The meaning of “Volkswagen” is “people’s car”, and if ever a vehicle summed that up, it’s the Golf. The Mk7 Golf we focus on here is easily the best Golf so far-offering a mixture of comfort, quality, style and handling that attracts all sorts of buyers. Strong resale values also mean it’ll still be worth plenty when you decide to upgrade to a newer Golf. Pretty much every base covered then.
Throughout all the Golf’s generations, Volkswagen has followed a policy of evolution with the styling. That’s because revolution might scare away too many buyers who just want the latest luxury and safety tech but in a familiar setting.
And so it is with the Mk7 Golf, which has the trademark upright stance. Even with the enhancements of higher-spec examples of this version, which include LED daytime running lights, extra flashes of chrome, privacy glass and stylish alloy wheels, it all manages to be quite comforting.
It looks safe and reliable beause it is. It’ll be there when you need it to be – every time. That’s the impression the Golf conveys, and people love it for that.
It looks safe and reliable beause it is. It’ll be there when you need it to be – every time.
What’s it like to drive?
Secure is a good way to describe the Golf on the road. The 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine is smooth to rev, quiet and gives the Golf a decent turn of pace. It’s definitely the motor of choice if the bulk of your driving is covered in city traffic.
Should your motoring life consist of long journeys up and down the country, a diesel remains a better option. The 1.6-litre version combines reasonable power and torque with an admirable desire to avoid refuelling stops.
No matter which version you go for, it’s one of the best-driving hatchbacks you can buy. The suspension manages that oh-so-rare blend of ride comfort and decent handling sharpness. The Golf remains stable and true at all times, even in crosswinds. Steering is also meaty enough to let you know what the front wheels are doing, but not so sensitive that it feels twitchy.
If you choose a version with an engine that generates more than 150bhp, the Golf also comes with a more sophisticated multi-link suspension system that merely enhances all of the car’s driving attributes.
It’s one of the best-driving hatchbacks you can buy
It’s very business-like inside the Volkswagen Golf. The dashboard is laid out in a completely logical fashion, so you never have to go hunting for the right switch or control. In most models, you‘ve got analogue dials with an information display between them. VW also offers an Active Info display in some models, which is a 12.3-inch TFT display that replaces the dials and shows all the information you need. It’s also configurable just the way you want it.
Entry-level S models are more sparsely equipped, and don’t get alloy wheels. Moving up the range things improve markedly. The Match adds automatic lights and wipers, alloy wheels, a leather-trimmed steering wheel, rear parking sensors, cruise control and a DAB radio.
Most models also come with a central touchscreen, through which the audio, car set-up and (where fitted) satellite-navigation system are controlled. This has evolved in recent years to accommodate Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which makes it even easier to blast out Cardi B on the country’s B-roads.
Everything feels like it’ll easily outlast your ownership period. The plastics feel dense and luxuriant, and everything operates with a consistent weight. VW has departments that focus on the way in which controls operate, and they’ve clearly put in a few extra shifts with the Golf, which feels worth far more than it costs.
No one will struggle to get comfortable in the front of a Volkswagen Golf, because there’s more than enough leg space to stretch out in. Even if you’re built like a German centre back, you won’t find yourself brushing the rooflining with your hair do.
In the back seats, there’s a decent amount of space for the class - you might not want to be a tall person stuck behind a similarly long passenger up front. That said, the Golf is just as good as most in the class in this regard, and better than most. If you need more space, perhaps a Skoda Octavia might be more up your street.
Running costs and reliability
If you go for the VW Golf’s 1.4-litre petrol TSI engine or the 1.6-litre diesel you’ll almost be in danger of forgetting where your local filling station is, such is their aversion to refuelling stops. The petrol should manage an average mpg in the high 40s, while the diesel should do another 10mpg on top of that.
Despite the Golf’s reputation as a classy, high-end hatch, insurance costs are pretty low, which only makes it even more affordable.
What we love
There is a vast amount to be enthusiastic about with any Golf. Ask any friend to give you a Golf review and they’re likely to talk about how luxurious and well-built it feels, how it just gets on with being daily transport without any fuss, and how it has simply fitted into their lives.
They’re right. A Golf is equally at home in town, on the motorway or on a twisty country road. It’ll keep you and your family safe and comfortable on bright, sunny days and in thunderous downpours at night. It will also keep on ticking, and it won’t cost a fortune to do so.
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Town and country drivers
The Volkswagen Golf really can lay claim to being all things to all drivers. It combines neat driving characteristics with long-distance comfort, plenty of standard equipment and comparatively low running costs. It’ll suit you when you’re on your own or when you have the whole family with you.
This review was