourages you to drive ‘enthusiastically’ but these really are plus factors.
The power at your disposal seems endless and the acceleration is blisteringly quick through the six speed manual gearbox. There is a little noise from the engine and the road surface when driven hard, but the cabin is well insulated when driving in a more sedate manner. It’s the sort of car that you get out of and reflect ‘now that was fun’.
I also had an opportunity to get behind the wheel the Golf GTI 2.0-litre TSI 230PS with six-speed manual gearbox and in five door styling. This car carried a £28,520 price-tag but the optional extras bumped up the cost to £32,940. It could sprint from 0-62mph in 6.4 seconds, topped out at 155mph, had combined fuel economy of 44.8mpg with CO2 emissions of 148g/km.
Once again this particular Golf stands out from the crowd with GTI-specific styling such as unique bumpers, a rear roof spoiler, a black honeycomb front intake with GTI badging, plus red brake callipers. The interior featured smart red contrast stitching on the seats and gear lever along with a sporty three-spoke, flat-bottomed steering wheel.
The GTI seemed a little calmer than the Golf R. It certainly delivers all the punchy, fiery driving dynamics that you could possibly wish for in a hot hatch but it seemed more composed in its general behaviour. It can be thrown into corners with confidence and the steering is very precise with plenty of driver feedback and then when circumstances change it can perform in a very ‘normal’ manner if necessary.
To be honest both the GTI and R Golfs were tremendous fun to drive and after short spells on great roads, their overwhelming appeal was clear to me. But with so many other models to choose from that make far more economical sense, what is it that attracts people to the higher performing Golfs?
That question is best answered by Scott Fisher, product affairs manager at VW, who said: “The particular appeal of the Golf GTI and R models is their breadth of capability. They are perfectly suitable to run around in, take on the weekly shopping trip, ferry the kids to school in and commute to and from work. But they are equally at home on the race track blasting around and being driven in a progressive fashion – shall we say!”
And if the GTI or R power outputs are not quite imposing enough, then VW will be reintroducing its Performance model in May or June this year with a whopping 245PS at its disposal.
Of course, there are more ‘sensible’ Golf options out there – 113 models in total – with the entry level S version priced from £17,625.
VW Golf SV SE 1.6 TDI 110PS 5-speed manual
Volkswagen has added an extra dimension to its extensive Golf line-up with the introduction of the family-friendly and very practical Golf SV.
It replaces the Golf Plus and despite its compact-looking appearance, the interior is like a Tardis and can easily accommodate five adults (of the taller variety) with bags of leg room to stretch out in the rear.
The car looks every bit a ‘Golf’ thanks to the stand-out dynamic styling traits that have attracted so many buyers the world over. In addition, the test car featured silver roof rails, a tailgate with built-in spoiler, plenty of chrome trim, 16-inch alloys, heat insulating glass, along with body-coloured bumpers, door handles and electrically-adjustable and heated door mirrors with integrated indicators. The test model also featured a massive panoramic sunroof which added £995 to the asking price and allowed light to flood the cabin.
Move inside and the simplistic, yet feature-rich interior is designed for comfort and practicality with all dials, read-outs and controls perfectly positioned for driver usability. But don’t be fooled by the clutter-free layout because there’s an abundance of techno treats and creature comforts at your disposal.
These include Car-Net ‘App-Connect’ which can link up to both Apple and android smartphones, Park Assist which delivers sensor controlled steering aid to assist parallel or bay parking, a 5.8-inch colour touchscreen, DAB digital radio with CD player and eight speakers, a navigation system that is easy to programme, air conditioning with dust and pollen filter and plenty more besides.
But this Golf is designed with active families in mind so there are a number of practical touches throughout the car. These include lots of storage compartments and a 60:40 split rear bench seat that can slide backwards or forwards up to 180mm to increase either passenger or luggage space as required. And on the matter of luggage, the generously-sized boot can accommodate 500-litres of kit which is increased to a whopping 1,520 litres with the rear seats dropped flat. In addition, the front passenger seat can be folded flat to create a load space which is more than 2.4 metres long.
The test car was supplied in mid-trim SE grade costing £23,175 (£26,645 with options added) and was powered by a 110PS 1.6-litre diesel engine mated to a five-speed manual gearbox. Admittedly it’s not the quickest Golf out the starting blocks and going from 0 to 62mph takes 11.3 seconds with a top speed of 119mph. But when it comes to economy, the figures are far more impressive with carbon emissions of 101g/km and combined fuel economy of 72.4mpg. That said; during my week-long test I clocked up more than 600 miles and the average fuel figure I was seeing was only 55.3mpg.
In busy town centres, the Golf SV coped effortlessly with the traffic and the all-round visibility was also good which is vital on a vehicle that will clearly be used as a people-mover and that means the dreaded school run with cars, kids and pushchairs darting out at all angles. Then on faster country lanes and motorways the acceleration through the gears proved more than adequate although I was searching for a non-existent sixth gear at times and you will have to change down a gear or two to take on extra steep climbs at pace.
There is a little engine noise when the diesel powertrain is pushed particularly hard, but otherwise the cabin remains nicely hushed and protected from the outside world. In addition, a choice of driver modes alter the car’s handling and economy, with features such as a gear-shift prompter to help you achieve the greatest fuel efficiency.
As one would expect, VW has ensured that the Golf SV is fully loaded with a comprehensive list of safety features, including anti-lock brakes, electronic stabilisation control, traction control, driver alert system, automatic post-collision braking, adaptive cruise control, city emergency braking, tyre pressure monitoring and numerous airbags.
All in all, the Golf SV joins the estate and hatchback designs in the Golf stable and despite delivering all the same design cues that we have grown to admire over the years, it offers that little bit extra to families who thrive on active lifestyles and like to be prepared for the unexpected.
VW Golf GTE plug-in hybrid
There’s no denying the popularity of the Volkswagen Golf, but now that appeal has grown even stronger with the introduction of a highly economical plug-in hybrid model.
And the GTE really does offer the best of both worlds with powerful GTI styling blended with hybrid economy to deliver outstanding fuel efficiency.
There is only one model to choose from with a DSG six-speed automatic gearbox along with all the accompaniments associated with the GT (Gran Turismo) label.
The GTE is powered by a 150bhp 1.4 turbo petrol-driven engine alongside a 102bhp electric motor and together they can deliver a maximum power of 204bhp and according to VW a theoretical range of 580 miles with a combined 166mpg.
But anyone who thinks that power and driving dynamics have been cast aside for economy should think again because the GTE delivers all the hot hatch handling you could possibly wish for. It can sprint from 0-62mph in just 7.6 seconds and redlines at 138mph. But at the other end of the scale the carbon emissions figure of just 39g/km brings with it all sorts of financial savings.
The GTE is available as a five-door hatch and whereas the trimmings on a GTI are in red, they are blue on the GTE. So there are blue accents across the radiator grille and headlights plus blue brake callipers.
The colour theme runs throughout the interior of the car too with blue stitching on the steering wheel, armrests, gear lever and a blue stripe on the tartan patterned sports seats.
The vehicle boasts a rich array of techno treats, including a 5.8-inch touchscreen, DAB radio, a CD player with eight speakers which is compatible with all modern media devices, sat nav (optional extra), Bluetooth, dual-zone climate control, automatic lights and wipers, parking sensors and plenty more besides.
Passenger comfort is excellent with space similar to the GTI meaning there is ample room for two adults in the back. Storage in the boot is limited to 272 litres because it also accommodates the battery but split-folding rear seats allow this capacity to be increased to 1,162 litres.
So the GTE features all the build quality and technology one has come to expect from a Golf and certainly boasts some impressive performance stats along the way. But how does it handle on the open road? The answer is exceptionally well.
As one would expect, the acceleration is blisteringly fast and there is a constant supply of power on tap.
The steering is precise and road-holding flawless – that means long, tight bends can be attacked and conquered at pace.
The driver can select from five different driving modes – E-mode, GTE mode, battery hold, battery charge and hybrid auto. In pure electric mode – which is activated at the press of a button – the GTE can travel up to 31 miles.
Another clever trick is the storing of electric power which can save a fortune if travelling through pricey congestion charge zones. And performance in electric mode is pretty impressive too as the GTE can reach up to 81mph.
According to VW, the Golf GTE, which is priced at £28,035 (including the Government’s £5,000 plug-in car grant), can be charged in 3 hours 45 minutes from a domestic mains outlet or just 2 hours 15 minutes from a domestic wallbox.
All in all, the GTE is a great addition to the ever-growing Golf range. It perfectly combines the economy of a hybrid model with all the fizz, pop and dynamism we have come to expect from a GT model so is a winner on all fronts.
VW Golf Estate GT 2.0 TDI 150PS
Mention the name VW Golf to any car enthusiast and it instantly conjures up images of high performance hot hatchbacks gripping the road like glue as they are thrown into tight hairpin bends.
That’s because the VW Golf is synonymous with performance, outstanding driving dynamics and awesome handling capabilities.
Not a name you would associate with estate car practicality then!
But all that is about to change because the latest Golf Estate is lower, wider and longer than its predecessors and that translates into improved handling, quicker responses and edgier performance capabilities.
The car looks absolutely stunning from any approach and despite featuring estate car proportions it remains sleek and easy on the eye thanks to the likes of silver roof rails, front fog lights, smart sweeping light clusters, 17-inch alloys and a panoramic sunroof (£920 extra).
The interior is incredibly spacious with ample room for three adults to stretch out in the back and light floods in through the sunroof.
And luggage restrictions will never apply as the Golf Estate can swallow up 605 litres of kit.
This can be increased to a whopping 1,620 litres with the rear seats folded flat – now that’s enough room for the everything including the kitchen sink!
And there are plenty of top notch techno treats to be discovered within the car too, including an eight-speaker sound system which is compatible with all modern media devices, Bluetooth connectivity, sat nav, ambient lighting, climatic semi-automatic air conditioning with dust and pollen filter, a DAB radio and sports seats that can be heated.
Navigating the many systems is made all the easier thanks to the 5.8-inch colour touchscreen and all controls, dials and readouts are simple to use without causing any driver distraction.
Powered by a 2.0-litre diesel engine delivering 150PS and mated to a six speed manual gearbox, the test car could reach 62mph from a standing start in 8.9 seconds and had a top speed of 135mph.
It has carbon emissions of 108g/km but the statistic most likely to grab the headlines is efficiency, because according to official figures the Golf Estate can return 67.3mpg on a combined run.
I clocked up more than 450 miles during my test and was seeing a very creditable 58.6mpg at the end of it.
This impressive economy is due to a number of factors such as a stop/start function, regenerative braking, a gear-shift prompter and also a driver profile system.
This enables the driver to choose between three driving modes – sport, normal and eco. In the eco mode the throttle is adjusted along with the air con and engine to achieve maximum efficiency. Sport mode does the opposite and delivers an edgier, more responsive drive.
But whatever mode you are in, one fact is guaranteed – an excellent driving experience in a car that feels anything but an estate. The acceleration is both smooth and responsive through the gears and there is a constant supply of power on tap as and when required.
The road-holding is very impressive and similar to its hatchback sibling and the highly efficient insulation and reinforced build quality ensures road and engine noise is kept to a minimum.
As one would expect, VW has packed a vast array of safety features into the car, such as anti-lock brakes, adaptive cruise control, numerous airbags, traction control, driver alert system and lots more.
All in all, the Golf Estate – priced at £25,050 (£27,055 with extras) – is a beautifully crafted all-rounder. It delivers awesome driving dynamics and somehow matches them with the practicality of an estate car.
VW Golf R 2.0 TSI 300PS 5-door 6-speed DSG
It’s a fact that the driving dynamics and all-round package of the VW Golf have been just a couple of its most appealing attributes over the years, so when the fastest production Golf ever comes along, it simply cannot be ignored.
Boasting a 2.0-litre diesel-driven engine with a whopping 300PS power output, this car can sprint to 62mph from a standing start in just 4.9 seconds and tops out at an electronically limited 155mph.
It’s blisteringly fast and the handling is certainly not for the faint-hearted.
It looks almost like a conventional Golf but sits slightly lower and there are discreet R logos on the front, side and rear. But it also features 19-inch alloys and on closer inspection there are four exhaust pipes and tinted windows to go with the LED rear light clusters.
The range-topping five-door model with six-speed semi-automatic DSG transmission is richly equipped throughout with the likes of an eight-inch colour screen with sat nav, DVD radio, Bluetooth connectivity, stop/start, parking sensors, a flat-bottomed sports steering wheel,2Zone air conditioning with dust and pollen filter and lots more besides.
The comfort levels are excellent and the instrumentation stands out from the norm with blue needles on the dials.
But it’s when you fire up the Golf that there’s an indication of what’s in store as the engine and exhausts growl back in perfect harmony.
With VW’s 4MOTION four-wheel-drive to add extra grip, this car loves to be driven – the harder the better – and no bend will ever pose the slightest problem.
The acceleration is ferociously quick and all-round handling is truly exhilarating leaving the Golf GTI a very poor second in the new line-up.
There’s a choice of driving modes –Comfort, Normal, Race (replaces Sport), Eco and Individual. And anyone looking for the most thrilling mode simply needs to select “Race” and prepare for sharper throttle and suspension responses.
And in this Race mode the electronic stability control can be faded out for even more feel or completely disengaged for a track day experience you won’t forget in a hurry.
VW has packed a whole host of safety features into the car, such as anti-lock brakes with hydraulic brake assist, electronic stabilisation programme, traction control, a driver alert system, automatic post-collision braking and plenty more.
Admittedly, the Golf R comes with a fairly hefty price-tag – £36,335 with optional extras fitted – and there will be regular trips to the fuel station with a combined economy of 40.9mpg (if driven with respect!).
But, in all honesty, for the sheer enjoyment this car brings it is worth every last penny.
VW Golf SV S 1.4 TSI 125PS five-door 7-speed DSG
If it’s space you want with all the quality, style and dynamics that a VW Golf offers then the new SV model could be just the ticket.
It’s the third version of Golf alongside the hatchback and estate models but is the company’s latest take on an MPV – at 4,338mm long it’s 134mm longer than the Golf Plus that it replaces. Yet it remains shorter than the Golf Estate.
There is greater interior space for all occupants and flexibility is a key factor too with a 40:20:40 split bench in the back and the seats can slide forwards or backwards to increase passenger or luggage space as required.
The boot has also increased in size compared to its predecessor and now boasts a capacity of 500 litres with the seats in the rear-most position up to 1,520 litres with the rear seats folded flat.
The Golf SV (originally meaning Sports Van but ditched by the UK marketing team because it’s not sporty or a van) looks great from any approach thanks to 15-inch wheels, black roof rails, a tailgate with integrated spoiler and plenty more besides.
And the interior is incredibly spacious and feature-rich with a whole host of techno treats to be explored. These include a 5.8-inch colour touchscreen with an eight speaker media system, DAB radio, CD player, Bluetooth connectivity, air conditioning with dust and pollen filter, plus stop/start technology.
So the Golf SV looks the business and has plenty of creature comforts, but how does it handle when put to the test?
The answer is rather well. The 1.4-litre petrol-driven engine delivers plenty of power and acceleration is both smooth and responsive as the car moves effortlessly through the seven-speed automatic transmission.
It takes 9.9 seconds to reach 62mph from a standing start and tops out at 121mph. Admittedly it’s not the fastest Golf around but it’s certainly one of the most practical and also delivers a creditable 54.3mpg on a combined run.
The driver benefits from excellent all-round visibility and comfort levels are also very impressive for all occupants.
As one would expect VW has packed a comprehensive range of safety features into the Golf SV, such as anti-lock brakes, hydraulic brake assist, electronic stabilisation programme, traction control, post-collision braking system, numerous airbags and lots more.
The test car was priced at £22,595 which included £535 extra for metallic paint.
All in all, the new Golf SV is a great addition to the already impressive line-up and it adds extra versatility and practicality to the range.
VW Golf R Cabriolet 2.0 TSI 265PS
With the first signs of summer, Volkswagen picked the perfect time to show off its first ever R open-top Golf and what a cracker it is too.
Attention-grabbing from every angle, the Golf Cabriolet looks beautiful with its sleek streamlining, LED daytime running lights, bespoke front bumper with gloss-black grille and R logo, gloss black door mirror casings, heat insulating tinted green glass, black painted brake callipers with R logo, smart alloys, fully automatic electric power hood and smoked LED tail lights being just a handful of the dazzling design features.
The interior is just as impressive. There is a simplistic, yet stylish and very practical feel to the cabin with all controls, dials and readouts perfectly positioned for driver usability.
Techno treats are plentiful within the richly-equipped car and include Vienna leather upholstery, decorative inserts in the dash and door panels, a six speaker audio system which is compatible with all modern day media devices, DAB radio, Bluetooth connectivity, plus front and rear parking sensors.
Then there are the bi-xenon headlights with automatic range adjustment and dynamic curve lighting, automatic lights and wipers, dual zone climate control, heated front sports seats with the R logo embroidered into the head restraints plus a whole lot more besides.
So the new Golf Cabriolet looks stunning and is packed to bursting with quality features, but that’s just the start because this car really ups the ante when it comes to driving dynamics and thrill-seeking experiences.
At the first hint of sunshine, the hood can be lowered via a switch in nine seconds at speeds up to 18mph. Should a sudden shower appear on the horizon, the hood can be raised almost as quickly in 11 seconds.
There are four individual seats for occupants and the boot is fairly generous in size for an open-top car. The 60:40 split-folding rear seats mean that the storage capacity can be increased if required.
But as I mentioned, this car is all about the thrill of driving. The sprint time from 0-62mph is just 6.4 seconds and the top speed has been limited to 155mph – making it the fastest ever production open-top Golf.
The 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine delivers incredible power and acceleration through the six-speed automatic transmission is very rapid indeed.
The road-holding and cornering is flawless and tight bends are attacked and conquered with ease.
Comfort levels are good although visibility isn’t the best especially with the roof raised, but that’s my only criticism of this beautifully-crafted vehicle.
VW has fitted a comprehensive range of safety features to the Golf Cabriolet including anti-lock brakes with hydraulic brake assist, electronic stability programme with electronic differential lock and traction control, a rollover protection system, numerous airbags and plenty more.
All in all, the Golf R Cabriolet is a brilliant newcomer and given the right driving conditions will deliver hours of fun.
Okay, it’s not cheap – the test model was priced at £38,770 – but for that outlay you are guaranteed a high performance car that really puts the wow back into driving.
VW Golf SE 1.6 TDI 105PS 5-door
It’s a brave move to fix something that’s not broken, but Volkswagen has just made its latest generation Golf model bigger, lighter, more economical and generally better than ever before.
Sales may have topped the 29 million mark over the years, but that hasn’t stopped VW from making radical changes from top to bottom.
But fear not, for the car is still instantly recognisable as a Golf and once you get behind the wheel there’s no mistaking its quality.
The seventh generation car is 13mm wider, 56mm longer and 28mm lower than its predecessor and that adds up to more interior space and much more legroom for back seat passengers.
But somehow VW has waved its magic wand and reduced the car’s weight by inspecting every component and reducing its bulk and that has resulted in new models being up to 23 per cent more fuel efficient.
Features such as automatic stop/start and regenerative braking have been incorporated into every model and helped achieve such impressive figures.
And potential buyers cannot fail to be impressed with the number of built-in features and techno treats – most of which now come as standard.
The 1.6 diesel model in SE trim is expected to gain most attention, so that was the model I put through its paces and, believe me, it didn’t disappoint.
The first attention-grabbing aspect is the Tardis-like interior. The new Golf can easily accommodate two six-footers in the back and they are treated to plenty of leg, head and shoulder space.
And there will never be any luggage restrictions because the boot is generously-sized and can be increased further thanks to 60:40 split-folding rear seats. Designers have been very clever with this car and even the parcel shelf can be detached and after a couple of minor adjustments, stored under the boot floor.
The main console has been angled towards the driver and all dials and readouts are ideally positioned for ease of use and there is a whole host of built-in creature comforts such as a 5.8-inch touchscreen infotainment system, a great audio system with eight speakers, DAB radio, SD card reader and compatibility with all modern music devices.
Elsewhere there are electric windows, semi-automatic air conditioning, Bluetooth connectivity and a multi-function computer that offers driving tips to help maximise fuel efficiency such as when to change gear.
Comfort levels are very high and there is a very safe and secure feeling to the Golf in general.
But it is performance that attracts so many Golf fans and they won’t be disappointed. Although the test car isn’t the fastest model on offer it still sprinted from 0-62mph in 10.7 seconds and topped out at 119mph. Carbon emissions are just 99g/km which means plenty of financial incentives and the fuel economy on a combined cycle is a staggering 74.3mpg.
Road-holding is superb and acceleration through the five—speed manual transmission both smooth and responsive.
Despite being just 105PS, the diesel-driven engine certainly packed a punch and there was a constant supply of power at your disposal at all times.
As one would expect, VW has kitted out the Golf with a comprehensive range of top notch safety features, including anti-lock brakes, electronic stabilisation programme, traction control, hydraulic brake assist, automatic distance control, a driver alert system, numerous airbags and plenty more besides.
This particular model also featured an incredible Park Assist system which increased the £20.5k asking price by £590. By utilising this feature, the car will not only park itself, but also drive out of tight parking spaces and even park lengthways into multi-storey type bays.
And it’s innovations such as these that will keep the seventh generation Golf ahead of the chasing pack in a highly competitive market place.
Volkswagen Golf BlueMotion 1.6 TDI 105PS
It may have three decades of experience under its belt but somehow the Volkswagen Golf seems to get better with age.
Being one of the UK’s best-selling models, it needs little introduction, but the BlueMotion technology featured on the test model may be a little less familiar.
It is this technology which makes the Golf stand out from the crowd for all the right reasons. That’s because it combines outstanding fuel efficiency, low carbon emissions and still delivers an excellent all-round performance.
Admittedly it’s not the fastest out of the blocks reaching from 0-62mph in 11.3 seconds, but there is a constant supply of power at your disposal even at higher speeds as the 1.6-litre diesel engine propels it along to a top speed of 118mph.
But the clue to this car’s success is the efficiency, boasting combined fuel economy of 74.3mpg with emissions at just 99g/km.
However, unlike some rival “economy” vehicles, the Golf has maintained its well-established good looks and instantly recognisable styling.
And with improved aerodynamics thanks to a rear spoiler, sports skirts and sports bumpers the car looks dynamic from all angles.
There are regenerative brakes, low resistance rolling tyres and an automatic start/stop function – all features that help to save fuel.
The five-speed manual transmission is responsive and the driver is treated to excellent all-round visibility which makes city centre driving much safer.
The interior is bright and spacious with ample room for four adults to travel in comfort.
The boot is a good size too and can be increased by folding the rear seats flat.
And there is plenty of on-board technical wizardry to keep you occupied too.
Features include a great audio system with CD player and MP3 compatibility, semi-automatic air conditioning, DAB radio, a multi-function computer which prompts gear changes to maximise efficiency, Bluetooth connectivity, cruise control and lots more besides.
VW has packed a comprehensive list of safety features into the car, such as anti-lock brakes, hydraulic brake assist, numerous airbags, electronic stabilisation programme and plenty more.
All in all, the VW Golf has matured into an all-round favourite and with a £21k price tag it won’t break the bank either.
VW Golf Cabriolet SE BlueMotion 1.6 TDI 105PS (5-speed manual)
Following a lengthy nine year absence the VW Golf Cabriolet has made a long-overdue comeback and it’s better than ever before.
Although our weather system is not always the kindest to convertible drivers, that glimmer of dry weather means roof down, wind-in-the-hair driving – and there’s nothing better.
But it’s essential that if you get caught out by a sudden shower, the roof can be raised in seconds and the Golf does just that – 9.5 seconds to be precise and you can raise or lower it whilst moving up to speeds of 18mph.
There have been a number of design tweaks here and there, but this car is still instantly recognisable as a Golf. Even so, look out for the new light clusters, reinforced fabric roof and strengthened window frames.
However, the first thing that really impressed me was how quiet the cabin is with the roof raised. It boasts the same qualities as a hard-top convertible which is quite an achievement.
Buyers will have a choice of six engines and there are three trim levels – S, SE and GT. VW believes the most popular model will be the SE 1.6-litre TDI BlueMotion 105PS, so it seemed fitting to put that car through its paces.
The cabin is nice and spacious and comfort levels are exceptionally high with the body-hugging sports seats offering plenty of support.
The test model had heated, black leather seats (£2,160 extra) which contrasted beautifully with the interior design of the car with its large, solid, anti-glare dashboard and flashes of matt chrome inserts in the door panels and fascia.
Creature comforts are plentiful and include a leather-trimmed multi-function steering wheel, an excellent sound system compatible with all the modern devices, dual-zone climate control with dust and pollen filter, front and rear parking sensors, cruise control and plenty more.
So the Golf Cabriolet looks great, has an abundance of wizardry on board, but how about the performance?
Once again, it delivers on all counts. The 1.6-litre, diesel-powered engine offers plenty of power and acceleration and the five-speed manual transmission is also very smooth, although on more than one occasion I was reaching for a non-existent sixth gear.
In busy traffic, the Golf cruised effortlessly through the traffic and parking in tight spots was made all the easier thanks to those sensors.
Then, out on the faster roads, the Golf seemed to come alive. Road-holding was excellent even on wetter surfaces and the general handling seemed flawless.
The test model boasted stats of 0-62mph in 12.1 seconds with a top speed of 117mph. The combined fuel efficiency is 64.2mpg and the carbon emissions 117g/km.
The read-outs are clear to see without taking your eyes off the road thanks to two large circular dials and there are plenty of steering wheel-mounted controls too, although they were a little fiddly to operate initially.
Storage is catered for in the fairly generously-sized boot which can be expanded further thanks to split-folding rear seats and there are several smaller storage options throughout the cabin.
As one would expect, VW has packed plenty of top quality safety specifications into the vehicle such as anti-lock brakes, hydraulic brake assist, electronic stabilisation programme, numerous airbags and lots more.
The test model was priced at £23,245 (plus £2,520 optional extras).
To sum up, it’s great news that the Golf Cabriolet has made a welcome return and it’s likely to prove as popular with its adoring public as any of its predecessors.
Volkswagen Golf Estate SE 2.0 TDI 140PS
IT seems to have been around for donkeys years, but the Volkswagen Golf just goes from strength to strength.
With a reputation for being reliable, affordable and packed to the rafters with top-of-the-range technology, you would think VW would be hard-pressed to improve on such a popular model, but you would be very wrong.
And that’s because with every new release comes improvements on the specification list, performance, economy and the occasional tweaking on the design front too.
The model supplied for my test drive – the 2.0-litre estate – boasts a sharper, sportier look than predecessors but still keeps that distinctive Golf look with neat streamlining and powerful lines. Colour-coordination is definitely all the rage on this model with bumpers and wing mirrors all blending in neatly with the main body theme.
Inside, the Golf is instantly recognisable for its unique style of layout. It’s one of those cars that you could be led to blind-folded and when the interior was unveiled it would take a nano-second to recognise it as a VW.
That’s not to say its bland though, because the Golf is crammed with quality features – it simply has that reassuring familiarity about it.
The driver and passengers are treated to a whole host of creature comforts including semi-automatic air conditioning, electrically-adjustable and heated door mirrors, electric windows all round, automatic safety lights that see you to and from the car at night, rain sensors, automatic dimming rear-view mirror, cruise control and bags more.
There is plenty of space for up to five adults to travel in comfort, and being the estate model they can take along all the luggage they want.
And all this for less than £21k – not bad, eh?
And when it comes to the drive itself, you are never disappointed. In and around town, the lengthy Golf Estate is easily manoeuvred and the driver benefits from excellent all-round visibility.
Then out on the more open road, the 2.0-litre engine bursts into life, delivering plenty of power and the manual six-speed transmission was also very responsive.
The Golf boasts a whole host of safety features including anti-lock brakes, hydraulic brake assist, electronic stabilisation programme, numerous airbags and a great security system to keep away any uninvited attention.
All in all, the new Golf Estate seems to be going from strength to strength and it’s easy to see just why it appeals to so many buyers including the fashion-conscious, the business driver, family motorist or simply anyone who enjoys an active lifestyle.