Volkswagen Golf review
The new VW Golf is an outstanding car, blending quality and efficiency better than many rivals
The seventh-generation Volkswagen Golf has paved the way in the family hatchback class - rivalling the Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra and Renault Megane. The latest Golf uses Volkswagen's new MQB platform, which is also shared between the Audi A3, Skoda Octavia and SEAT Leon - it should also form the basis of the next Polo and Passat. The latest Volkswagen Golf Mk7 is nearly 100kg lighter than the old Mk6, while its dimensions are wider and longer, providing more room in the boot and extra passenger space inside. There's also a slightly lower ride height - it looks and feels a bit sportier.
This new Volkswagen Golf is a versatile family hatchback and there's a plethora of efficient engines to choose from, which can be had across a range of models including S, SE, BlueMotion, and GT. There's the choice of either a six-speed manual or an automative gearbox, and the new Volkswagen Golf is now available in estate and high-performance GTI and GTD versions. A Volkswagen Golf R was recently revealed at the 2013 Frankfurt Motor Show - this is set to be Volkswagen's fastest-ever hatch. Of course, the Volkswagen Golf Plus MPV and Golf Cabriolet are still available, too.
Some critics have said that the Mk7 Volkswagen Golf is too similar to the old model - this is perhaps made more evident with SEAT pushing the boundaries with the latest Leon. But the Volkswagen Golf has proved, if nothing else, that it's a sturdy, reliable car and with the 30 millionth model recently rolling off the production line, The Volkswagen Golf has the reputation to back this up. After all, there's no need to change a winning formula.
Our choice: Golf 2.0 TDI SE
The Mk7 Volkswagen Golf is defined by angular tail-lights and sharp creases that cleverly lower the stance of the car. However, its compact dimensions and understated looks mean it doesn't look as distinguished as some rivals, especially the SEAT Leon. The Golf's interior is comprised of Volkswagen's usual mix of high-quality materials and loads of equipment - there's even the option of a huge eight-inch touchscreen. The interior is quite similar to that of the Skoda Octavia, but the centre console has now been angled towards the driver. Volkswagen Golf trim levels include S, SE and GT versions, with entry-level S coming with a 5.8-inch colour touchscreen, Bluetooth and air-con. Meanwhile, SE specification adds alloy wheels (you don't get these on S versions), a city safety system, adaptive cruise control, automative wipers, four driving mode settings and a brushed stainless feel trim on the interior. The top-of-the-range GT cars get 17-inch alloy wheels, parking sensors, sat-nav, tinted rear glass, sports suspension and more. GTD and GTI versions get similar styling tweaks - bespoke bumpers, 18-inch alloy wheels, a very stylish black tartan cloth covering the sports seats and a golf ball gear knob on both manual and DSG automatic versions. The new 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. Buyers have the choice of eight exterior colours with the Golf R, too.
As the new Volkswagen Golf has managed to shed 100kg, it's a lot more agile than its predecessor. The cushioned ride and extremely well-weighted steering give the Volkswagen Golf the edge over its siblings, the Skoda Octavia, SEAT Leon and Audi A3. Admittedly, the Golf still isn't as fun to drive as a Ford Focus or BMW 1 Series. All engines are smooth and refined at motorway speeds. There's a 1.6 TDI diesel engine which manages 74.3mpg and returns a tax-free 98g/km of CO2. Also impressive is the fact that the 2.0-litre TDI diesel manages 68.9mpg and still returns 106g/km of CO2. The economical Volkswagen Golf BlueMotion version drives a bit differently to other models - with slower pace and compromised handling. Both manual and DSG automatic gearboxes are slick and precise, but there is the option of steering-wheel mounted paddles on the auto version. The new Volkswagen Golf R will get the same 2.0-litre petrol used in the GTI, but it gets a new cylinder head, pistons and turbo which have combined to boost its power to 296bhp - 30bhp more than the old Golf R and 69bhp more than a GTI with a performance package add-on.
The Volkswagen Golf Mk6 finished an impressive 16th in Auto Express' Top 100 cars while Volkswagen itself finished a fierce 16th in our 2013 manufacturer rankings. What this means is that the Volkswagen Golf is reliable, and not only this, as it shares the MQB platform with the Skoda Octavia, Audi A3 and SEAT Leon, it's tried and tested across a range of vehicles. It also scored a fantastic five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash test. Standard kit includes ABS, ESP, seven airbags with extras such as lane keep assist and an auto braking system also available.
The Volkswagen Golf makes a great choice for families - there's more room in it than ever before. Increased dimensions mean legroom in the back has improved by 15mm. Meanwhile, 380 litres of boot space is much more than the 316-litre boot found in the Ford Focus. You can fold the Golf's rear seats flat to create 1,295 litres of space - more than enough for carrying luggage and large items. Plus, the front passenger seat will also fold forward for when you need to carry longer items. There's lots of useful stowage space, neat seatbelt holders to stop them snagging when you fold the seats down and a ski hatch in the rear bench for posting longer objects through.
The cleanest Volkswagen Golf BlueMotion model uses a 1.6-litre TDI engine that returns 88.3mpg and emits 85g/km of CO2 - that's better than the 89g/km of CO2 emitted by the Ford Focus ECOnetic. There's a 1.6-litre TDI which emits a tax-free 99g/km of CO2, too. Meanwhile, the entry-level 1.2 TSI petrol manages 57.6mpg and emits 113g/km of CO2. On top of this, even performance models should be reasonably cheap to run - the Volkswagen Golf GTD claims fuel economy of 67.3mpg CO2 emissions of 109g/km, which is 20g/km less than the old Golf and almost an almost identical figure to the first-generation Golf BlueMotion. Even the high-performance Golf GTI manages 47.1mpg and emits 140g/km of CO2. The 2.0-litre TDI diesel offers a tempting balance of performance and economy - it promises 68.9mpg and returns 109g/km of CO2.