New VW Golf vs rivals

BMW 1 Series vs VW Golf and Ford Focus
5 Dec, 2012 10:30am

Can the Volkswagen Golf reclaim its family car crown? We test it against the 1 Series and Focus

Welcome to the most important test of the year. Until recently, the Volkswagen Golf was the undisputed king of the compact family class, but in the past 12 months it’s been overtaken by newer and more desirable rivals. So now there’s a new seventh-generation model – and it’s out to reclaim its crown.

While it looks similar to its predecessor, the Golf has a new lightweight construction, efficient new engines and a more spacious and upmarket cabin than before.

So has VW done enough to get back to the top? To find out, we grabbed the keys to one of the first cars in the UK – a left-hand-drive, German-registered model. The 148bhp 2.0-litre TDI GT is priced at £23,465 over here, and we pitched it against two talented rivals.

First up is our current class champ. The BMW 1 Series is great to drive, surprisingly practical, beautifully built and cost effective to run, and has hardly any chinks in its armour.

Representing the mainstream section of the market is the Ford Focus, which is comfortable and fun to drive. Factor in a tempting price and it’ll push any newcomer hard.

So, is the Golf back at the top of its game? All will be revealed in this test.


So has the new Golf done enough to reclaim its family hatchback crown? Yes... and then some. One of the best cars in the class has got even better, as this latest Volkswagen is bigger, faster and more efficient than before. Factor in its top-notch refinement, hi-tech safety systems, low running costs and spacious, upmarket interior, and it easily sets a new class standard. Yes, it looks a little expensive in GT trim, but then it comes packed with the sort of desirable kit that costs extra on its rivals.

Thanks to the Golf’s brilliance, the BMW tastes defeat for the first time. While the 1 Series is still great to drive, beautifully built and cost-effective to run, the VW makes it feel cramped and uncomfortable. A 118d would have got closer on performance, but it costs more to buy and run.

Still, the BMW beats the Ford. The Focus is brilliant to drive, attractively priced and comes generously equipped as standard, but it’s simply outclassed in this contest.

So after more than a year away from the top of the class, the Golf has reclaimed its place.

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I do not understand this comparison...

The Golf is £23,465, whilst the 118D is cheaper at £23,270. Therefore, it is the 118D that should be tested against this Golf. Also, when (please show me, in any review, any year, where a 1 series has ever held the crown for small family hatch back? "tastes defeat for the 1st time"??!!! and "can the Golf get back on top"??!!!.... What the heck are you talking about?? Very, very strange review.

I suspect the reason AE did not go for the 118D was due to the huge specification differential meaning that the cheaper model was probably a closer match.
However as you can quire easily get a 7% or greater discount on the Beemer then maybe the 118D would be still valid in this test.
I have to agree with you about AE's strange comment about the Golf taking the 1's crown. In all the tests in all the magazines I have read the 1 series very rarely comes out on top due to its price and its poor packaging. Autocar even calls it boring.

What surprise for AE, bmw and vw beat Ford who, apparently, are 'simply outclassed in this contest.'. By virtue of advertising budgets?

Can't see any huge specification difference. Just had a look down the specs lists, and specs for the 118D Sport (or Urban) are very similar to the Golf, although some of the Golf options are more expensive than the BMW. The Golf is faster/more powerful than the 118D, so it seems unfair on BMW to compare the Golf with a 1 series that's even lower down the range than the 118D!!.... as the Golf is even more expensive than the 118D. As I say, a very strange comparison. Also, I agree with sirwiggum, in so far as the Focus is an excellent car, but personally I'd have the golf. BMW finishes a poor 3rd... it's all long bonnet and a badge.

Vag haters commence.... Wheres Paul Hitchcock?!?!?

I think the 1 series will suit some keen drivers. I know that the image is me too because it is the most affordable BMW and that it is not very good looking but a 120d/120i with the electronic differential is giving keen drivers the choice to have some great fun when the conditions allow and the SE model has only 195 width tyres which will allow the chassis to be exploited in a similar way to the GT86.

I just looked at the title and's AE. And yup. I was right.

Here I am! Just read the other comments.

Forget paying more for a new Diesel, get a 1 year old GTI and convert to LPG and it will still be cheaper than diesel.
Diesel for vans and tractors!!!

Forget my name too, I'm no longer a diesel fan! :-)

Haha, I was expecting a sarcastic comment about the 'advertising favouritism' and fanboys from him aswell!

No, because the Golf is better built, better designed and BETTER full stop. Noticed it's the usual VAG haters out again.

And where did the Golf finish in the JD Power survey?
Style over substance?

Well you will be disappointed. Other people have made the necessary points.

Focus is king.

It's hard to call that design. Granted, 1 and focus are designed, but badly so it's hard to pick a winner.
Class leaders are now i30 and Cee'd. Among best looking inside and out, quality made with quality materials, best warranty, and most affordable with great equipment. But surely AE won't even mention them.

where did my comment get to?

PS basically said an expensive looking dashboard does not make a reliable quality car- most ppl fall into that trap otherwise no one would buy VWs , BMws OR auDIS SURELY
PPS muttering rotters also think linking their apple music players to the car MOST important - maybe you guys are getting spoilt and forgetting driving in the real world?

Dammit Paul, That has totally ruined my Xmas :(

seriously?! Kia and Hyundai?! My god have you ever driven these cars compared to a BMW and a VW you really need to hear how noisy the roads are and how cheap and nasty the plastics are in comparison. That's like comparing Primark and Emporio Armani Suits.....

Plus warranty is not as bigger deal as majority of new car customers change within 3 years.

Can see what you are saying but considering you spend most the time in the car and driving the car the interior is very important factor as well as many others of course.

VW build quality is average. They are competent cars but there is nothing special about the quality and reliability of modern VWs.

What do I care if my car has warranty when I sell it or not. Really isn't my problem. Also read exactly what the warranty covers after 3 yrs has passed. You'd be surprised.

Have driven the i10 and the C'eed and you can defiantly tell the difference in quality. All you have to do is shut the glove box.... You cannot compare Hyundai or Kia with any brand like Toyota VW Audi Ford etc. They are no where near as good hence why there is a huge price difference. If they were as good wouldn't everyone buy the cheaper brand?! Same as when you go shopping do you buy Heinz
beans or Tescos?!?!

Auto Express, Compare the New Golf with the New Toyota Auris as Toyota Claims to Target Golf with their new Auris & have even for the First Time Launched a Estate Version, to compete with the Golf Estate ! Not Intertested in the Station Wagaon though, would like to see how the Hatches Compare.