Volkswagen Golf

It's a third category win in as many years for VW's family favourite

Why it won...

The all-conquering Golf has turned winning Auto Express road tests into an art form. Volkswagen’s family favourite has taken 37 years to evolve, and it shows, because there’s barely a chink in its armour. Over the past 12 months, it has seen off the challenge of hotly anticipated newcomers ranging from the talented Ford Focus MkIII to the innovative Nissan Leaf electric car.

The beauty of the handsome hatch is that there is something in the range for everyone, from the entry-level 1.2-litre TSI petrol to the hot diesel GTD. Whichever model you choose, you’re guaranteed the best cabin quality in the sector, as well as superb refinement and affordable running costs.

Video: watch CarBuyer's video review of the VW Golf

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What’s more, the Golf leads the way when it comes to minimising your fuel bills. The standalone BlueMotion variant has already notched up a succession of road test victories, and the BlueMotion Technology models add the benefits of stop-start, brake regeneration and low-rolling-resistance tyres to run-of-the-mill versions of the car.

So 12 months after scooping the compact family car crown for the second time, the VW has completed a hat-trick. It continues to set the class benchmark, and with its spacious cabin, 350-litre boot and comprehensive line-up, the big-selling hatch is arguably one of the best new car buys there is. You can find more stylish, practical or dynamic choices, but no rival can match the Golf’s wide range of talents and flawless all-round performance.

Our pick: The 1.6 TDI Match is the sweet spot of the Golf range. There isn’t a bad engine in the line-up, and the TSI petrols are smooth and willing, but this model’s 104bhp diesel strikes the best balance between performance and efficiency. 

Highly commended

Ford Focus Ever since it reinvented the family car sector in 1998, the Focus has been a force to be reckoned with – and the third generation is no exception. The latest range of EcoBoost turbo petrol engines brings it bang up to date, and hi-tech kit like DAB radios and Bluetooth is standard across the range.

Skoda Octavia The thinking man’s family car is the pragmatic choice. While it won’t win any prizes for style, the brilliant Octavia can’t be ignored. A spacious cabin and huge boot make it a cut-price alternative to a full-sized family hatch, and you get the same engines and gearboxes available in the Golf.

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