Volkswagen Golf Estate review
VW's Golf Estate offers style and space, and is a great alternative to the Kia Cee’d SW and Toyota Auris Touring Sports
The Volkswagen Golf has long stood as the benchmark family hatchback. However, those in need of a bit more space should look towards the more versatile Estate version – as it adds all the boons of the standard car, with a bigger boot and more practical interior.
There's a lot to like about the Golf Estate, with all models benefitting from strong engines, impeccable build quality, and rock bottom running costs. It's based on the scalable MQB platform, too, which underpins everything from the Golf and Skoda Octavia, to the Audi TT and upcoming SEAT SUV. We're huge fans of the Golf and its Estate sibling, and no matter what your requirements, there should be an engine, transmission and trim to suit all tastes.
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Much has been made of the latest VW Golf’s step up in quality – and that quality will continue making its presence felt with the vast amount of flavours the Golf is offered in. The Golf Estate builds on the success of the hatch – adding an extra 21cm to its length and an additional 225 litres to the boot. It’s available in S, SE and GT trim, with 1.2 and 1.4-litre TSI petrol or 1.6 and 2.0-litre TDI diesel engines, plus either a manual or seven-speed DSG auto gearbox. A fuel-sipping Bluemotion model is also offered.
Those wanting a bit more poke can opt for the fast but frugal GTD Estate or the range-topping Golf R Estate – with the same fire breathing 296bhp turbocharged engine from the hatchback. It's a real treat to drive, and can shame some far more expensive sports cars in a straight line. Four-wheel drive is standard on all R models.
Alongside the more conventional cars, VW also offers an Alltrack variant, designed for increased comfort and off-road use. It features a modest 20mm boost in ride height, comes fitted with permanent all-wheel drive and is offered with a variety of 1.6 and 2.0-litre TDI diesel engines from the standard Golf range.
Engines, performance and drive
The Golf Estate is available will all the same engines as the hatchback, bar the potent 2.0-litre GTI. All cars are good to drive, and make light work of the extra metal hanging over the rear wheels.
All Golfs have an electric handbrake, which frees up space on the centre console, while the handbrake’s auto hold function helps to deliver hassle-free hill starts. You can opt for Volkswagen’s latest seven-speed DSG twin-clutch gearbox, which delivers seamless changes whether you use the shift lever or let the electronics take control. If you do the latter, the car tends to select the highest ratio possible, although it kicks down instantly whenever you need extra power for overtaking.
In corners, the Golf feels agile, with crisp turn-in and plenty of grip. SE models and above come with Driver Profile Selection, which adjusts throttle and steering response according to which setting you use. But while you can turn the traction control system off, there’s still some electronic intervention if the car senses any instability. The smaller 16-inch alloy wheels on entry-level models make for a composed ride, and the Golf is a very comfortable cruiser in town and on the motorway.
There's a wide range of engines available across the Golf Estate range. The 1.6 TDI diesel engine only feels underpowered at higher speeds, but we'd opt for the more powerful 2.0-litre as it offers a decent blend of performance versus efficiency.
The Bluemotion does get a fraction more power than the basic 1.6 TDI – 4bhp to be exact – plus the five-speed gearbox has been replaced by a smoother six-speeder. Firm low-rolling resistance tyres are also fitted which do disrupt the ride slightly around town, but it is still comfortable on the move.
Those after a bit more speed can select the faster GTD or R versions. Both offer a surprising turn of pace – with the range-topping R featuring grippy four-wheel drive. Unfortunately, there's no petrol-powered GTI at the moment, so if you want one of those, you're restricted to the smaller (but still practical) hatchback.
Lastly, is the capable and stylish Alltrack, which features raised suspension and four-wheel drive. It's as capable off-road as any compact SUV, with seamless power delivery from the all-wheel drive system over uneven surfaces and enough ground clearance to tackle steep inclines.
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MPG, CO2 and running costs
All models in the Golf range get stop-start as standard, plus the electronic handbrake with auto hold function. The Driver Profile Selection also includes an Eco mode that adjusts the air-conditioning and throttle response to improve fuel efficiency.
The 1.6-litre diesel Bluemotion model is the only variant in the range to offer tax-free motoring with emissions of 92g/km – that’s only a few grammes up on the equivalent hatchback. VW claims you will be able to return 80mpg, which is matched by the mechanically identical SEAT Leon ST Ecomotive. VW also offers a more powerful 2.0-litre diesel plus a 1.2 and 1.4-litre petrol engine, which are smooth but aren’t as efficient returning just over 55mpg.
Perhaps surprisingly, all Golf Estate models sit in the same insurance groups as their hatchback equivalents. The entry-level 1.2 sits in group 7E, and the popular 1.4 Match is in group 14E. Move up to high-powered models are pricier, with the GTD at 26E and the R at 34E.
A Golf SE costs about the same as a high-spec Octavia Elegance with DSG – and that's without spending extra on sat-nav and climate control to bring the kit tally up to the Skoda’s level. The trade-off is stronger residuals, though, as the VW is likely to hold its value better over three-years or 36,000 miles.
Interior, design and technology
The Volkswagen Golf Estate has never set the world ablaze with its looks, and it’s a similar story with the latest car. You get the same simple, no-nonsense styling as the Golf hatchback, while SE models have 16-inch alloys that look smart, but are a bit lost in the wheelarches. Additions to the estate include roof rails– finished in silver on GT models – and 21cm of extra bodywork behind the rear wheels. It’s still 10cm shorter than a Skoda Octavia Estate, though.
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The Estate’s rear end is shaped similarly to the hatchback’s, but the number plate has moved from the bumper to the tailgate. And just like on the hatchback, the VW badge doubles as the boot release handle. Overall, the Golf Estate appears functional rather than dramatic. Inside, save for a slightly different view in the mirrors, you could easily believe you’re sat at the wheel of a Golf hatchback. Build quality is first-rate and the cabin has a neater layout than found in the Skoda Octavia Estate – especially around the centre console.
The new Alltrack model adds some rugged appeal with a raised ride height, chunky front and rear bumpers and unique alloy wheels. It's the most dramatic looking of all the Golf Estate options but it does come at a price.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
Inside, the Golf Estate will feel very familiar to drivers of the hatchback models. All cars come with at least a 5.8in colour touch screen, while a larger 6.5in screen is standard on high-spec cars and optional on others. This allows drivers and passengers access to navigation, CD and radio functions. A huge 8in screen can be specified at extra cost, too.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
The Golf Estate is a roomy and practical car. Floor space is similar to what you get in a Skoda Octavia Estate, too, with a metre between the wheelarches. The back seats don’t fold flat, but there’s no step in the floor and it’s a metre wide for its full length. Plus, the false floor is level with the boot lip, and there’s a deep carpeted recess underneath that can accommodate both extra luggage and a space-saver spare wheel. There’s also a ski hatch in the backrest, while the seatbelts don’t get tangled in the seatbacks when you put them back up.
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The VW Golf sits between the SEAT Leon ST and Skoda Octavia Estate in terms of overall length – but there's only really a few millimetres in it. This is translated into bootspace, too, whereby the Golf sits bang in the middle of its siblings, boasting a 605-litre load bay. Weirdly, the Golf is the tallest but the thinnest of the three. Again, only by a few millimetres.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
Considering the Golf Estate sits below the Audi A4 and VW Passat in the Group's model range, it still offers a surprising amount of space inside. There's loads of head room and plenty of leg room, plus the driver and front seat passenger benefit from all the adjustment you'll find in the already versatile hatchback. The Skoda Octavia is bigger still, but few will complain about the space on offer.
The VW Golf Estate gets a huge 605-litre boot, which expands to 1,620 litres with the rear seats folded down. It's an extremely versatile car, and while the seats don't go completely flat, they do offer a decent (long) load area. There's a false floor, too, which allows owners to hide valuables out of sight.
Reliability and Safety
The Golf has always been a dependable car, and the current version is no different. The Mk7 Golf came a credible 30th place overall in the 2015 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey, placing it above a number of key rivals.
It’s based on VW’s new MQB platform, which was designed to be used under a wide range of new models, so it’s been thoroughly tested before entering production. There have been some cases of high-mileage VW DSG gearboxes suffering from juddering, but this has affected only a small percentage of cars and the issue will have been rectified in the latest models.
The new Golf achieved the maximum five stars in its Euro NCAP crash test, and has similar percentage scores to the Skoda Octavia Estate. The SE model gets adaptive cruise control and a driver alert system as standard, while optional driver aids include Park Assist, automatic lights and wipers, PreCrash occupant protection and lane-keeping assist. The latter can help you stay in your lane by making small steering adjustments, although in practice this seems quite unnerving and means the steering feels light and wayward in your hands.
VW’s three-year, 60,000-mile warranty is about average by industry standards, although you can extend it, at extra cost, up to a maximum of five years or 90,000 miles.
The service schedule for the Golf is every 12 months or 10,000 miles, whichever is the sooner. Fixed-price servicing is available from VW dealers, although VW doesn’t offer the sort of low-cost all-in servicing package that many rival manufacturers do, so costs are likely to end up being higher than some competitors.