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In-depth reviews

Volkswagen Golf - Interior, design and technology

There’s a subtle exterior design, but the cabin is crammed full of new tech and useful features

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

Interior, design and technology Rating

4.0 out of 5

Price
£27,005 to £31,395
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The overall profile of the Mk8 model is still unmistakably Golf, with the thinner front grille and narrow headlights the parts most radically refreshed. The new version definitely has sharper lines and makes more of a visual impact than the old car. 

Inside, Volkswagen has adopted more touchscreen tech, with the Digital Cockpit Pro set-up as standard and gesture control for the infotainment system. It all looks rather smart and chic, but still retains the functional feel of the brand - you know you’re sitting in a Golf.

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However, there are some niggly downsides - our testers were at odds with the touch-sensitive slider below the main screen that controls the audio volume and cabin temperature. In isolation it works fine - but it’s positioned exactly where you’ll rest your hand as you try to interact with the display, so you could end up warming the cabin instead of selecting your preferred audio track. A new facelifted Golf is coming soon however and we expect VW will address the issue of the non-backlit touch slider after announcing the 2024 ID.3 will gain this improvement.

A more worrying issue for potential customers is overall trim quality, a feature which has normally elevated the Golf well above its rivals. There are many more hard surfaces in the cabin than you’d expect, to the point where the inside is now no different in perceived quality to cheaper rivals such as the Ford Focus and SEAT Leon.

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Entry-level cars benefit from 16-inch alloy wheels and body-coloured bumpers, door handles and side mirrors, rain-sensing wipers while the LED headlights add to the fresh design. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity is standard.

Stepping up to Style trim brings further body-coloured and chrome trim, along with a funky LED light strip running across the top of the radiator grille. The R-Line versions receive a sporty styling pack and rear privacy glass, while the GTD, GTE and GTI cars include bigger wheels, keyless entry, along with unique interior and exterior trim.

Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment

The Golf's media touchscreen screen looks good and loading times are great; route planning in the Golf is a fairly swift process, and the display is responsive to touches and swiping motions.

However, it’s very flawed ergonomically. The volume and temperature controls are located on a little ledge just below the main screen, which is exactly where you might rest your hand when using the screen itself. This means you need to float your hand above the screen to avoid inadvertent adjustments. As we’ve said before, they’re not backlit, so you can’t see them at night.

On screen, there are some slightly odd features too, such as the way that a tiny power key is needed to turn the fans on or off – it would make more sense to just turn off via the large on-screen fan speed controls.

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Which Is Best

Cheapest

  • Name
    1.0 TSI Active 5dr
  • Gearbox type
    Manual
  • Price
    £24,995

Most Economical

  • Name
    1.0 TSI Active 5dr
  • Gearbox type
    Manual
  • Price
    £24,995

Fastest

  • Name
    2.0 TDI 150 Style 5dr DSG
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £32,175
Senior news reporter

A keen petrol-head, Alastair Crooks has a degree in journalism and worked as a car salesman for a variety of manufacturers before joining Auto Express in Spring 2019 as a Content Editor. Now, as our senior news reporter, his daily duties involve tracking down the latest news and writing reviews.

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