4.3 out of 5 4.3
Parkers overall rating: 4.3 out of 5 4.3

The class master continues to impress with latest versions

Volkswagen Golf Hatchback Review Video
Enlarge 1 videos Enlarge 79 photos

At a glance

New price £23,355 - £39,270
Lease from new From £233 p/m View lease deals
Used price £15,025 - £35,420
Used monthly cost From £375 per month
Fuel Economy 35.3 - 256.8 mpg
Road tax cost £140 - £150
Insurance group 14 - 31 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
  • R version is extremely impressive

CONS

  • Digital cockpit might put off technophobes
  • Less sophisticated suspension on cheaper cars
  • Some interior plastics feel underwhelming
  • GTI is capable but lacks excitement

Volkswagen Golf Hatchback rivals

Written by Keith Adams on

The eighth-generation Volkswagen Golf continues a line of hatchbacks introduced in 1974, which until recently has been the company's bestselling car. This is no accident, because the Golf has been honed over the decades into a supremely well-developed family car with the broadest possible appeal.

With same-again styling, up-to-the-minute driver tech, and the best engines on offer from the Volkswagen Group, the Golf 8 is vying for your attention as 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 needs to be brilliant.

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.

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 less sporting Golf line-up.

At the top of the range, the sporting 245hp GTI (above) and 320hp R round out the performance end of the Golf range and have a different set of rivals to contend with. In addition, the 245hp GTE plug-in hybrid fills out the range to leave buyers the choice of petrol, diesel, hybrid and PHEV models. If you want electric, you need to head towards an ID.3.

Volkswagen 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 hybrids: a big choice

The Golf comes with a wide range of drivetrains to suit all (well, most) buyers, from 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.

There is the choice of a six-speed manual gearbox, or a DSG automatic, with 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.

For sporting drivers, GTI and R petrols are available, while the GTD diesel and the GTE plug-in hybrid should offer more economy. The GTE version especially is a welcome addition to the range as it has been designed to be as tax efficient as possible, and offer plenty of performance on a full battery.

Should you wish there is also the more extreme GTI Clubsport, boasting nearly as much power as the R but retaining front-wheel drive. It uses clever grip-enhancing engineering in the front axle to deliver maximum thrills and sharper handling.

Inoffensive design inside and out

Volkswagen 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. The biggest changes reserved for the interior, which is now very similar in style to the Volkswagen Touareg thanks to the integration of a pair of large 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 exterior styling, 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 £233 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.

Volkswagen Golf Hatchback rivals

Other Volkswagen Golf models: