Compact Family Car of the Year 2018: Volkswagen Golf

The Volkswagen Golf is the 2018 Auto Express Compact Family Car of the Year, with the Mercedes A-Class and Skoda Octavia commended

The Volkswagen Golf is a constant in this class, and yet again it’s taken the title of Best Compact Family Car. That’s for a multitude of reasons following the successful facelift last year that subtly revitalised the formula, tweaking the styling, adding new engines and extra safety tech to the line-up and improving the infotainment on offer.

VW didn’t mess with the core of the car and the elements that make the Golf so appealing, though. So the latest Mk7.5 model still sets standards for comfort (you can improve this further with optional adaptive dampers), refinement and upmarket appeal, thanks to its premium-quality cabin and materials.

Any family hatchback needs to deliver practicality – and the Volkswagen doesn’t disappoint, with more than enough space for most families, as well as plenty of clever storage touches that make living with the car easy.

The Golf’s simple but sharp styling and neat details don’t affect its usability, which was enhanced by the Discover Navigation infotainment system that comes as standard on even more modest trim levels.

The sharp screen and hi-res graphics look slick, while it responds to your inputs quickly and offers plenty of tech, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Infotainment is an increasingly important area for buyers in every segment, and the Golf serves up just what you want at an affordable price, plus it’s backed up by a thoroughly well-engineered mechanical make-up.

On the move the car delivers a compelling blend of comfort, refinement and driver engagement, while the engine line-up offers a strong mix of performance and refinement.

The pick of the bunch is still the 108bhp 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol powerplant, because it’s smooth and punchy but capable of nearly 60mpg. The balance is shifting towards petrol across the board, and although the diesel options here are still strong, this 1.0 TSI makes them largely redundant.

There’s much more on offer under the bonnet, though. Eco fans will be thrilled by the all-electric e-Golf, while performance purists are catered for by the iconic GTI or the even faster, four-wheel-drive Golf R.

After more than 40 years and seven generations, Volkswagen has honed and evolved the Golf to the point where it’s still the undisputed compact hatch class leader.

Our choice

Volkswagen Golf 1.0 TSI SE Nav 5dr (£21,025)

For our choice we’d keep it simple and stick with an SE Nav model because this offers all the kit you could want for the least outlay. Adaptive cruise control, AEB, sat-nav and that brilliant infotainment system are all included as standard, while the 1.0-litre TSI petrol engine effortlessly combines enough pace with impressive efficiency.

Commended

Mercedes A-Class

Mercedes A-Class tracking front

The new A-Class has advanced this sector in one key area: infotainment. While Mercedes’ larger twin-screen set-up and augmented reality nav is a pricey option, it brings a tech treat to the hatch’s slick interior. The A-Class can’t quite match the Golf’s ride or refinement, but improved packaging and a premium feel make it more compelling than ever.

Skoda Octavia

Skoda Octavia - Front

Skoda’s Octavia hatch uses the same platform as the Golf, but is even more practical, so if usability and budget are your biggest concerns, look no further. The Skoda isn’t as glamorous as its award-winning sibling, but the value on offer and the vast boot make it a fine choice for buyers who want more for less.

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