Quite simply the best car in this class
- Spacious yet compact
- Efficient range of engines
- GTI and R provide thrills
- Luxurious feel
- Expensive to buy
- Options are pricey
- Evolutionary styling
One hallmark of the Volkswagen Golf that’s been as true of the original back in 1974 as it is this seventh-generation model is that it’s a car for everyone.
That might sound a little odd given that it’s more expensive to buy than many of its rivals, but given the range of equipment on offer, the breadth of the petrol, diesel, hybrid and electric range of powerplants and the sporty mainstays of the Golf GTI and Golf R, it’s difficult to find a version of the VW that won’t suit you.
But this class also contains other talents such as the Honda Civic, Hyundai i30, Kia Cee’d, Mazda 3, Peugeot 308 and Renault Megane, as well as in-house rivals in the forms of the SEAT Leon and Skoda Octavia.
Evolutionary Golf styling
Golfs have tended to be conservative choices and hence why the design bloodline is common to all seven iterations of the VW.
As per industry norms, this version’s larger than the model it replaced but it’s still a compact hatchback compared with many rivals thanks to its near-vertical tail.
That hasn’t hampered either cabin space or practicality, with one of the roomiest interiors in this segment, along with a 380-litre boot – that’s not the largest in this segment but the 60:40 split-folding rear seat does tumble flat for added flexibility.
If you need more space there’s always the pseudo-MPV Volkswagen Golf SV, or for all-out carrying ability in this family, the capacious Golf Estate.
Inside you’ll find the high-quality ambiance VW’s become acclaimed for with an exemplary level of fit and finish, with premium-grade squidgy plastics employed for the main planes of the dashboard.
Broad range of Golf powerplants
Boasting one of the widest line-ups of powerplant permutations, you’ll be struggling to not find a version of the VW Golf that satisfies your requirements.
Petrol engines start with a 1.0-litre, three-cylinder TSI with 115hp, while the rest of the mainstream range is fleshed out with four-cylinder TSIs of 1.2- (85hp) and 1.4-litre (125hp and 150hp) capacities, the larger one of which is also available with ACT – Active Cylinder Technology – to effectively shut off half the engine when it’s not needed.
Both the Golf GTI and R performance versions feature 2.0-litre TSI turbo petrol engines producing between 220hp and 300hp depending upon the version chosen – good enough for a top speed of 155mph and a sub-5.0 second 0-62mph time for the quickest.
VW upped the ante even further with a stripped-out and strictly limited edition Golf GTI Clubsport S in 2016 boasting 310hp, and a top speed of 164mph.
For those seeking the efficiency of diesel power, the 1.6-litre TDI comes in 110hp form, while the 2.0-litre version is available in outputs of 150hp or 184hp if you opt for the sportier Golf GTD. Official fuel consumption claims rate the BlueMotion version at 83.1mpg.
If the ability to drive with electric propulsion is key, then there are two choices: the plug-in hybrid Golf GTE is a sportier take on the familiar theme while the e-Golf is a pure EV (electric vehicle) with no conventional engine at all – the claimed range is 118 miles between recharges.
Golf trim levels aplenty
That wide range of power options is combined with a variety of trim levels to help tailor your Golf even more to your liking. The specification hierarchy is complex and includes a large number of performance-oriented versions.
All versions are well-equipped with air-con complete with rear-passenger air-vents, height-adjustment on both front seats, a colour touchscreen for the infotainment system with DAB radio and Bluetooth connectivity, and seven airbags.
There’s also a wealth of extra-cost options to pore over to tailor your Golf closer to your specific needs, be it enhancing safety or upgrading the multimedia system.
Facelift for 2017
At the end of 2016 VW revealed a facelifted Golf due on sale next spring. Visually the alterations appear limited to new bumpers and lights which employ a higher proportion of LED technology, but under-the-skin changes are more important.
There’s gesture-control for the upgraded multimedia system that doesn’t require physical touches of the screen, fully electronic instrumentation and a new 1.5-litre TSI petrol engine in 130hp and 150hp guises.
Volkswagen Golf hatchback model history
- October 2012 – Seventh-generation three- and five-door Golf hatchback available to order in S, SE and GT trim levels. Four petrol engines are initially available: 1.2-litre TSI in 85hp and 105hp guises, with the 1.4-litre TSI offered in 122hp and 140hp outputs. TDI diesels come in 90hp and 105hp versions of the 1.6-litre unit, with a 150hp 2.0-litre crowning the range. Manual and DSG automatic gearboxes are available across the line-up.
- April 2013 – Three- and five-door versions of the latest-generation Golf GTI go on sale. Power comes from a 2.0-litre TSI petrol engine with 220hp as standard and 230hp from the uprated Performance pack that includes larger brakes. Manual and DSG automatic gearboxes are available.
- May 2013 – Economy-focused 1.6-litre TDI BlueMotion launched with CO2 emissions quoted at 85g/km. Special aerodynamic bodywork addenda lends some visual interest as well as wind-cheating properties.
- August 2013 – Most powerful diesel-engined Golf launched in GTD guise with a 184hp TDI unit. Six-speed manual and DSG automatic transmissions offered, while the styling mimics the sportiness of the GTD with black flashes in place of red.
- November 2013 – High-performance Golf R with a 300hp 2.0-litre turbocharged engine and 4Motion four-wheel drive goes on sale. Three- and five-door models available with a choice of manual and DSG automatic transmissions, both with six speeds.
- March 2014 – Fully-electric e-Golf available to order in five-door form. Power comes from a 115hp electric motor with a theoretical range of 118 miles before a recharge is required.
- July 2014 – Match specification is launched as a direct replacement for the SE, with specification improved to include 16-inch Dover alloy wheels, front fog lights and electrically folding door mirrors.
- January 2015 – Plug-in hybrid Golf GTE now available to order. Appearance is similar to the GTD and GTI models, but with bold blue highlights to distinguish the petrol-electric model.
- February 2015 – Sporty-looking R-Line model launched to sit above the GT. Standard features include Discover Navigation and 10mm lower sports suspension. Engine choices are restricted to the 1.4-litre TSI petrol and 2.0-litre TDI diesel, both delivering 150hp.
- April 2015 – Power increases for 1.4-litre TSI petrol (now 125hp) and 1.6 TDI diesels (all now 110hp).
- June 2015 – Efficient new 1.0-litre TSI BlueMotion petrol engine exclusively available in Match specification. Three- and five-door versions available, with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard and a seven-speed DSG automatic optionally available on the five-door.
- November 2015 – Replacing the Match trim level are the Match Edition and Match BlueMotion Edition, the latter powered by the 1.0-litre TSI petrol engine. Improved equipment rosters include Discover Navigation and adaptive cruise control.
- December 2015 – Previously available GT and R-Line trims are replaced by GT Edition and R-Line Edition models, respectively. Both new versions gain a panoramic glass roof among other items, with the GT Edition distinguished by its 18-inch Durban alloy wheels, while the R-Line Edition is hallmarked by its 18-inch Serron rims.
- April 2016 – Marking four decades of the Golf GTI, the GTI Clubsport Edition 40 is launched as a limited edition. Power is increased up to 290hp and is available in three- and five-door guises, with both manual and DSG automatic gearboxes.
- June 2016 – Specification enhancements include an allergy filter for models specified with the 2Zone climate control package and Discover Navigation, heated seats and headlight washer jets for the Golf R.
- August 2016 – Limited edition GTI Clubsport S with a 2.0-litre turbocharged 310hp engine available to order. Stripped down to save weight, the Clubsport S is a three-door only and features race-derived bucket seats up front and no rear bench seat at all.
- December 2016 – Oettinger bodykits and sports exhausts available for GTD, GTE and R models.