Used Volkswagen Golf review
A full used buyer’s guide on the Volkswagen Golf covering the Golf Mk5 (2003-2009), Golf Mk6 (2009-2013) and Golf Mk7 (2013-date)
If ever there was a brand that could survive the negative publicity of a scandal, it’s Volkswagen. At the height of Dieselgate late last year, some people were predicting its demise, but we knew the company and its cars are too highly respected for that.
The Golf Mk7 is a great example of why Volkswagen is held in such high esteem. Despite costing little more than many of its rivals, the compact family car is engineered and built to a higher standard than most of them. It also features some of the most cutting-edge safety tech and genuinely efficient petrol and diesel engines around.
The Volkswagen Golf has been on sale since 1974, and is one of the best selling family hatchbacks ever produced. It’s now in its seventh generation, and we’re focusing on the latest three – the Mk5, Mk6 and Mk7 – in this review.
- Volkswagen Golf Mk5 (2003-2009) - Desirable family car is well within reach as second-hand buy
- Volkswagen Golf Mk6 (2009-2013) - Look beyond dieselgate, as hatch is still a great buy
- Volkswagen Golf Mk7 (2013-date) - Family hatch scores on quality, efficiency and tech
Volkswagen Golf Mk7
The Golf Mk7 reached UK showrooms in January 2013. At launch there were three or five-door hatchbacks, as well as a choice of 1.2 TSI or 1.4-litre TSI petrol engines and 1.6 TDI and 2.0-litre TDI diesels.
Car group tests
- Volkswagen Golf Estate vs Toyota Corolla Touring Sports
- Volkswagen Golf GTD vs BMW 120d
- Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport vs Volkswagen Golf R
- Hyundai i30 vs Volkswagen Golf
An 85g/km 1.6 TDI BlueMotion was introduced in May 2013, alongside the 181bhp GTD. At the same time, the GTI hot hatch appeared in regular 217bhp or Performance (226bhp) forms. The 295bhp four-wheel-drive Golf R was introduced in March 2014, just before the Golf Estate, and then a year later the electric e-Golf arrived, with an official range of up to 118 miles.
The hybrid Golf GTE of March 2015 combined a 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine with a 100bhp electric motor. A 1.0-litre TSI BlueMotion appeared in September 2015, and claimed 99g/km emissions.
One-year-old cars will be between £12,000 and £24,000 depending on specification, while a three-year-old Golf will be in the £9,000 to £19,000 bracket.
Volkswagen Golf Mk7 reviews
- Volkswagen Golf in-depth review
- Volkswagen Golf Estate in-depth review
- Volkswagen Golf GTD in-depth review
- Volkswagen Golf GTI in-depth review
- Volkswagen Golf R in-depth review
- Volkswagen Golf 1.0 BlueMotion review
- Volkswagen Golf 1.0 TSI review
- Volkswagen Golf 1.2 S review
- Volkswagen Golf 1.4 TSI review
- Volkswagen Golf 1.6 TDI SE review
- Volkswagen Golf 2.0 TDI review
- Volkswagen Golf TDI review
- Volkswagen Golf GTE review
- Volkswagen Golf Match review
- Volkswagen Golf R-Line review
- Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport Edition 40 review
- Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport S review
- Volkswagen Golf GTE long-term test review
Which one should I buy?
As all Golf Mk7 engines are turbocharged, even the smallest-capacity units serve up reasonable power, although we’d go for the 1.4 TSI over the 1.2 and the 2.0 TDI over the 1.6 as they’re usefully more muscular yet still economical. The Golf GTE is very impressive, but expensive and rare.
The entry-level S trim is spartan, although it does feature a DAB radio and colour touchscreen display, air-con plus electric mirrors and front windows. SE spec adds powered rear windows, 16-inch alloy wheels and emergency city braking, while the GT has 17-inch alloys, sports suspension plus front and rear parking sensors. The mid-range, high-value Match, introduced in July 2014, comes with parking sensors all-round and electrically folding door mirrors.
Alternatives to the Volkswagen Golf Mk7
The Audi A3 uses the same platform and mechanicals as the Golf, but has a plusher cabin. BMW’s 1 Series comes in a variety of bodystyles and is extremely well built, plus it offers some really efficient engines.
Matching the Golf on image but not space is the MINI; while rear seat access is awkward and the boot is small, it’s good to drive and very well built. If practicality is more important, don’t overlook the Ford Focus; it’s a cracking car that’s great to drive, well equipped and reliable. Plus, as it’s in plentiful supply, it’s far cheaper than the Golf. The Vauxhall Astra and Peugeot 308 major on value, but aren’t as well built and not as good to drive, either.
What to look for:
The driver’s side wiper can smear the windscreen when it rains. Switching the original Valeo blades for Bosch alternatives seems to do the trick.
While the electronic parking brake has so far proven reliable, it seems to be something that really polarises opinion; owners either love it or hate it.
The touchscreen multimedia system generally works well, but some drivers have struggled to pair their phones and it doesn’t read all MP3 players.
Lots of owners aren’t impressed by the Golf’s standard headlights (not xenons), so bulb swaps are common, usually for Osram Nightbreakers.
The Golf doesn’t have the most imaginative dash design, but it’s intuitive and ergonomically sound with a high-quality finish. The seats are supportive and offer plenty of adjustment; there’s lots of room for four adults, although five is a squeeze. Plus, the generous 380-litre boot increases to 1,270 litres.
Golf owners can choose from fixed-interval or variable servicing. The former requires checks every 12 months or 10,000 miles; the latter allows up to 20,000 miles and two years between services, depending on how the car is used.
Once a Golf is three years old, it’s eligible for cut-price maintenance; minor services then cost £159 and major ones £329. Many newer cars have a transferable service plan, to cut bills. Most engines feature a cambelt which needs replacing every five years or up to 140,000 miles, at £429 (£479 with a new water pump). Brake fluid should be renewed after three years, then every two years, at £59.
The Golf Mk7 has been recalled just once so far. A total of 303 cars built in April 2015 were called back due to a risk of the suspension collapsing because of a manufacturing fault with the front wheelbearing housing. Any affected cars got new castings made to a higher standard.
Volkswagen issued a recall in March 2016 for 2.0 TDI Golfs, as part of its high-profile emissions debacle. But this was aimed at the Mk6 with the EA189 unit; the Mk7 uses the EA288 diesel, so it isn’t affected by this recall.
Driver Power owner satisfaction
The Mk7 Golf debuted in 18th place in our Driver Power satisfaction survey in 2014. Last year it dipped to 30th, but it was up to 27th in 2016, on the back of strong scores for handling (19th), ease of driving (21st), ride quality (28th) and performance (29th). Owners weren’t so happy with reliability (105th), practicality (79th) and running costs (57th).
While it’s true that Volkswagen’s reputation and sales took a knock with the Dieselgate scandal, residual values for used cars remain relatively unaffected, so don’t expect to scoop any bargains. When we checked, the company confirmed the Mk7 isn’t affected by the emissions recall.
As a result, you can buy one of these fine hatches (or estates) safe in the knowledge you’re getting one of the best small family cars around. It’s good to drive, safe, usually well equipped and frugal. But reliability can be more of an issue than you may expect, so check any potential buy carefully.
Click through to page two for our full buyer's guide on the Volkswagen Golf Mk6 sold from 2009 to 2013...
In this review
- 1Used Volkswagen Golf review - currently readingA full used buyer’s guide on the Volkswagen Golf covering the Golf Mk5 (2003-2009), Golf Mk6 (2009-2013) and Golf Mk7 (2013-date)
- 2Used Volkswagen Golf reviewA full used buyer’s guide on the Volkswagen Golf covering the Golf Mk5 (2003-2009), Golf Mk6 (2009-2013) and Golf Mk7 (2013-date)
- 3Used Volkswagen Golf reviewA full used buyer’s guide on the Volkswagen Golf covering the Golf Mk5 (2003-2009), Golf Mk6 (2009-2013) and Golf Mk7 (2013-date)