Volkswagen Golf review (2009-2012)

After 35 years at the top, the sixth-generation version of the family-friendly VW Golf remains the class benchmark

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.0 out of 5

Price
£23,560 to £35,215
  • Build quality, refinement, great to drive
  • Uninspiring looks, unimaginative packaging, expensive

On paper, the VW Golf looks pricy compared to its rivals. However, it also feels more expensive than other family hatches, thanks to its high quality cabin. Three and five door versions are available. It's good to drive, and engines offer good fuel economy. The GTI version is one of our favourite hot hatches. You’ll also get more of your outlay back when it’s time to trade-in, with predicted residual values of nearly 50 percent for diesel-engined models.

Our choice: 1.4 TSI Match 5dr

Engines, performance and drive

Refinement is the priority, even for top GTI models. Noise is kept to a minimum, making the Golf a relaxing long distance companion. On winding roads, it offers great composure and strong grip, but entry level models lack ultimate feedback. However, even the eco BlueMotion models are smooth torquey but buyers wanting a more involving driving experience should pick the GT, GTD and GTI models. All of these offer sports suspension, uprated brakes and more steering feel. Volkswagen's Adaptive Chassis Control (ACC) damping system offers separate sport, normal and comfort suspension settings. All versions come with either a five of six-speed manual gearbox. Buyers seeking hot hatch thrills can opt for the GTI model, which gets a 2.0-litre petrol turbo. The Golf R model is the most extreme evolution, and offers four-wheel drive.

MPG, CO2 and Running Costs

For best fuel economy, choose one of Volkswagen's BlueMotion technology motors. Available as a 1.6 or 2.0-litre diesel with either 104 or 138bhp, they offer an entertaining drive but with reduced running costs. The turbocharged and supercharged 1.4-litre TSI engine also offers strong blend of performance and economy. Scheduled servicing costs are reasonable and the Golf has strong residual values - with GTI and GTD models in particularly high demand, helping keep whole life running costs low.

Interior, design and technology

At the front you'll find Volkswagen Scirocco style grille and headlamps, while larger tail-lights feature at the rear. The look is subdued compared to the Renault Megane or Ford Focus, but the Golf's detailing - there are miniature VW badges inside the lights - is certainly impressive. Three trim options are available – S, Match and GT. Entry-level cars do without alloy wheels, while range-topping versions are distinguished by chrome detailing, fog-lights and large alloys. The interior is simple, but functional and looks upmarket. The top GTI and R models get a more aggressive exterior and unique interior trim while frugal BlueMotion cars get low rolling-resistance tyres and aerodynamic bodykits.

Practicality, comfort and boot space

The Volkswagen Golf has a spacious and comfortable interior and a generous, easy to access boot. The car is much nicer to ride in than the Renault Megane, for example, and thanks to its deep door pockets and cabin cubby holes, it's better suited to family life.

Reliability and Safety

If only everything in life was as reliable as a Volkswagen. A nice line, but a little optimistic, if owner forums are anything to go by. In recent years the VW Golf has suffered from a series of niggling faults with parts like the damped grab handles and glovebox locks. VW’s promises of a new focus on quality has resolved this. Safety meanwhile is first rate, and the MkVI Golf has a five star Euro NCAP rating.

Next Steps

Which Is Best

Cheapest

  • Name
    1.0 TSI Life 5dr
  • Gearbox type
    Manual
  • Price
    £23,560

Most Economical

  • Name
    2.0 TDI Life 5dr
  • Gearbox type
    Manual
  • Price
    £25,185

Fastest

  • Name
    2.0 TSI GTI 5dr DSG
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £35,215

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