This car has been superseded by a newer model, click here to go to the latest Volkswagen Golf Hatchback review.

Parkers overall rating: 4 out of 5 4.0

Volkswagen Golf (2004-2008) used car buying guide

You can adjust the steering wheel for height and reach while the driver's seat is multi-adjustable too, which makes for a comfortable driving position. As well as being attractive, the dashboard is functional with large, easy-to-use buttons and - where fitted - a simple sat nav system. All the controls are close to the driver for on-the-move adjustments and the screen is close enough so you don't have to squint.

The system is a bit slow however, but cars from March 2008 come with a much faster and slicker system. The sat nav directions - as well as average fuel consumption, radio station, time and range are displayed in a panel in the instrument cluster, so you only have to momentarily take your eyes off the road.

The GTI and R32 differences

Thanks to plenty of adjustment in the driver's seat and steering column it's easy to find the perfect driving position in the GTI and the quality of the interior is superb. The blue backlit controls and dials give a premium feel to the cabin and all the switchgear works with robust precision. The flat-bottomed three-spoke steering wheel (complete with GTI badging) adds to the sporty feel as do the aluminium pedals.

It may not have the special feel of some hot hatches but there's an understated air of quality about the Golf's cabin that few cars can match. The Pirelli special edition model feature unique seats complete with a tyre tread pattern plus yellow stitching on the steering wheel and gear lever.

The instruments are clear to read and easy to use (unique to the R32 are blue needles on the dials), although the multifunction trip computer, controlled by a button on the dashboard can take a little time to master. The steering wheel is similar to that on the GTI, with a flat bottom while DSG gearbox models add gearshift paddles.

Like the standard Golf, the buttons and switches are easy to find and simple to use, but the chunky windscreen pillars can restrict the view when pulling out of junctions.

There's generous legroom in the back for two and there should be few problems for three children while front passengers get a good amount of leg, head and shoulder room.

The seats are on the firm side, but supportive for longer trips plus the cabin is very refined, with wind, road and engine noise (in the petrols) well suppressed. It feels more sophisticated at night than most small hatchbacks, with soothing blue backlit dials and displays.

What makes a GTI special

The interior is well trimmed and inviting - especially at night when the instruments are illuminated by soothing blue backlighting. There's a generous amount of room for the front passenger, while the rear comfortably accommodates two (three at a push). The front sports seats give good support and are adjustable while the retro chequered seat fabric (just like the original GTI) is standard, although other colours are available.

Thanks to the impressive ride quality the Golf is comfortable, even on uneven surfaces while road and wind noise are minimal.

The R32 advantage

The cabin styling is as restrained as that of the exterior. It's sober, but sophisticated, well proportioned and comfortable. But there are a few clues to show that this is a special Golf, with aluminium trim and small 'R32' badges. The front sports seats are highly adjustable and give good support and there's plenty of room for the front passenger.

Excellent sound insulation means that motorway trips are refined and relaxed, although it does mean that the engine note is suppressed at times when it deserves to be heard.