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Parkers overall rating: 4.8 out of 5 4.8
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Quite simply the best car in this class

PROS

  • Spacious yet compact
  • Efficient range of engines
  • GTI and R provide thrills
  • Luxurious feel
  • Even better post-2017 facelift

CONS

  • Expensive to buy
  • Options are pricey
  • Evolutionary styling
  • GTD isn’t a diesel GTI

Verdict

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.

Battling in the fiercely competitive lower-medium hatchback segment, the VW’s up against the collective might of the Ford Focus and the Vauxhall Astra primarily.

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.

Those pricier Golfs will also find themselves being compared with their Audi A3 Sportback sister cars, as well as the BMW 1 Series, Infiniti Q30, Lexus CT and Mercedes-Benz A-Class..

We ran one as a long-termer - read more here

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.

Every petrol- and diesel-engined version is turbocharged for both power and efficiency and all feature Volkswagen’s BlueMotion fuel-saving measures, including stop-start.

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.

Facelift from 2017

Spring 2017 saw the arrival of the mildly facelifted Golf hatchback range. Visually the alterations are limited to new bumpers and lights which employ a higher proportion of LED technology.

But, nonetheless VW is calling this the most significant mid-life update in the Golf’s 40-year history – which just goes to show the pace of change in the modern car industry.

As such, the facelift focuses largely on technology – in terms of both infotainment and safety. There’s a new 9.2-inch Discover Pro touchscreen option, for example, that together with the newly available Active Info Display fully-digital instrument cluster (VW’s version of Audi’s Virtual Cockpit) completely modernises the interior.

Discover Pro even features a rudimentary gesture control system that allows you to ‘swipe’ certain functions without touching anything at all.

Most of the engines carry over as before. However, VW has added a lower-powered 1.0-litre TSI turbo petrol with 85hp, and an impressive all-new 1.5-litre TSI Evo turbo petrol available with 130hp or 150hp that will arrive later in the year.

Broad range of Golf powerplants

These new engines only enhance what is already one of the widest line-ups of powerplant permutations on the market. You’ll struggle to not find a version of the VW Golf that satisfies your requirements.

Every petrol- and diesel-engined version is turbocharged for both power and efficiency and all feature BlueMotion Technology (abbreviated to BMT), VW’s package op fuel-saving measures, including stop-start.

Pre-2017 facelift, the petrol engines started with the 1.0-litre, three-cylinder TSI (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.

Post-refresh the 1.2 was been dropped, in favour of the 1.0-litre, which comes with a choice of 85hp or 110hp. The more powerful 1.4 has also gone from the line-up, replaced by the new 150hp 1.5-litre TSI Evo. The 130hp 1.5 is an addition to the line-up rather than a replacement for the 125hp 1.4, as it incorporates more advanced BlueMotion features, including a complete engine shut-down to save fuel.

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 pre-facelift, post-facelift they offer between 230hp and 310hp.

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 115hp form, while the 2.0-litre version is available in outputs of 150hp or 184hp if you opt for the sportier Golf GTD.

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 for pre-facelift e-Golfs and 186 miles for models sold from 2017..

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.

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.
  • February 2017 – Facelifted range available to order for spring delivery, differentiated by reprofiled bumpers, tweaked lights featuring LED technology and a refreshed interior with improved multimedia systems on all models. Revisions to the engine line-up sees the previous 1.2-litre TSIs as well as the 1.0-litre TSI and 1.6-litre TDU BlueMotions, as well as the more powerful 1.4-litre TSI ACT discontinued. A 1.5-litre TSI Evo petrol will become available later in the year, with the new options initially comprising of just a 1.0-litre TSI in 85hp and 110hp guises. Power hikes see the GTI delivering 230hp, the GTI Performance Pack rated at 245hp and the range-topping Golf R at 310hp. The re-jigged specification line-up follows a familiar S, SE, SE Navigation, e-Golf, GT, GTI, GTI Performance Pack, GTD, GTD BlueLine, GTE, GTE Advance and R structure.

Read the full Volkswagen Golf hatchback review to see how dominant the hatchback benchmark is.

What owners say about this car

A superb car to drive, very comfortable and quiet. Build quality is excellent - everything feels solid and works well. Read owner review

Decent sized boot, good load space with rear seats folded. Read owner review

Excellent handling, and very comfortable. Excellent driving position. Read owner review

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