VW Golf 2.0 TDI SE

1 Jan, 2013 12:00pm Mat Watson

We get behind the wheel of the new Volkswagen Golf to see if it still sets the standard in UK spec


VW has really moved the game on with the new Mk7 Golf, thanks to a hugely impressive interior and incredible refinement. It’s now such a complete car that rivals trail in its wake. There will be those who find it a little boring, predictable and maybe too mainstream, but as an ownership proposition, it is unquestionably the best model in its class.

We love the new Volkswagen Golf here at Auto Express. It impressed us when we first climbed behind the wheel in Sardinia, and then when we got our hands on a left-hand-drive model in Britain it blew away the competition in our group test. Now, we’ve driven a final UK-spec right-hand-drive Golf – and can report that it feels just as fantastic.

In fact, we could review it in only nine words: this is the only car you will ever need. But is it the only car you will ever want?

Not necessarily. Those looking for the finest-handling hatchback should get a 1 Series. If value for money is your key motivator, then wait for the new Skoda Octavia. And if it’s style you demand, no small family car turns heads like the new Mercedes A-Class. By comparison, the Golf looks a bit boring.

However, while it’s not the most exciting car in its class, it is the nicest to sit in. VW has raised the quality bar so high that the Mk7 not only feels more upmarket than its main rivals, it can also shame models from the class above.

Equipment is good, too. The entry-level version gets a 5.8-inch touchscreen with DAB radio, Bluetooth and iPod connectivity, but the sweet spot in the range is our mid-spec SE.

It adds goodies such as auto headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, cruise control and comfort seats which are so good, they’ve even won an award for being back-friendly.

In addition to the usual array of airbags and safety systems, the SE gets VW’s City Emergency Braking system, which can prevent accidents at low speeds. Comfort is another area where the Golf excels.

Even on the standard suspension it has the ride quality of a limousine, gliding over bumps in the road as if they’re not there. It’s also very quiet – at everyday speeds, you can literally hear a pin drop.

It helps that our car’s 2.0-litre diesel is so smooth as well as punchy. In fact, you could easily assume it’s a petrol turbo engine. There’s no mistaking the 2.0-litre TDI’s efficiency, though: VW claims it can return 68.9mpg.

A key reason for this strong economy is the Golf’s low kerbweight. The MkVII is 100kg lighter than its predecessor, and this also means it’s more agile and fun – if not quite Focus fun.

There’s a vast array of cabin storage spaces, and the boot now has 30 litres more room than before, at 380 litres. A lower lip makes it easier to load, and an adjustable boot floor is standard. Space in the back is generous enough to accommodate three adults, although the transmission tunnel gets in the way of the middle passenger’s feet.

So nothing is perfect – not even the new Volkswagen Golf. But it gets pretty close. And while it’s not the cheapest, best-handling or most attractive model in its class, it’s up there on all fronts. As we said back at the beginning, it really is the only car you will ever need.

Disqus - noscript

£22k is very reasonable for a quality car such as this. BMW 3 series of a similar price are not quicker, in fact they are dog slow, and you have to pay a lot more money to get a quicker BMW. The Golf above is 0-62 in 8.6 secs (BMW 316d - 0-62 10.9 secs; 318d 9 secs; and a 320d (far more expensive at nearly £30k) is just 8 secs - barely 1/2 a second quicker). Therefore, there's no way a BMW of a similar price can be called faster than a Golf! With regard to looks, well many people now regard the 3 series as just plain ugly from many angles, whilst the Golf is a subtle, and yet stylish and very good looking in the flesh. Also, what's with the BMW "Premium badge"? Cars should be judged by the book, and not the cover - look at the car, not the "badge". There's no way I'd have a 3 series over a Golf - and judging by the number of Golfs costing £25 - £30k on the road, many people feel the same.

Why do journalists just accept manufacturers statements - 'The MkVII is 100kg lighter than its predecessor'.

Not when its a 2 litre diesel it isn't!

From Volkswagen website

MkVI - Unladen weight - 1351Kg

MkVII - Unladen weight - 1354Kg

This isn't a 'road test', this is just a trip round the block, dressed up with a lot of words. First thing I'd question is the mpg figures, what did you acheive ?, you can't say ?, I rest my case

Well I know we expect AE to say the Golf is the best etc, But I have to agree, just sitting in the previous model make you realise you are sitting in the best quality car in it's class. And if this one is even better then what can I say only well done VW for coming back.

Their cars from 01-09 were getting boring and cheap looking and reliability was getting poor, but looks like they have improved greatly from 09.

Just so people know they have that wonderful automatic cruise where it keeps you at the same distance from the car in front so you don't have to brake and accelerate all the time and it's very cheap along with normal cruise. It's supposed to be a wonderful safety function, maybe your insurance will come down a little ?

OK I'll bite.... "it’s not the cheapest, best-handling or most attractive model in its class" But we'll give it top marks anyway?

Golfs just all a bit... well... yawn? Or to use another current popular phrase - vanilla?

Yes it's OK. AE still bangs on about Focusville but the Ford product after 3 years and 75000 miles is worthless and very expensive to keep replacing all the bits that fall off or break and Ford refuse to replace under warranty as there is "no budget in that model!" It boils down to the dealers and VW's are patchy - either good or awful, no half way.

Jeez, are you certain? If that's true, this is quite a cover-up, especially by AE and it's 'Journalists'.
Any comments AE???

"Equipment is good, too. The entry-level version gets a 5.8-inch touchscreen with DAB radio, Bluetooth and iPod connectivity"

Are you serious? The touchscreen is good, but the rest (BT, iPod connection) is utterly normal and available on cars costing less than half the cost of the VeeDubb.

Just for the record also, according to the VW website, the 'S' model is only available with the 1.6 diesel engine at £19,565! Only a thought but, it SHOULD be well finished and drive well for that money! My money is going elsewhere.

Gotta love the VW haters, bring it on. The new Golf is stunning. No Hyundai, Kia, Focus etc compared to it's quality. BMW and Mercedes would be expected to be better.

Did you not click the engines tab?? the 1.6 is just a example engine. the 1.2 starts at £16,285

I'd love to be a Golf designer, especially on the exterior. A couple of minor tweeks here and there every five years and I could take the other 4.9 years off! Incredibly dull, but then again - it's a VW, so it's had the charisma bypass. I'm sure it will be a phenomenal success, especially with those of the middle classes who aren't interested in cars - they are welcome to it!

Thanks for your comment Jack.
I was referring to the article which only makes reference to the 2.0 diesel. I was simply clarifying that the 'S' model is not available with this engine. The 'base' 2.0D SE therefore, costs a whopping £22,015!

Couldn't agree more Barney. It's funny how the testers' criteria always changes to suit a VW. For any other car, being expensive, not the best handler, and boring to look at would relegate it to the back of the class - but not the Golf!
Badge mind-control at it's best.

Oh I see. The 1.6 S model is 19,500. but for the extra grand the SE is worth the upgrade. I don't think for the spec the SE 2.0 TDI is that bad. £20 road tax and 65+ MPG which isn't even book figures.

Yep, fair comment Jack. VW expect the SE to be the best seller. Makes you wonder if the 'S' is priced abnormally high to make the 'SE' look comparatively good value?
I sat in an 'S' last Thursday and can verify that there is a good feel to the interior and it's nicely finished; just a little drab. Scratchy plastics around the transmission tunnel also (wasn't expecting that).
Other cars are available though costing a lot less with more equipment.

Wait 'till you see it before proclaiming it "Stunning" Jack, in the flesh, it really is quite dull, much like a bigger Polo.
If it's quality you're looking for, why not the A3? Now that really is superb inside and there's a 5-door available soon.

Dull? Well BMW and Audi, are just like VW, in that the styling hardly changes when a new model is introduced. So if your saying VW is dull, then the same must be said of them too. But it never is, is it? Why is it only the Golf that is singled out for this treatment by VW haters? Subtle changes in styling is a deliberate policy, as most people like the existing shapes, so why change? It's what identifies a 3 series as a 3 series, a Golf as a Golf, and an A3 or A3 as an A3 or an A4. They've all just had subtle changes over the years, and the Golf is no different to other premium cars. Only Mercedes change, and that is unfortunate, as they are now turning out some truly awful designs. You say peopel who like Golfs are not interested in cars - well I am a car fanatic - and I love the Golf (as many other car fans do) as it is one of the best cars in the world.

Steve, the facts are widely publicised. It can all be answered in factual terms:

BMW were widely critized by Journalists and the public for many years in the 'Bangle' era, their solution? - Sack Chris Bangle and replace with Adrian van Hooydonk in 2009. Their designs are looking much better than old. I'm actually looking forward to next years' introductions.

Audi have also been utterly lambasted for it's design, Wolfgang Egger's solution has been to recently announce a total shift in design direction centred on Technology. This shift has been instigated primarily to give the cars' more distinction between ranges (because they are far to similar).

For me, the only interesting current VW designs are the Scirocco (getting old now tho), the Beetle & the excellent UP! Even the [incredibly bias] press have expressed their concerns about the design philosphy.

Mercedes have been widely praised however, and even this article makes reference to the A-Class being a head-turner (with the Golf being a 'bit boring'). Long may that continue.

You're obviously a Vee-Dub 'fan' Steve, but use your head, not your heart. The Golf is a genuinely well resolved motor vehicle and probably the best in class, but it is uttely dull to look at! Perhaps, maybe, your visual tastes have mellowed and you now require something that is simply 'inoffensive'?

Steve - I didn't say that people who like golfs aren't interested in cars - suggest you reread my comment. I do happen to think that VAG are the worst culprits - in Audi's case the differences between their models are very subtle indeed and not a great marketing decision - why buy a £72,000 A8 when you can have a virtually identical-looking A4 for a third of the price? Of course, no-one IS buying A8s! Like most car enthusiasts, I'd like to see a move away from the anodyne styling of recent years. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, for sure, but I'd rather look at a car and think that's great/that's crap than think nothing at all. As it happens I drive an 2010 F10 530D which I bought for £25k in March with 4500 miles on it. I did look at a new Golf GTI and it was a good drive but..........

Sit in a Gt that's what I looked at, gloss finish is nicer than the brushed effect. Sat nav and LED lighting looked smart as well. Plenty of competition out there but the Golf is going to be very strong. Less people buy cars with "cash" more lease it over 3 yrs so I reckon it's now more to do with monthly figures, apr etc.

Well, as it happens Jack, I am going to view an GT 2.0TDi 5dr (RRP £23,965)tomorrow.
I've just had a lease quote for a Kia Cee'd 4 Tech (RRP £24,060) for a 3+35 15k non-maintenance deal at £271.14 + VAT. As everybody knows, lease payments are calculated using predicted residual values after the lease period. Cars that hold their value well are cheaper than those that are residual dive-bombers. With that in mind then, I am very optimistic that the Golf will be cosiderably cheaper than the KIA.
I'll keep you posted :-)

Not strictly comparable - RWD saloon vs. FWD hatch.

Different strengths and weaknesses.

For me a FWD hatch wins on practicability, as I'm always carrying stuff that won't fit in a boot - bike, camera gear etc.

You take your choice, but either car makes a good ride.

On the hindsight I may've used similarly priced BMW 1-Series for comparison. I was not trying to say that the saloon is better than hatchback or vice versa. I was saying that the VW may have been over ambitious in pricing this Golf.

Halo models make up only a tiny fraction of the car's sales. I'm waiting for a review of the 1.2L 85bhp car which will make the bulk of this car's sales.

In addition to weaker engines entry-level cars have an inferior suspension. Tom Phillips has driven the 1.6L diesel and scored it 4 stars. He writes: "The problem is it doesn't quite provide the precision and control you need at higher speed."

We're going to have to agree to disagree on this, and that's a good thing for car fans, otherwise the roads would be very boring if we all liked the same thing. We all have different taste and what looks boring to one person, looks great to another. Also, what is garish & horrible to someone, another person will be stood next to them thinking it looks great. It's down to personal taste. No one can say it's a "fact" or things have "been quoted". One set of facts can be countered by another. As I say, it's all personal taste - Mercedes widely praised? - well I've read reviews, where many of the blogs attached them them have said the A series is an absolute stinker with regard to it's styling - which is my view too (although I do like the long bonnet).

I think the Golf is a wonderful looking car, stylish, clean smooth lines, slick etc & yes, understated (which is what many people like). Many Golf buyers love the look of the Golf. I have a silver Mk6 160 TSI with 18" wheels, and it looks absolutely stunning - fantastic to my eyes. When we bought it, our friends & neighbours all said what a great looking car it is! When ever I see a black GTi on the motorway, I think that that too looks immense - wonderful looking car. To me the Golf (and Audis) stand out as something stylist & slick against what is rapidly becoming a very garish motoring world.

We'll never change our different tastes, and that is a good thing, and although everyone must have their say (we all enjoy a good natter about cars) I do get a little tired of the VW haters constantly saying that Golf styling doesn't move on & is boring - it does, slightly, each year (similar to many other German cars (other than Merc) - ok I'll give you the change in Bangle's horrible 5 series - and that, for the majority of buyers is just what they want. The type of cars I like are.. Golf, CC saloon, most Audis, porsche, Aston, 3 series e46 coupe - they've all got smooth lines, and yes understated. Cars that I consider (from some angles) garish horrible: 1 series (horrid form any view), new 3 series (from the front), the previous 5 series, Minis in all varieties, Nissan Juke,1, A class (front & back), the last "bread van A class" LR Evoque (tries too hard to be stylish, but somehow manages to be garish!) etc... hopefully you get the idea.

I'll finish by saying that everyone loves the Aston. That hardly changes, even from model to model. It's beautiful, and yet it has clean, smooth lines. I would not call that boring! It's the type of thing I love. Long may it last, and I really hope no one never says the Aston is boring & in need of a change!

I agree with your list of the garish. Alas I also think Golf is unimaginatively boring, with the proviso that I don't know if I have seen one of the new ones yet but, if I have and haven't recognised it as such, it would confirm my point! Can't help thinking that if this approach to automotive styling had prevailed in the past then we would be buying new cars with running boards and split windscreens.
Cannot comment upon the driving characteristics.

I thoroughly agree with your point regarding tastes; the world would indeed be a boring place if we all drove the same car. I respect your opinion (everyone's entitled to it) and accept that the Golf is attractive to your eyes (as it is to many other peoples').

Ref the A-Class, I buy most magazines and have read most tests of the A-Class and don't recall a critisism of the styling, do you have a reference?

However, I think you missed my point, I was merely pointing out that the German manufacturers themselves have shifted direction thereby concluding that they themselves are not happy with their designs:

In response to a question about VW's design direction - Walter de'Silva is quoted as saying:

"With the electric Up, the Taxi and Bulli concept (launched in Geneva in March) the design is more product design. When I did a definition of 2011 it is the year of the ‘sympathy’. The Bulli and now the Beetle and then in a few months the electric Up – all these cars have a particular personality in the face, so that Volkswagen is no longer boring. These cars set the pace for a great evolution in our design".

The Golf at this time had not been launched, but as the design had been signed-off at the time and that it looks very similar to a Polo, we can assume that he included this in his response. At the days end though Steve, if WDS implies that current VeeDub styling is boring, what chance have you of convincing us that it's not?

Things are changing at VW (the 2015 Paheaton is the next gen), hopefully for the better :-)

Why your comparing a golf to a 3 series is beyond me? There have never been, and never will be in competition together!! You may as well compare the golf to a range rover and talk about how much better on fuel the golf is...

As for the badge. VW is the 'peoples car', hence why VAG have Audi. VW will never have the premium badge that Audi, Mercedes and BMW possess, no matter how good the cars they produce are... It is mostly just down to perception, but VW dealers are no where near as premium as their other german rivals, hence why to me, they are not a premium brand.

Key specs

  • Price: £22,015
  • Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl turbodiesel
  • Power: 148bhp
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 8.6 seconds
  • Top speed: 134mph
  • Economy: 68.9mpg
  • CO2: 106g/km
  • Equipment: 5.8-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth, iPod connectivity, Emergency City Braking
  • On sale: Now