Volkswagen Golf review
The Mk8 Golf offers cleaner engines, an updated interior and the latest on-board tech, but it can’t quite reach the top of the class.
Volkswagen has approached revisions to the new Mk8 Golf with a huge focus on tech and digital functionality. But, at what cost? This family car motoring icon has long-reigned supreme, combining classy looks and practicality while also being good to drive. The Golf is still comfortable and a pleasant place to be, but chassis revisions have compromised the ride quality, particularly over poorer surfaces, and there’s intrusive road noise at speed.
When you buy a Golf you expect quality throughout, but the latest model doesn’t feel head-and-shoulders above the rest. Time hasn’t necessarily caught up with the Mk8 Golf, but the less-expensive competition certainly has.
About the Volkswagen Golf
The Volkswagen Golf is like no other hatchback currently on sale. With a famous history dating back to 1974, it’s taken on all-comers with continual success thanks to a fine blend of handling, practicality, great build quality and a classy image.
Over time, Volkswagen has adopted the ‘if it ain't broke, don’t fix it’ approach for the Golf. Evolutionary styling updates, an increasingly high quality feel to the cabin and a succession of capable engines have secured millions of customers, and the German manufacturer has broadly followed this strategy with the eighth-generation model.
The new Golf is based on the Mk7’s MQB Evo platform, which is used across a variety of other VW Group cars including the SEAT Leon and Skoda Scala - direct rivals in the family hatchback class. Other mainstream competitors include the Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Vauxhall Astra, and Peugeot 308, while for those looking towards the premium end of the hatchback market, there’s the Audi A3, Mercedes A-Class and BMW 1 Series. In addition, buyers shouldn’t discount the much improved Kia Ceed, Hyundai i30 and Renault Megane.
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The Mk8 Volkswagen Golf is available in five-door hatchback and estate body styles, which also includes a more rugged all-wheel-drive Alltrack variant.
Volkswagen has kept the Golf model range simple and easy to understand with four equipment levels covering the core of the range. Entry-level Life trim offers generous amounts of kit and new on-board tech, including a digital instrument display, a 10-inch colour touchscreen and wireless smartphone charging as standard. Upgrading to Active specification brings rear privacy glass, climate control and a heating function for the front seats and steering wheel.
The Style model should prove to be popular, adding items such as larger 17-inch alloy wheels and sports seats with upgraded upholstery, while the dynamic R-Line spec brings lowered suspension and an exterior styling pack giving a more muscular stance.
Petrol engine choices include a 109bhp 1.0-litre and a 1.5-litre unit with either 128bhp or 148bhp - all offered with a six-speed manual transmission, while there’s also a 148bhp 1.5-litre eTSI mild-hybrid version coupled with a seven-speed DSG auto ‘box. The more powerful GTI delivers 242bhp from its 2.0-litre TSI petrol engine, while the GTI Clubsport/Clubsport 45 and R models offer 296bhp and 316bhp, respectively.
For those prioritising fuel economy, the Mk8 Golf comes with a 2.0-litre diesel engine in three power outputs - the standard 113bhp variant is available with a six-speed manual gearbox, while the meatier 148bhp version and 197bhp GTD use the seven-speed DSG auto. Buyers can also opt for the 242bhp 1.4-litre GTE petrol plug-in hybrid or the 201bhp e-hybrid version - both of which offer exceptional fuel economy and low CO2 emissions.
Volkswagen continues to charge premium prices for what it considers to be the class-leading family hatchback currently on sale. Entry-level 1.0-litre cars start from around £23,000, and the range tops-out at almost £40,000 for the GTI Clubsport 45.
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In this review
- 1Verdict - currently readingThe Mk8 Golf offers cleaner engines, an updated interior and the latest on-board tech, but it can’t quite reach the top of the class.
- 2Engines, performance and driveVolkswagen offers the Golf with new mild-hybrid tech, along with its usual blend of strong, refined petrol and diesel engines.
- 3MPG, CO2 and running costsMild-hybrid petrol engines help boost efficiency, while improved diesel units offer buyers lower emissions and more range.
- 4Interior, design and technologyThere’s a subtle exterior design, but the cabin is crammed full of new tech and useful features.
- 5Practicality, comfort and boot spaceIt’s a case of ‘as you were’ for the Mk8 Golf, with first-rate levels of comfort and just enough practicality.
- 6Reliability and safetyThe new Golf is as safe as ever, but Volkswagen will want improved customer satisfaction.