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

The benchmark family car continues to impress in its eighth generation

Volkswagen Golf Hatchback Review Video
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At a glance

New price £23,860 - £33,640
Lease from new From £263 p/m View lease deals
Used price £15,895 - £31,405
Used monthly cost From £397 per month
Fuel Economy 47.1 - 313.9 mpg
Road tax cost £145 - £155
Insurance group 14 - 24 How much is it to insure?
New

PROS

  • Wide range of engines and models
  • High-tech interior with online connectivity
  • Golf Mk8 still a great choice, but the opposition is closing in
  • R version is extremely impressive

CONS

  • Digital cockpit might be off-putting
  • Simpler suspension on cheaper cars
  • Some interior plastics feel underwhelming
  • GTI is capable but lacks excitement

Volkswagen Golf Hatchback rivals

Written by Keith Adams on

Is the Volkswagen Golf any good?

Spoiler alert – the eighth-generation Volkswagen Golf is still one of the best family hatchbacks you can buy today. But then it should be. It continues an unbroken line of Golfs introduced in 1974 and has been honed over the decades into a supremely well-developed family car with the broadest possible appeal. Put simply, there should be a model to suit all needs, tastes and bank balances.

With familiar styling, up-to-the-minute driver tech, and the best engines on offer from the Volkswagen Group, the Golf Mk8 is everything that most people need in their car. Given that the old Golf wasn't exactly lacking and was still the most competent and safe place to spend your money, this one needed to be brilliant – and by-and-large it delivers.

Volkswagen Golf (2021) review

It's not just the excellent legacy of its predecessor the latest Golf needed to overcome. It tackles mainstream rivals such as the Ford Focus, Vauxhall AstraPeugeot 308, Kia Ceed, Hyundai i30Mazda 3 and the brilliant Skoda Octavia, as well as the pricier players, such as the Audi A3, BMW 1 Series and Mercedes-Benz A-Class. To shine in this company takes something very special indeed.

Read the Volkswagen Golf verdict

What's it like inside?

The one area where the latest Golf differs from the last one is in its dashboard. Whereas the old one was conventionally solid and driven by a combination of the central touchscreen and traditional physical controls, this one has lost many of its buttons in favour of touchpads and a more extensive use of screen controls. This will be jarring for some users coming straight from an old Golf, and in our experience, familiarity doesn't really make the touch sensitive controls any less frustrating.

It's roomy enough for four – five if you're good friends – with decent head- and legroom. You're also going to be well sorted for storage in the cabin, with a good selection of cubbyholes as well as USB-C charging points and places to store your mobile phone.

Being relatively compact on the outside, it's a cinch to park in most places, while if you're using the boot regularly, you'll appreciate its 380-litre capacity (327 in the eHybrid and GTE) with the rear seats in place and 1,237 litres with them folded.

Read more on the Volkswagen Golf interior

What's it like to drive?

The Golf Mk8 comes with a wide range of drivetrains to suit all (well, most) buyers, with three petrol engines and two diesels, and a couple of petrol engines boosted by 48-volt mild-hybrid technology. There's also a plug-in hybrid Golf eHybrid that's capable of over 40 miles of electric-only running according to official figures, with a sportier GTE PHEV also available.

As you'd expect, whatever Golf you choose, you can expect a confident performance that offers an excellent balance of acceleration, economy and refinement. The sophisticated suspension setup in the models that have more than 150hp results in a comfortable ride and sharp handling and steering.

For sporting drivers, GTI and R petrols are available, while the GTD diesel and the GTE plug-in hybrid combine performance and 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.

Read more on how the Volkswagen Golf drives

What models and trims are available?

Volkswagen has packed the latest Golf with a generous level of standard equipment, in part justifying the higher starting prices. The entry-level model is now badged Life, which replaces the previous S specification, while the plusher SE is ousted by the Style grade. Sportier-looking R-Line models continue.

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.

At the top of the range, the sporting GTI, Clubsport and R provide the peformance thrills. In addition, the 245hp GTE plug-in hybrid fills out the range to leave buyers the choice of two PHEVs plus all the other petrol, diesel and mild-hybrid options.

Should you want an all-electric Golf, you might be disappointed to find there isn't one. Instead, Volkswagen has the ID.3 as its family-sized electric runaround instead.

What else should I know?

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.

Being less-than careful with the optioning of your Golf Mk8 can leave you with a very expensive car – you have been warned!

Dealwatch special

Our leasing partner, ZenAuto is offering Golfs from £263 per month.

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Volkswagen Golf Hatchback rivals

Other Volkswagen Golf models: