Volkswagen Golf Mk7

23 Nov, 2012 (All day) James Disdale

We get behind the wheel of the seventh-generation VW Golf on British roads for the first time


Volkswagen has made the best even better. The latest Golf is bigger, better and faster than before, yet it’s also cleaner and more efficient. On top of that, it’s packed full of the latest safety kit and boasts one of the classiest cabins in the business. It’s going to take something very special to knock it off its place at the top of the family hatchback tree.

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.

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body control is second to none yet the golf mk VII was the worst in the handling test of the german autobild and many other magazines vs the focus, astra, megane, giuletta and many rivals that are premium-while it isn't really, like the v40 1 series and only came close with the a-class...

I'd still go for the new 1Ltr Focus over this.

Here we go, wait for the VAG haters brigade to appear. Another winner, and if people understood why the Golf evolves, maybe they'd not be so quick to judge the resemblance to previous generations.

It's as silly to praise a vehicle one has never driven as to criticise it. We can only judge appearance and one would have to be a fanboy to spot any significant difference from the last model.

I have seen the car at the dealer, what a dull car. In the base versions the interior is all black with significant cheaper plastics than the more expensive versions. I hope the massive problems with the TSI engines are gone. The first impression was very disappointing, maybe the GTI will change my opinion. And no I do not hate VW I actually like the cars, not so the new Golf.
I really do not understand the enthousiasm of the author of this test, it is a good car but not exceptional, four stars not five.
I go for the Audi Sportback instead.

The one thing I don't really like about the Golf (and every VW Product) is... you don't feel your getting a 'new car' just a 'slightly improved' version of the old one.

They claim it will be the 'best golf ever' but really it just irons out any issues the previous model has. Sadly, VW's ethos is always 'evolution' not 'revolution'.

However, it will still well based on the badge!

The chink in the armour is the price, it is an expensive car as you move up the range. A 1.4 140 ACT GT petrol is 23K. Even a 1.4 122 SE petrol complete with torsion beam suspension is £19645 just under £400 less than only slightly lower spec but more powerful BMW 116i SE with multilink suspension. Oh and solid white is now an extra £200 "special paint"!

Totally agree with vagfan, watch and wait. New interior design, shorter overhangs and longer bonnet with more sporty design and styling. Looks impressive. Touchscreen audio starting in the base model sounds good.

If cheap plastic buttons are your liking then yes do. Eco boost engine is impressive but the Focus still feels cheap on the inside hence the price differences.

Ever considered if Ford charged the 'extra' the inside would feel as 'plush'?

Of course, that goes without saying. That is why I said " hence the price differences"

The new A class has looks to win new hearts against golf 'safe' looks

Seems to me that while they call this a road test the author has not driven the car. There is no actual reference to driving it ?

simple they got a contract with voltswagen for saying such comments. Nearly ever VW I have been in I have felt very uncomfortable and depressed being in it and driving it. Are you really happy driving a VW? Throw it into the ocean please for the love of god get some fresh car ideas out there.

23.5 k for a midlle of the road saloon

what a complete rip a previous reader says
pretty much the same old model tarted up ..yawn

Nice car but if VW released a brick Auto Express would give it 5 stars.

if it aint broke don't fix it. Im on my second Golf and cant wait to get the new one!!

What quality car do u drive?

why change a good thing?

I think you had better go back and read it again yes there is reference to driving it are byou word blind. As for VW this used to nstand for peoples car now I think they should add reich and make it a new badge that says REICHVW ( Rich peoples car ). And just to make it clear I am not a hater I am a quite happy previous VW owner, just truthful.

The question is IMO what will it drive like without the Multi-link rear suspension? Its all well and good giving the GT TSI and 2.0 TDI constant rave reviews but we all know these are just press cars loaded to the hill with extras designed to impress. Its ultimately going to be the 1.6 TDI SE that's the best seller, but if the lack of the mutli-link has a significant impact VW have a problem. This is why the entry level models are cheaper than before.

Over hyped.
Over priced.
Under styled.

JD Power survey 2012
7 Volkswagen Golf
Overall 45th=
A very average performance from the Golf for the second year in a row.
Owners found little to mark this car out from its rivals, but did enjoy
its driving dynamics, citing responsiveness, pace, stability at speed
and smooth gearchanges.

Seems like a lot of shallow people here are only interested in appearance and bling in order to impress their equally shallow friends.

The Golf is aimed at an adult market, where what it does and how it does it are the important factors.

"Handsome is as handsome does."

After 2 Golfs, a Passat, an Alhambra (VW-ish) and currently a Touran - I know why I buy VWs. I had a Toyota Verso briefly after the Alhambra but hated it and couldn't wait to swap back to a VW.

Everyone posting on here can have absolutely no idea as to how this vehicle drives so, until the new version is released, the look of the thing is all that can really be discussed . As regards the appearance, it seems to me that VW with the Golf have the same problem as BMW have with the Mini i.e. they have no real idea as to how to go about the much needed stylistic modernisation!
In the case of the Mini, BMW were misguided enough to put some of their ideas into production with ghastly results. VW are marginally to be preferred as they have just put in a few cosmetic tweaks which only VWphiles can spot. They then rely upon their docile customer base not to demand anything more enterprising.
This is really a depressing era for motor styling with very few vehicles escaping the naff (e.g. Countryman or Juke) on the one hand or the deadly dull VW group products on the other.

it has a rigid rear axle instead of independed suspension like Giulietta , focus, Volvo V40, astra and many others.
So in my opinion we are back to the golf mk3 in handling.
No review ever talked about the massive problems of the timing chains of volkswagen engines... Never a flaw to spot in the revieuws when it comes to VAG.
And when it is Fiat or alfa oh well they will search with the microscope until they find a flaw and then they make a macro picture of out it.
this is the golf mk Ikea from the F!VAG group don't get me wrong but on a car of this caliber I DEMAND INDEPENDED SUSPENSION

It might seem boring but establishing the weaker points of the last model and focusing on improving them for the next one is a sound principle and fits in with the evolutionary styling of the golf. The suspension options are also logical to me, matching less sporting suspension with less sporting engines. The cost saving can then be used to make the car more competetive in other ways which appeal more to the type of customers that buy those models. Its always hard to compare prices of different cars but it doesn't look to be much more expensive than equivalent rivals to me. Take into account the higher than average residuals and its pretty competitive.

The A class is a "safe" clone of a VW Scirocco

I agree totally about the Juke - it is the worst looking car that I've ever seen, naff, ugly and tasteless.

How much styling can you do to a hatchback? All the cars with styling flair are compromised to some extent, either in headroom or boot space and in order to improve that but keep the stylish shape, the car has to be longer or taller.

For a practical and spacious car on a compact platform, the Golf is a good compromise - it not ugly like a 1 series and it looks OK for what it is, by all accounts a quiet, comfortable, reasonable handling car with good room for four and their luggage.

I have owned coupes of all makes and sizes and which looked lovely but when the novelty has worn off, you are left with an attractive looking car with a performance that is impossible to use on todays crowded, pitted roads and one that is compromised severely in all the other areas, space, visibility. comfort, etc. I was going to buy a Vantage, which is really beautiful but the ride quality put it off my list PDQ.

"independent* suspensions" sorry wrote it 2x wrong. Shame on me!


Auto Express?
Sometimes I wonder if I am really reading VW Express or perhaps VAG express. This has to be one of the most tedious looking cars currently on sale. Over priced, and over hyped, I 'd rather take any of its rivals over this boring box.

when will ppl realise that VW reputation for reliability is a phallacy, just look at all the reports and surveys quality dashboards do NOT make a quality car - going by the children writing for this mag I'm guessing they fall for the quality dashboard and the fact that it's easy to sink their Apple portable musical devices

Just goes to show we're all different where looks are concerned. I like this tidy VW, dislike the blobby new A-Class.

Like a pursche no paint $3K option , next doors/windows/heat/glass you name option select on the purchase sheet .

Ford have been charging for white paint for ages..... It's very common. If you had your own business and something was selling particularly well wouldn't you increase the price if you knew you'd still sell as many?

The A class is smart apart from the fact someone forgot to install a sat nav place and then ran to the end of the factory line and just stuck one to the dashboard.....horrendous look!

Want something fresh and interesting with flair? Citroen DS4

Want the best ride and handling of any hatch? Ford Focus 1.0 Ecoboost

Need your ego massaging? Audi A3

Want an A3 but don't want to act like a sheep? BMW 1 Series

LIke sexy women and prepared to take a risk on her? Alfa Guilietta

Prefer your women a bit more handsome and dependable? MB A-Class

No imagination and lacking a sense of adventure? VW Golf

Most boring car ever produced

Having been a 2 car family for over 20 years and one of the cars having been a golf for 17 of those years, we have been in a position to compare cars side by side over a very long time. We have also owned Volvos Toyotas British Leylands (!!!) a Vauxhall, two BMWs and a Mercedes, most of these more expensive than the golfs. I must say that the golfs have been the easiest to live with and the most likeable cars that we have owned. Now that we are a one car family, what have we chosen to have? A golf of course.

To those VW haters among you, more specifically those that complain about the price and design evolution, I would ask three questions. Answer honestly if you can.

1) Try leasing a Golf or an equivalent Focus over 3 years and see which is cheaper over that period. Or buy and then sell it and see what the depreciation looks like.

2) Have a look round on the roads and see how many ten year old plus Golfs there in comparison to other manufacturers' products.

3) Look at those ten year old plus cars and think which look more generally dated and 'old', the golfs or the focuses or astras - if you can find many.

Have fun!

Key specs

  • Price: £23,465
  • Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl turbodiesel
  • Power/torque: 148bhp/320Nm
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 8.6 seconds
  • Top speed: 134mph
  • Economy: 62.8mpg
  • CO2: 106g/km
  • Equipment: Sat-nav, adaptive cruise control, Bluetooth, DAB radio, 17-inch alloys, sports suspension
  • On sale: Now