This car has been superseded by a newer model, click here to go to the latest Volkswagen Golf Hatchback review.

4.5 out of 5 4.5
Parkers overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 4.5

Still so good, and now one of the best used cars you can buy

Volkswagen Golf Hatchback (13-20) - rated 4.5 out of 5
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At a glance

New price £17,625 - £37,300
Used price £4,450 - £36,045
Used monthly cost From £111 per month
Fuel Economy 32.5 - 141.2 mpg
Road tax cost £0 - £275
Insurance group 7 - 39 How much is it to insure?
New

PROS

  • Spacious and high-quality interior
  • Large range of engines available
  • GTI and R provide thrills

CONS

  • Styling is a little dull on some models
  • Optional extras can be pricey
  • Growing range of strong competition

Volkswagen Golf Hatchback rivals

Written by Keith Adams on

Volkswagen Golf is is one of the best-known model names of any car on sale having been part of the motoring landscape in the UK since 1974. We're currently on the seventh generation, with a major facelift carried out in 2017 to keep the design and technology right up-to-date, but was then phased out in 2020. Despite that, and as you'll see from our overall star rating, we still rate it very highly indeed.

Sure, it’s more expensive to buy than most of its rivals, but given the range of equipment on offer, the breadth of the petrol, diesel, hybrid and electric range of powertrains, plus the sporty Golf GTI and Golf R, it’s difficult to find a version of the Volkswagen that won’t suit you.

The Golf Mk7 faced competition from the Ford Focus and the Vauxhall Astra primarily, but also the Honda Civic, Hyundai i30, Kia Ceed, Mazda 3, Toyota Corolla, Peugeot 308 and Renault Megane. Additionally, there are in-house rivals in the forms of the SEAT Leon and Skoda Octavia, while those pricier Golfs will also find themselves being compared with their Audi A3 Sportback sister cars, as well as the more premium BMW 1 Series, Lexus CT and Mercedes-Benz A-Class. And it saw them all off. Impressive.

What's it like inside?

With the Golf Mk7, it’s all about quality and clarity and almost every component smacks of it. From the clear and easy-to-read instruments through to the high-quality colour LCD displays and the neatly laid out switchgear, everything is incredibly intuitive and simple-to-use.

It’s also worth noting that an optional 9.2-inch touchscreen became available in 2017 featuring a glass front and super-sensitive display, as well as a powerful processor and gesture control alongside a vast suite of apps. This system should be right at the cutting edge of infotainment systems, but a lack of physical buttons hampers its usability. Cheaper systems, with a pair of rotary knobs, are much easier to use on the move.

The quality of materials used elsewhere in the cabin are exemplary. Soft touch plastics dominate, with less glitzy finishes found only where the hand is less likely to stray – otherwise every other contact point feels reassuringly more expensive than the car’s list price would suggest.

Comfort

Comfort is one of the Volkswagen Golf Mk7’s hallmarks. The seats, be they the standard variety, the ErgoComfort ones or the sports numbers support you very well, with a wide range of adjustment to obtain a fine seating position.

Those sports seats in particular perform a neat trick of feeling properly figure-hugging, but with enough support and comfort to take the pain out of longer journeys.

Of primary note should be the ride quality, which even on the larger alloy wheels and sports suspension is better than other family hatchbacks. No matter what is thrown at the dampers, they soak up imperfections, no matter how sharp, short, extreme or gradual with instant response and assured reactions.

Blue Volkswagen Golf R Hatchback side profile

Models fitted with the optional Adaptive Chassis Control, which allows the driver to select between Comfort, Normal and Sport modes for the suspension, perform even better. The degree of compliance in Comfort mode in the sportier Golfs really impresses.

On the motorway it feels right at home, the engine barely audible at a steady throttle, as the suspension smothers any unsightly expansion gaps in the road surface. There’s very little in the way of noticeable wind noise either and, despite the large wheels and tyres fitted, road noise is kept to a minimum also.

Practicality

Despite its comfortable, borderline luxurious status, the Volkswagen Golf Mk7 is still an effective three- and five-door hatchback, with impressive levels of practicality and flexibility.

Five-door versions – which account for the bulk of the range – are self-evidently more family friendly and by far the more popular bodystyle, even in the sportier echelons of the range. In fact, the only Golf that isn’t especially practical is the limited edition GTI Clubsport S with no rear seats and a completely open boot.

Volkswagen Golf R rear seats

All other Golfs have a 60:40 split rear seat with a load-through panel behind the rear centre armrest optionally available on many models. The seats fold virtually flat too, creating a continuous level depending upon the height you set the adjustable boot floor.

For petrol- and diesel-engined Golfs, the boot is 380 litres when all the seats are occupied, expanding to 1,270 litres when the back three are folded over. The cabin’s dotted with good-sized storage cubbies, an adjustable front armrest and well-sited 12-volt charging and USB points.

Volkswagen Golf R boot

What's it like to drive?

Regardless of whether you choose a petrol or diesel engine, performance – and efficiency – will be boosted by a turbocharger

Despite the varying power outputs, all of the TDI engines in the Golf are either 1.6- or 2.0-litres in capacity. The smaller 1.6-litre TDI unit was originally launched in 90hp and 105hp guises but all of the current versions produce 115hp. Although outright speed isn’t the name of the game here, both five-speed manual and seven-speed DSG automatic transmission versions can reach 123mph, while the 0-62mph test takes 10.3 and 10.5 seconds, respectively.

Pre-2017 facelift there was also a BlueMotion version of the 1.6-litre, with various aerodynamic body aids to help it cheat the wind in its efficiency quest – although the smoothed-over bodywork helps the top speed increase to 124mph. This is the most fuel-efficient of the diesel Golfs with an official claim of 83.1mpg and CO2 emissions of 89g/km. We’re awaiting news of its facelifted replacement.

Volkswagen Golf BlueMotion badge

More performance is available with the 2.0-litre TDIs, available with 150hp or 184hp if you go for the sportier Golf GTD, producing 340Nm and 380Nm of torque from 1,750rpm. Both are equipped with a six-speed manual as standard, while post-facelift the optional DSG has been upgraded from six to seven ratios, in line with the rest of the range.

The lower-powered version in manual form can achieve 134mph and a 0-62mph time of 8.6 seconds (133mph and an identical 0-62mph for the DSG), while the GTD raises the stakes to 144mph and 7.5 seconds (143mph and 7.4 for the DSG). Post-facelift, VW has added a GTD BlueLine trim alongside the regular GTD for improved efficiency; this somehow still matches the regular versions’ performance.

VW Golf Mk7 petrol engines

Smallest of the turbocharged petrol engines is the three-cylinder 1.0-litre TSI. Post-facelift this offers a choice of 85hp/175Nm or 110hp/200Nm – the former capable of 0-62mph in 11.9 seconds, the latter the same sprint in 9.9 (which makes it slightly faster than the old 115hp version). Top speeds are 112mph and 122mph.

The 1.4-litre TSI remains available in 125hp guise with 200Nm of torque from a lowly 1,400rpm. With both the six-speed manual and seven-speed DSG it’ll reach 127mph and get from 0-62mph in 9.1 seconds.

Blue Volkswagen Golf TSI BlueMotion badge and rear light

Joining the range mid-2017, the 1.5-litre TSI Evo comes with 130hp or 150hp for greater performance. It can shut-down the engine whenever you’re off the throttle, borrowing technology from the GTE, while the 150hp variant makes do with Active Cylinder Technology (ACT) to switch off just two cylinders under light load.

GTE: the plug-in hybrid option

If you want to be green without sacrificing fun you will find the plug-in hybrid Golf GTE of interest thanks to its 1.4-litre TSI engine and electric motor combination. It promises GTI-style performance but with far more efficient running costs.

With a top speed of 135mph, the GTE can sprint to 62mph from a standstill in 7.6 seconds, yet return a claimed 188mpg. After driving the updated GTE we came away slightly disappointed with its noise and performance considering the GT aspect its name. The engine sounds coarse and has to be worked very hard to provide meaningful progress, but for many the ultra-low running costs and array of standard kit will more than make up for its dynamic shortcomings.

Handling

The Volkswagen Golf Mk7 has excellent handling. Its low, broad stance combined with sophisticated independent rear suspension arrangement on all but the lowest-powered variants, minimises the VW’s body roll making it more agile and consequently more fun than many hatchbacks in this segment to drive.

All Golfs also come with XDS – a feature once reserved for the GTI model. In essence this electronic system reduces the amount of power being sent to a front wheel that’s losing traction, while through corners it feeds more to the ‘outer’ wheel, increasing stability and speed in the process.

It also works in conjunction with the Electronic Stability Control (ESC) which compensates for any tendency for the Golf to push wide through bends (understeer), making handling more precise and neutral.

Grey Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport Edition 40 front three-quarter

The Golf is fitted with a variable ratio steering system that responds differently depending upon your speed – it makes town driving a doddle and parking easier by turning the wheels more for a given input at the steering wheel. There are also different driver modes to vary the weighting and while at slow speeds it feels a tad artificial, it weighs up progressively as speed increases.

Grown-up handling for Volkswagen Golf GTE

We weren’t particularly enamoured with the GTE in the handling stakes. You can really feel the extra weight of the batteries in both models, and while you can forgive this in the pure-EV e-Golf – a car that’ll seldom find its way onto an entertaining B-road – in the GTE this seems a bit of a shame. It lumbers to change direction when compared with the GTI, which seems incongruous given it features a higher performance GTE mode button near the gear lever.

Ownership and running costs

With so many efficient powerplant options, finding a Volkswagen Golf Mk7 with low running costs is a straightforward process. The BlueMotion 1.6-litre TDI diesel is best with a claimed fuel economy of 83.1mpg – though this wasn't directly replaced as part of the 2017 facelift.

BlueMotion is the way to go with the petrol line-up, too, with up to 47.9mpg claimed for the 1.5-litre TSI Evo under the WLTP test regime, thanks to its ability to completely shut down the engine when you’re backing off the throttle.

Blue Volkswagen Golf GTE front three-quarter

Reliability

'If only everything in life was as reliable as a Volkswagen'; a phrase dreamed-up by marketing executives decades ago that has stuck ever since. And the good news is that Volkswagen Golf reliability should live up to its legendary reputation.

All of the major mechanical components for the petrol and diesel ranges are shared across the entire Volkswagen Group range with a few maladies reported, but nothing major. It’s mainly the relative infancy of the plug-in hybrid and electrical drivetrains where there are a few question marks.

Much of the electronic software for safety and driver assistance is shared, too, although DVSA does cite one recall centred around the steering – this only affected a small number of 2015 cars. The Parkers’ Owners’ Reviews section suggests customers of this-generation Golf are on the whole broadly positive about their Volkswagen experience, although there are one or two tales of woe in there.

Safety

There are no prizes for guessing that Volkswagen Golf Mk7 safety standards were extremely high, with the car being awarded the maximum five stars for its crash-testing performance by Euro NCAP. It's still a safe place to put your family. That’s partly down to the seven airbags (including one for the drivers’ knees) fitted as standard, but also for the array of other safety devices to be found within the VW.

On top of the usual ESP stability system, the Golf also comes with Automatic Post-Collision Braking which applies the stoppers to a car immediately after an accident, lessening the chance of making contact with other vehicles in the aftermath.

There’s also a Pre-Crash system which tensions seatbelts and closes the gap on opened windows and sunroofs to improve the effectiveness of the airbags if a crash is imminent.

After the 2017 facelift, this autonomous emergency braking system was upgraded to include pedestrian recognition, so it should brake for them, too. A road sign recognition system detects speed limits and displays them on the dashboard, while Light Assist controls the high and low beam output automatically in the face of oncoming traffic. Dynamic Light Assist does the same, but keeps high beam on above 37mph and simply masks the output only where it will potentially disturb other road users.

Read on for the verdict – would we recommend the Golf Mk7 as a used car?

Volkswagen Golf Hatchback rivals

Other Volkswagen Golf (2013 - 2020) models: