BELIEVE it or not, this is the seventh generation Volkswagen Golf model. I remember the first – which was significantly smaller – and it was a long time ago, 1974 to be exact. One of the most commercially successful cars of all time, Volkswagen has sold 29m Golfs – 1.6 m of them in the UK. The car has become the family hatch to beat. No other family hatchback has managed to replicate its ability to fulfil the majority of a family’s motoring requirements. It has become the benchmark against which competitors are judged. It’s the consummate all-rounder.
You could forgive Volkswagen for playing it safe and going with a proven recipe but this model is all new. In fact, it’s the first all-new Golf in a decade. The model is based on a new Modulare Querbaukasten (MBQ) platform, the same as the one used in the new Audi A3. There’s a lot riding on this model. Volkswagen knows that cars like like the Ford Focus, Kia Cee’d and Hyundai i30 are catching up so it was imperative that it raised its game. And it has.
The new Golf is bigger, lighter, safer than ever and surprisingly cheaper than its predecessor model with prices starting at £16,285. It’s 13mm wider with a wheelbase that’s 59mm longer and has front wheels 43mm further forward. These dimensional changes translate into a bigger cabin and a 30-litre increase in the boot to 380 litres. There’s 15mm more legroom and the front seats can recline 20mm further back. It is also 28mm lower and around 100kg lighter so it has a lower centre of gravity. The result is a Golf that looks leaner and athletic and is more engaging to drive.
I’ve been driving the Golf GT, 1.4-litre TSI with Active Cylinder Technology (ACT). Good for 140PS and capable of making the 0-62mph sprint in 8.4 seconds, this engine is already one of my favourites this year. The ACT means the car switches off two of its four cylinders when able to, improving overall fuel economy and reducing emissions. Volkswagen claim this deactivation is imperceptible. I have been driving it a week and I don’t remember noticing when it happened I think we can take the Germans at their word.
The technological advancements creates the feeling that you’re driving a flashier car. A radar distance monitoring system when using cruise control and a city braking system adjusts your speed to keep you safely from the car in front. Meanwhile, an adaptive chassis control allows you to change the car’s damping for a sportier drive when the road opens ahead of you.
There’s something thoroughly satisfying about this Golf GT. It feels fast, big and comfortable enough and is well built and safe with intuitive controls that are well laid out. It handles well too and there’s plenty of feedback through the steering. The new adaptive chassis control system is very good, particularly in sport setting, though I found it a little too soft in comfort mode.
It did everything I wanted it to do and did so with the promise of excellent fuel economy and low emissions, which makes it hard to work out how Volkswagen could improve it.
The new model is the Golf as its best. You just wouldn’t know from looking at it because it’s so understated, making it a good, solid and prudent choice just as it has always been.
THE FACTS: VOLKSWAGEN GOLF
0-62MPH: 8.4 secs
TOP SPEED: 131mph
CO2 G/KM: 112g/km
MPG COMBINED: 58.9mpg
DESIGN Four Star
PERFORMANCE Five Star
PRACTICALITY Four Star
VALUE FOR MONEY Four Star