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
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 launch of each new version. The latest addition to the range is the Golf Estate, which is 21cm longer than the hatchback to accommodate the extra boot space. 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. We tried the mid-range SE model with a 1.6 TDI and DSG.
Our choice: Golf Estate 1.6 TDI SE
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.
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. While the finish is sombre, the brushed dark metal trim, chrome highlights on the dash and light-coloured headlining mean it’s not as oppressive as, say, a Kia Cee'd Sportswagon.
Fire up the Golf’s 1.6-litre TDI engine and you’re greeted by a familiar diesel rattle. 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. Those 16-inch alloy wheels make for a composed ride, and the Golf is a very comfortable cruiser in town and on the motorway. The 1.6 TDI diesel engine only feels underpowered at higher speeds.
This latest Golf is still relatively new, so it’s too early to judge how reliable it’ll be in the long term. However, 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.
The Golf Estate has a 605-litre boot – that's only five litres smaller than the Octavia’s and 77 litres bigger than the Kia’s. 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.
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. At £23,150, the Golf SE costs £10 more than an Octavia Elegance with DSG, although you’ll have to spend £1,140 extra to add sat-nav and climate control and bring the kit tally up to the Skoda’s level. The trade-off is stronger residuals, while VW currently offers a three-year or 30,000-mile servicing deal for £299.