VW Golf: which version is best?

  • VW Golf range is massive, with hatch, estate, convertible, compact MPV and sports models available
  • We look through each range to make sure you have the facts to make your buying decision
  • Power ranges from 83bhp to 295bhp, prices from a shade over £17,000 to beyond £30,000

It’s become something of a default, but the VW Golf is the answer to every ‘which car’ question you’ll ever hear uttered. Want a family car? Buy a VW Golf. Need a hot hatch? Buy a VW Golf. Need an economical diesel? Buy a VW Golf… You get the picture.

Time was the Golf was only available as a desirable little hatchback, ideal for families, but these days you can have your Golf in a variety of different flavours; three and five-door hatchbacks, estates, convertibles, pseudo 4X4s  and even as a compact MPV. There’s a choice of front and four-wheel drive, automatic and manual gearboxes, diesel and petrol engines and a range of powerplants rated from 83bhp to 295bhp.

Basically, whatever you need one for, there’s a Golf available that is perfect for your needs. We look at the extensive range to help you choose with confidence.

Hatchback

VW Golf hatch

From frugal Bluemotion petrol and diesels to the 148bhp 1.4-litre petrol with active cylinder technology that shuts down half the pistons to save fuel; there’s a vast choice for the Golf hatchback buyer. In truth the five-door is little more practical than the three, both boasting 380-litre boot spaces, and each look equally as sharp. If you can afford it, the 1.4-litre ACT in GT trim is probably all the car you’ll ever need.

Estate

VW Golf estate

Unless of course you need some more space, in which case the extra 225-litres the Golf Estate commands over its hatchback brethren behind the rear seats might make it your default choice. Fold the seats down and that 605-litre space expands to 1,620 litres with a near flat floor. The good news is it drives just as sharply as the standard hatchback, despite the extra practicality, and is ideally suited to the excellent 148bhp 2-litre diesel engine.

Cabriolet

VW Golf cabriolet

If there’s one weak link in the VW Golf chain the Cabriolet is, and often has been (no pun intended), it. Based very much on the current (MK6) Golf’s predecessor you’ll instantly notice the difference in the cabin quality and technology, even if the driving experience is largely the same. It is however well-equipped, comfortable and refined with a quick-acting fabric roof – even if it doesn’t have the same array of engine and trim choices as the rest of the range.

GTI

VW Golf GTI

Think hot hatch, and chances are an original (or MK2) VW Golf GTI will pop into your head. Fast forward to 2105 and it’s still the most competent all-rounder in the sector, able to seduce with serious performance one minute and impress with its refinement and usability the next. Available as both a three and five-door hatchback (plus the GTI convertible but we don’t talk about that), and with either manual or dual-clutch automatic gearboxes, we’d recommend the former with Performance Pack which adds 10bhp and a limited slip differential for sharper handling.

GTD

VW Golf GTD

By distilling the best parts of the GTI model into a sensible diesel-powered model, VW has created the most sensible of hot hatches – but it’s still plenty fun to drive too, With 181bhp and 350Nm of torque the GTD sprints from 0-62mph in a shade over seven seconds and hits a top speed beyond 140mph. Even though it’ll manage close to 70mpg, and emits just 109g/km of CO2 emissions. And if you fancy some GTI style with added practicality, the GTD estate is your only choice.

R

VW Golf R

Unless of course you want the fastest estate that VW does, wearing the R badge. Fitted with a 295bhp 2-litre turbocharged engine, the R is available as a three-door or five-door hatch, as well as the aforementioned estate with either manual or dual-clutch automatic gearboxes. With four-wheel drive it’ll launch from 0-62mph in under five seconds, and is without doubt the most exciting Golf you can currently buy – despite the near 40mpg average fuel economy. Regardless which R model you choose, all are well-equipped and regarded as something of a bargain thanks to their near £30,000 list price.

SV

VW Golf SV

Estate just not practical enough for you? Then the VW Golf SV will be right up your street, especially if you have a family in tow. Replacing the ungainly and relatively unloved Golf Plus, this compact MPV looks as sharp as the rest of the range but is longer, taller and wider than the hatch it’s based on with a boot almost as cavernous as the estate model’s. The rear bench boasts plenty of leg and headroom, and the backrest can be adjusted for angle, while the optional folding front passenger seat increases practicality further.  

Alltrack

VW Golf Alltrack

We’re still waiting on the new VW Tiguan (unveiled at the 2015 Frankfurt motorshow) to surface, so until then the VW Golf Alltrack is the next best thing. Think of it as a budget Audi A4 allroad and you won’t be far off the mark, this estate-only model boasting jacked up bodywork (by 20mm) and the firm’s 4Motion four-wheel drive system to allow it to tackle some rougher terrain. It’s no Land Rover Defender, but with its Offroad drive mode it boasts a hill descent control ideal for descending hills alongside modified throttle and ABS responses to make driving over rough ground more precise. 

 

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