Volkswagen Golf review
The new VW Golf is an outstanding car, blending quality and efficiency better than many rivals
The first Volkswagen Golf arrived back in 1974, and since then more than 29 million have been sold across the world. Now in its seventh generation, the latest Golf has shifted the goal posts onto another pitch. The styling may be evolutionary, but its blend of talents is outstanding – it’s a difficult car to fault. It uses the manufacturer’s innovative new MQB platform – which it shares with the Audi A3, Skoda Octavia and SEAT Leon – that will eventually form the basis of everything from the next Polo to the Passat. Whichever version you choose, the Mk7 Golf is well equipped, fuel efficient and decent prices, too. It also offers enough space for a family, excellent refinement, a decent ride and superb quality. The new Golf Estate was revealed at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show, alongside production-ready versions of the new Golf GTI and GTD. The former gets a 605-litre boot, and with the rear seats folded this increases to 1,620 litres. The new Golf GTI is powered by a 217bhp 2.0-litre TSI but is also available to order with a new Performance Package, which ups the power to 227bhp. The GTD gets an 181bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine that can accelerates from 0-62mph in 7.5 seconds and return fuel economy of 67.3mpg and CO2 emissions of 109g/km. The Mk6 Golf Plus and Golf Cabriolet are still on sale, along with two performance versions of the soft-top – the Golf GTI Cabriolet and Golf R Cabriolet.
Our choice: Volkswagen Golf 2.0 TDI SE
Volkswagen has opted for an evolutionary look for its latest Golf, but the design has been honed with fine details like the angular tail-lights, shoulderless doors and sharp creases that cleverly lower the stance of the car. Its compact dimensions compared to the Octavia means it looks more purposeful and there’s no denying the premium appeal of the Volkswagen badge. But it does look a bit plain compared to some rivals, like the SEAT Leon. The interior is smart but very similar to that of the Skoda Octavia, bar for a centre console that’s angled towards the driver and slightly more complex switchgear on the steering wheel. There are just three trim levels to choose from – S, SE and GT – but all cars are well equipped. Entry-level S cars get a 5.8-inch colour touchscreen, Bluetooth and air-conditioning, but do without alloy wheels. SE trim adds 16-inch alloys, a city safety system, adaptive cruise control, automatic wipers, four driving mode settings and brushed stainless steel trim on the interior. Range-topping GT cars come with luxuries like 17-inch alloys, tinted rear glass, sports suspension, gloss black interior trim, parking sensors and sat-nav.
The BMW 1 Series and Ford Focus still have the edge on driving fun, but the Golf still scores well here. The beautifully cushioned ride and well weighted steering give the Golf a dynamic advantage over its MQB siblings, the Octavia, Leon and A3, and for most people most of the time, they’ll have plenty of fun behind the wheel. All the engines are smooth and punchy, but what’s most impressive is the level of refinement. The 1.2 TSI petrol and 104bhp 1.6 TDI diesel have a less sophisticated torsion beam rear suspension, rather than the multi-link setup fitted to more powerful cars, but you barely notice. Whichever engine is fitted, this is a very refined car. And that’s in terms of cabin noise and ride comfort – the Golf will soak up lumps and bumps well, but not totally detach you from what’s happening on the road. The 2.0-litre TDI is the pick of the range thanks to its 148bhp output and upgraded rear suspension, while both the six-speed manual and optional seven-speed DSG automatic are very precise - although steering wheel mounted paddles are optional on the auto version.
The new Golf scores well on safety kit and it has a full five-star crash test rating from Euro NCAP. Standard kit includes ABS, ESP and a full complement of seven airbags, while additional safety kit from lane keep assist to auto braking system, is also available. It’s just a shame that some of the most advanced equipment is only available as an optional extra. Although Volkswagen finished a distinctly average 18th as a brand in the 2012 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, the Mk6 Golf finished a very impressive eighth. It achieved an overall score of 88.75 per cent, thanks to strong results in all categories – owners particularly praised its strong brakes and impressively low running costs – and this latest car should be better still.
The Golf hatchback doesn’t offer the acres of space the Skoda Octavia manages, but it does offer more than enough room for a family of five to travel in reasonable comfort. The 380-litre boot is much bigger than the 316 litres offered by the Ford Focus, but it lags far behind the Honda Civic, at 477 litres, and the Octavia, at 590 litres. However, the boot is nice and square, there’s a low loading lip and the parcel shelf can be stored under a false boot floor rather than having to be left at home if you want to carry a bigger load. The rear seats fold at the pull of a lever to create a 1,295–litre space, while the front passenger seat will also fold forward for carrying long items of luggage. If you need even more space, the new Golf Estate will arrive in UK showrooms in the summer of 2013 and offers all the space you could need. There’s plenty of head, leg and shoulder room in the back for two adults to stretch out in comfort, and lots of useful stowage space, including a pair of large, flock-lined pockets in the front doors.
No matter which engine you go for, it will come with BlueMotion technology that includes a stop-start system and brake energy recuperation as standard. This helps to keep emissions low and fuel economy high – especially with the full BlueMotion model, which returns hybrid-beating economy figures of 88.3mpg and emits just 82g/km of CO2. The entry-level 1.2 TSI manages 57.6mpg and emits 113g/km, while the 1.6 TDI does 74.3mpg and emits a road tax free 99g/km of CO2. But even the performance models should be fairly cheap to run, as the Golf GTD claims fuel economy of 67.3mpg and CO2 emissions of 109g/km (that’s 12mpg and 20g/km better than the old car), while the Golf GTI is said to return 47mpg with the standard six-speed manual gearbox, and CO2 emissions of 139g/km. Prices are competitive, too, while residual values should be very strong. Volkswagen also offers a tempting service pack that every buyer should consider – it makes sense to cover three years’ maintenance for just a few hundred pounds.