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New Volkswagen Golf Black Edition 2024 review: budget GTI hits the right notes

The current Volkswagen Golf Mk8 signs off in semi-sporty style

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

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Verdict

The VW Golf Black Edition is the modern-day equivalent of the Mk2 Golf Driver. It offers the sporty looks of the Golf R, but with a more modest powertrain, albeit one that delivers decent everyday performance and a 4MOTION system that boosts its all-season ability without impacting too heavily on fuel economy. The usual caveats around the Golf's touch-sensitive controls remain (caveats that the forthcoming facelift will immediately rectify), but the Black Edition at least ramps up the kit levels to make the outgoing model's foibles more bearable.

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With 50 years of production under its belt, plenty of Volkswagen Golf variants have appeared over the years. At the top of the range, badges such as GTI and R have established the Golf's hot-hatch credentials, but other models have tapped into the sporty theme while keeping more modest power under the bonnet.

Back in the Eighties, the Golf Mk2 had its familiar GTI and GTI 16v variants, but beneath them in the line-up was the Golf Driver. It featured the same black wheelarches, steel wheels and quad headlights as the GTI, but under the bonnet was a modest 1.6-litre or 1.8-litre carburetted engine instead of the fuel injection unit from the real GTIs. It established the formula of offering sporty looks but without the power to back them up.

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Fast forward to today, and the Mk8 Golf Black Edition tested here does a similar job. It's an upgrade of R-Line trim, so it has a bodykit and lowered suspension that's designed to emulate the Golf R flagship, but the engines are tuned for efficiency over power. VW's 148bhp 1.5 TSI is available in the Black Edition with manual or auto gearboxes, but VW has also added a unique powertrain to the line-up, a 187bhp 2.0 TSI with auto box and 4MOTION four-wheel drive.

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From the outside, the Black Edition does a relatively convincing job of looking like a Golf R. The lowered suspension, 'R' logos (which refer to the fact the Black Edition's roots are in R-line trim) and gloss-black details give it a sporty stance, while the 18-inch black alloys look smart, and there's LED lighting all round, including an illuminated strip across the grille. Perhaps the biggest visual clue to the Black Edition's more modest potential is at the back, where the rear bumper has mouldings that look like quad exhausts, but are blanked off.

It's a similar story inside, where the Black Edition takes the R-Line and adds part Alcantara seat trim on the sports seats, a leather wrapped heated sports steering wheel and carbon grey dashboard inserts for a sportier touch. Unlike the old Golf Driver, the Black Edition isn't left wanting for kit, with VW's excellent Digital Cockpit dials, and slightly less impressive Discover Media touchscreen infotainment system with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a frustrating set of touch-sensitive controls.

The 187bhp 2.0 TSI turbocharged petrol engine is a reasonable performer, and a 6.7s 0-62mph time would've been seen as pretty healthy in the days before electric cars. It means the Black Edition delivers decent pace, and with maximum torque from 1,500rpm, it's a tractable unit. The twin-clutch gearbox delivers smooth shifts up and down, too, making it easy to make the most of the Golf's powerplant.

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And as ever, the chassis delivers decent handling, and is refreshingly alert and responsive. VW's XDS electronic diff lock is included, and this helps the Golf hold on to a tight line in corners, and while the variable rate steering doesn't offer much feedback, the rack is quick to respond to inputs.

In most instances, the four-wheel drive system isn't troubled by the power the Golf has to offer. Since it’s a reactive Haldex-based system, the Golf isn't really designed to head on country tracks like a Subaru, but it's reassuring to know it's there when you need it, and doesn't require you to select any special drive modes to activate it.

While the Golf is good to drive on a twisty road, it's also a decent performer at a cruise. The ride is well judged on its 18-inch wheels, with only the biggest bumps thumping into the cabin. There's a bit of road noise at motorway speeds, but it's nothing that would cause discomfort on longer journeys.

Model:Volkswagen Golf 2.0 TSI 190 4MOTION Black Edition
Price:£36,700
Powertrain:2.0-litre 4cyl turbo petrol
Power/torque:187bhp/320Nm
Transmission:Seven-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
0-62mph:6.7 seconds
Top speed:145mph
Economy:38.9mpg
CO2:165g/km
On sale:Now
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Senior test editor

Dean has been part of the Auto Express team for more than 20 years, and has worked across nearly all departments, starting on magazine production, then moving to road tests and reviews. He's our resident van expert, but covers everything from scooters and motorbikes to supercars and consumer products.

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