Volkswagen Golf review
The latest Volkswagen Golf is irritatingly good in all of the key areas. In fact, it may be the only car you will ever need
Now in its seventh generation, the Volkswagen Golf hatchback celebrated its 40th birthday in 2014 and its longevity is testament to how much of a popular choice it is amongst buyers.
The Volkswagen Golf Mk7 was launched in 2013 and despite being slightly wider and longer than its predecessor, it's approximately 100kg lighter thanks to its lightweight MQB chassis. These underpinnings are shared with the Golf’s Volkswagen Group sister cars – including the Skoda Octavia, SEAT Leon and Audi A3.
It isn't exactly cheap but the car's appeal lies in its top-quality cabin, sophisticated driving experience and decent practicality. Volkswagen offers a huge range of common-rail diesel TDI and turbocharged petrol TSI engines throughout the Golf range all of them being decent performers with regard to fuel economy and emissions.
For buyers wanting the ultimate in Golf economy, there is also the Volkswagen Golf BlueMotion.This super efficient version is so frugal, it actually betters the Honda Insight and Toyota Prius for fuel consumption and emissions.
In addition to the entry-level S, which gets a Bluetooth phone connection and a digital radio as standard, Volkswagen also offers the mid-range Golf SE (16-inch alloy wheels and cruise control) and the sporty-looking GT, which gets big-car tech such as front and rear parking sensors, as well as a sat-nav system.
For keen drivers, there is, of course, the original hot hatch, the 198bhp Volkswagen Golf GTI (and a 181bhp diesel variant called the GTD). These days the GTI is available with a power upgrade to 227bhp courtesy of the Performance Pack. and beyond that there’s an even hotter Golf R which produces a huge 296bhp and has four-wheel-drive.
If the regular hatchback shape isn't your thing, Volkswagen also makes the Golf in a variety of other body styles - the Golf Cabriolet, Golf Estate and the new Golf SV people carrier. All models are also available with either Volkswagen's six-speed manual gearbox or its excellent seven-speed DSG automatic.
Our choice: Golf 2.0 TDI SE
There's no denying that the latest Volkswagen Golf can't quite match the Mazda 3 or the SEAT Leon for head-turning appeal. What the Golf may lack in the wow factor department, however, is made up in cool Teutonic understatement. The Golf manages to look classless.
This seventh generation car may not appear overly different to the Mk6 Golf but changes under the skin are comprehensive and there are key visual tweaks outside too. For example, this latest incarnation of Volkswagen's hatchback now features a bold crease that's cut into the flanks, and this gives it a low, sportier stance.
However, it's the interior of the Golf that's really impressive. The wraparound dash looks a little Spartan, but look closer and you'll see Volkswagen has laid it out intuitively, putting it together using first-rate materials. Soft-touch plastics feature throughout, while eye-catching metal-effect trim covers the centre console.
Better still, the switchgear in the Golf operates with precision and the car’s low-slung driving position is one of the best in the business. It's also a nice surprise to find that the flat-looking seats are surprisingly supportive.
The Golf's understated looks aren't particularly helped by the entry-level Golf S having steel wheels and plastic rims. However, move slightly higher up the range and things get better quickly. The SE model is fitted with 16-inch alloy wheels, plus some tasteful chrome trim for the front grille and lower air intake.
To mark their performance orientated remit, the Volkswagen Golf GTD and GTI models feature bespoke bumpers and 18-inch alloy wheels. The stylish black tartan cloth seats and the golf ball gear knob on both manual and DSG automatic versions are also a nice nod to the hot Golf’s history.
The Volkswagen Golf R comes with 18-inch alloy wheels, too, but you can also opt for 18-inch rims. The Golf R gets a unique bodykit, redesigned lights and quad exhausts.
The Volkswagen Golf has always delivered high levels of comfort and refinement and it's good to know the latest Golf Mk7 is no exception.
Even at motorways speeds, the Golf features hardly any wind or road noise and it's almost ghost-like over bumps - it just glides over them. Progress can be made even more fluid by choosing the adaptive damping system as an option.
In addition to the effortless ride, Volkswagen has made the Golf engaging to drive. Drivers benefit from well weighted steering, a precise gearshift and strong brakes, while an electronic differential helps deliver sharp turn-in to corners and extra traction when exiting. Overall then, the Golf is always composed and inspires confidence in its driver.
Furthermore, Volkswagen fits all Golf models with more than 118bhp with a sophisticated multi-link rear axle to help improve handling. It is, however, also worth noting that the eco-friendly BlueMotion models drive slightly differently to other models as a result of a series of modifications designed to maximize economy.
In terms of gearboxes, both the manual and automatic DSG are precise, and on the latter, there is also the option of steering wheel-mounted paddles.
The Volkswagen Golf Mk7 finished a strong 18th in our 2014 Driver Power customer satisfaction, while Volkswagen as a manufacturer finished 19th out of 33 manufacturers.
Volkswagen has ensured that one area in which the Golf excels is safety. All cars get seven airbags, ESP and post-collision braking, while our SE adds a city safety kit. Extras such as lane-keep assist and an auto braking system are also available - no surprise then that the Volkswagen Golf achieved a five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating
If you’re looking for a significant flaw in the Golf’s make-up, you won’t find it in the practicality department. Once again, Volkswagen’s hatch ticks the important boxes in some style.
Rear passengers get plenty of head and legroom, while the wide, flat bench seat should take three people without too much of a squeeze. Elsewhere, Volkswagen has given the Golf lots of handy storage space, which includes a deep cubby under the front armrest between driver and front passenger, a large air-conditioned glovebox and numerous cup-holders. Buyers also benefit from vast door bins that are flock-lined to stop their contents from rattling around noisily on the move.
As ever, the large VW boot badge doubles as the tailgate release and opening it reveals a well-shaped 380-litre boot. Better still, there’s a wide opening and low load lip, while below the false boot floor is a handy hidden storage area.
Useful additions to the load space include a 12V power supply and a pair of bag hooks, plus there’s a ski-flap for longer items. If you need more room, you can liberate a generous 1,270 litres of capacity by folding the 60:40 rear bench.
Volkswagen has ensured that the Golf is very easy on the wallet - so much so that even the racy 2.0-litre GTI returns an impressive 47.1mpg with CO2 emissions of 139g/km from its petrol TSI engine.
If, however, properly frugal motoring is your thing, then it's worth looking at the Golf BlueMotion. Powered by a 1.6-litre diesel TDI engine, it returns 88.3mpg and emits 85g/km of CO2, meaning it beats the equivalent Ford Focus ECOnetic.
Our choice of engine for the Volkswagen Golf is the 2.0-litre TDI that produces 148g/km and returns an incredible 68.9mpg with 106g/km of CO2. Throw in the automatic DSG gearbox, and figures improve to 72.4mpg with CO2 emissions of 102g/km.
In addition to the 2.0-litre TSI engine found in the Golf GTI and Golf R, there are 1.2 and 1.4-litre TSI units that use the similar turbocharging technology.
The 1.2-litre powerplant with 83bhp returns 57.3mpg with CO2 emissions of 113g/km, while the 105bhp variant puts out 114g/km and returns the same mpg. What's more, the 105bhp engine can be mated to the automatic DSG gearbox and when it is, it returns 56.5mpg with CO2 emissions of 115g/km.
The 1.4-litre unit has either 140 or 122bhp. When combined with the latter, it manages 53.3mpg as well as 123g/km of CO2. Again, when combined with the DSG transmission, this figure drops.
The Golf GTD is powered by a 185bhp 2.0-litre TDI diesel engine and it returns 67.3mpg - the 150bhp version of the same engine found on the Golf GT manages the same figures.
Our experts predict the Golf will still be worth an impressive 48.2 per cent of its new value after three years. As a further financial