We already know that the new Volkswagen Golf has what it takes to challenge the class leaders in the compact family car class, but how does it fare on UK roads? To find out, Auto Express grabbed the keys to one of the first examples to hit British soil.
Based on the same lightweight MBQ structure as the recently launched Audi A3 and forthcoming SEAT Leon, the Golf promises to be bigger, faster and more refined than the model it replaces, while also being cleaner and more efficient.
However, VW has played safe with the styling of the seventh-generation model. It looks sleeker and sportier than the old car, but trademark cues such as the upright tail and thick C-Pillar mean that you could never mistake this for anything other than a Golf.
Any lingering disappointment will be banished the moment you climb aboard, though. First rate fit and finish, top-notch materials and a slick design mean the Golf easily beats the more expensive BMW 1 Series for upmarket appeal.
There are plenty of gadgets and gizmos to play with, too, as all models in the line-up get Bluetooth, a DAB radio and a brilliantly user-friendly 5.8-inch infotainment touchscreen.
Better still, SE and GT models get a whole host of desirable big car kit, including adaptive cruise control and a city safe collision mitigation set-up.
The VW is also wider and longer than before, so occupants in the back get slightly more head and legroom, while boot capacity swells to 380 litres.
Unfortunately for its rivals, the Golf is even better on the move. The steering is well weighted and precise, grip is strong and body control is second to none. Add the optional £795 Adaptive Chassis Control dampers and, in Comfort mode, the VW glides over bumps like an executive saloon.
Better still, the 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel is a smooth and eager performer, while there’s barely any wind and road noise – few cars at the price are as relaxed and refined on the motorway.
So, are there any chinks in the VW’s armour? Well, not really. And with prices starting from £16,285 for a 1.2-litre TSI in entry-level S trim, there should be a Golf to suit every budget.