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Volkswagen dials-up the tech for the latest Golf

Volkswagen Golf Hatchback Review Video
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At a glance

New price £23,300 - £29,905
Lease from new From £232 p/m View lease deals
Used price £16,675 - £25,465
Used monthly cost From £416 per month
Fuel Economy 45.6 - 62.8 mpg
Road tax cost £150
Insurance group 14 - 23 How much is it to insure?
New

PROS

  • Wide range of engines with more to follow
  • High-tech interior with online connectivity
  • Still the best, but the opposition is closing in

CONS

  • Digital cockpit might put off technophobes
  • Less sophisticated suspension on cheaper cars
  • Some interior plastics feel underwhelming

Volkswagen Golf Hatchback rivals

Written by Adam Binnie on

The eighth-generation Volkswagen Golf continues a line of hatchbacks first introduced in 1974, and until recently, it has consistently been the company's bestselling car. And for very good reasons – rather like the great white shark, it has been honed by constant evolution into being perfectly fit for purpose.

With same-again styling, up-to-the-minute driver tech, and the best engines on offer from the Volkswagen Group, the Golf Mk8 (or Golf 8 as Volkswagen's marketing campaigns are calling it) comes out of the blocks aiming to be the best compact family car for your money. Given that the old Golf wasn't exactly lacking and was still pretty much the most competent and safe place to spend your money, this one's going to have to be brilliant.

And it's not just the excellent legacy of its predecessor the new Golf needs to worry about. It tackles mainstream rivals like the Ford Focus, Vauxhall AstraPeugeot 308, Kia Ceed, Hyundai i30 and the brilliant Mazda 3, as well as the pricier players, such as the new Audi A3, BMW 1 Series and Mercedes-Benz A-Class. It does so with a simply enormous range of engines – petrol, diesel, mild-hybrid and plug-in hybrid, with additional high performance variants in the pipeline, too.

Trim levels explained

Entry-level trim level the eighth-generation Golf range is now Life, which replaced the previous S specification, while the plusher SE is ousted by the Style grade. Sportier-looking R-Line models continue, and together the trio mark out the complete Golf line-up - initially, at least.

VW has packed the latest Golf with a generous level of standard equipment, in part justifying the higher starting prices. Life models' equipment roster includes 16-inch alloy wheels in a design called Norfolk, automatic wipers and LED headlamps, front and rear parking sensors and a very slick 10.25-inch digital instrument panel and a 10.0-inch multimedia touchscreen.

Upgrading to a Golf Style additionally brings you 17-inch alloy wheels (this design’s known as Belmont), an upgraded version of the LED headlamp system, three-zone climate control, sports front seats with additional bolstering to hold you in place and luxurious velour upholstery.

For the R-Line, there are 17-inch Valencia alloy wheels, lowered sports suspension, bigger black grilles in the front bumper, sports front seats with larger side bolsters and a darkened headlining for a moodier cabin ambience.

There’s also a raft of optional equipment available including Dynamic Chassis Control that allows the driver to vary the softness or firmness of the ride to make it more comfort- or agility-orientated, and a head-up display (HUD) that projects key driving information onto the windscreen so that you have to move your eyes from the road ahead less frequently.

Petrol, diesel and hybrid, but no electric version

Conspicuous in its absence from that list is a battery powered Golf, as those duties are now taken care of by the similarly sized – but electric-only – Volkswagen ID.3. Small hardship though because it comes with a wide range of drivetrains to suit all (well, most) buyers, from traditional 1.0- and 1.5-litre petrols and 2.0-litre diesels, to a range of petrol engines boosted by 48-volt mild-hybrid technology. Plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) come a little later.

There is the choice of a new six-speed manual gearbox, or a DSG automatic, the latter now featuring a smaller gear switch in place of a traditional lever. It's very similar to something Porsche fits, but it's a missed opportunity in that it doesn't liberate much additional storage space.

Arriving later in 2020 are performance versions of those – the GTI, GTI TCR and R petrols, the GTD diesel and the GTE plug-in hybrid. The GTD version especially is highly anticipated as it's been designed to be as clean and as tax efficient as possible, and for those who still need a diesel-powered car, this will be especially welcome news.

Inoffensive design inside and out

VW doesn’t usually break the mould when it comes to Golf styling and as such the new car is an evolution of the old one, with the biggest changes reserved for the interior, which is now very similar in style to the Volkswagen Touareg thanks to the integration of those massive screens. Whether that puts off traditionalists remains to be seen, but the operation is slick and the colour schemes are highly customisable.

In terms of styling on the outside, it's all very familiar, with the biggest changes reserved for the front end, which follows the lead set by the Touareg and Passat. Whereas previous Golfs have featured headlights and grilles that cut into the leading edge of the bonnet-line, on the latest car, they hang below, with a very slender upper air intake.

Constructed using the latest evolution of the Volkswagen Group’s modular MQB underpinnings (shared with the Audi A3, SEAT Leon and Skoda Octavia), the eighth-generation Golf is longer, lower and narrower than before. Its wheelbase - the distance between the front and rear axle lines is marginally longer - but passenger and luggage space remain largely unchanged.

Dealwatch special

Our leasing partner, ZenAuto is offering Golfs from £232 per month. The usual terms and conditions apply.*

View deal

Click through the next few pages to read everything you need to know about the Volkswagen Golf including its practicality, how much it costs to run, what it's like to drive – and whether we recommend buying one.

*These deals are indicative examples of some packages available as of 20 April but are subject to change without prior notice. Everyone's financial circumstances are different, and the availability of credit is subject to status. Terms, conditions and exclusions apply. Parkers cannot recommend a deal for you specifically. Bauer Consumer Media Limited is an appointed representative of ZenAuto Limited for the broking of regulated hire agreements. ZenAuto Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. ZenAuto Limited's registered office is Number One, Great Exhibition Way, Kirkstall Forge, Leeds LS5 3BF. ZenAuto Limited's company registration number is 10967345. ZenAuto is the trading name of ZenAuto Limited. Terms, conditions and exclusions apply.

Volkswagen Golf Hatchback rivals

Other Volkswagen Golf models: