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In-depth reviews

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.

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

Price
£21,465 to £36,610
  • New mild-hybrid powertrain
  • Comfortable
  • Excellent safety levels
  • High list prices
  • Road noise and engine drone
  • Cabin doesn't feel as premium

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. 

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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.

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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.

Volkswagen has kept the Golf model range simple and easy to understand with three equipment levels available from launch. 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. The mid-range Style models 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.

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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. There’s also a 148bhp 1.5-litre eTSI mild-hybrid version coupled with a seven-speed DSG auto ‘box.

For those prioritising fuel economy, the Mk8 Golf comes with a 2.0-litre diesel engine in two power outputs - 113bhp and 148bhp. The lower-powered oil-burner uses the six-speed manual gearbox, while the meatier variant is only available with the seven-speed DSG auto.

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 a steep £23,300, and the range tops-out at almost £30,000 for the 2.0 TDI in R-Line trim.

The Mk8 Volkswagen Golf is initially available as a five-door hatchback, although an estate and more rugged Alltrack variant are scheduled for later in 2020, along with GTI, GTD, GTE and R performance models.

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