Parkers overall rating: 4.3 out of 5 4.3
  • Enormous range of engines
  • Petrols, diesels and hybrids
  • Performance versions to follow

One of everything here, with power ranging between 110-150hp, minus an all-electric model of course, which is now catered for by the ID.3. You’ve got the choice of petrol, diesel, mild hybrid, with the plug-in hybrid, plus performance versions of those badged GTD, GTE and GTI, as well as the quickest Golf R confirmed for later in 2020 and into 2021.

There's a choice of six-speed manual and six- or seven-speed DSG automatic gearboxes depending on which engine you choose.

Turbocharged petrol engines

Currently, there are three TSI-badged petrol engines you can choose from: a 1.0-litre with 110hp and two 1.5-litres, with 130hp and 150hp, respectively.

The 130hp output produces 200Nm of torque and takes 9.2 seconds to sprint from 0-62mph. The manual version of this car is set to be the biggest seller, and we found it to be powerful enough with well-insulated engine noise unless pushed hard, at which point it becomes a bit coarse. The 150hp version takes 8.5 seconds from 0-62mph.

We would only recommend the 1.0-litre if you rarely venture outside of a city, as its performance will lack lustre.

Mild hybrid eTSI engine

In addition to the regular petrol range is a 48-volt mild hybrid version of the 1.5-litre engine badged eTSI, initially only in 150hp form. All come with a seven-speed dual-clutch DSG gearbox as standard.

This drivetrain uses a special belt starter generator and a 48v lithium-ion battery charged by regenerative braking in order to enable the Golf to coast with the engine off, in order to save fuel. VW also suggests the eTSI range will be punchier off the line and smoother than the standard petrols.

The 150hp version features 250Nm of torque from a barely ticking over 1,500rpm, but posts an identical 0-62mph time as the non-hybrid 150hp TSI. It actively manages its economy shutting down two cylinders or switching off entirely for moments of coasting.

We found it felt slightly sprightlier than the standard TSI, especially when pulling away where there's a grin-inducing burst of electrical assistance, and quite punchy on a twisty country road. The only problem really was the slightly sleepy nature of the standard-fit DSG, which took a while to shift, particularly on the way down its gears. You can, of course, change gears manually using the steering wheel paddles.

Plug-in hybrid GTE returns later in 2020

The plug-in hybrid will reappear, with its 1.4-litre petrol engine and electric motor found underneath that subtle bodykit. Power from the petrol engine remains the same as before, with 150hp, but the combined power with the electric motor equates to a total output of 245hp and 400Nm of torque - that’s quite a leap from the previous model’s 204hp.

A six-speed DSG automatic continues to come as standard, but there’s a new 13kWh lithium-ion battery, increasing the electric-only range to approximately 37 miles. You can also drive up to 80mph, where permitted, in electric mode too. Either way, the battery features 50% percent more capacity, promising enough range to cover average British daily commutes without the need to use any petrol.

Diesel engines

A new 2.0-litre TDI has been designed ‘from scratch’ says Volkswagen. Available in entry-level 115hp guise with a manual gearbox or 150hp form with an automatic DSG transmission. The lower output TDI is a pleasant-enough car to drive and impresses with its relaxed high-speed cruising ability and low noise levels.

Volkswagen says it will do the 0-62mph sprint in 10.2 seconds, which you can file under 'adequate'. However, on the road, it rarely feels out of its depth, covering long distances happily on the motorway, unaffected by inclines when fully loaded. In town, it feels quick off the mark, although if you're wanting instant overtaking punch on A-roads, we'd recommend the higher-powered version.

We've also driven the 150hp TDI and in a lot of ways it's all the Golf you need - linear in power delivery, torquey, reasonably quick with posts a 0-62mph time of 8.8 seconds, and quiet in the cabin too. VW also promises reduced CO2 and better responsiveness, while the addition of a new AdBlue injector cuts down on nitrogen oxide emissions by 80% compared with the old Golf.

In short, both diesel versions feel relaxingly flexible for daily use – and thanks to an easy 70mpg on longer runs, it has a 600-mile-plus range, which makes it the ideal motorway car.

DSG and manual gearboxes

The seven-speed DSG auto should be the go-to transmission for people buying Golfs now. The system is easy to use, smooth, and on the whole, more efficient than it's manual counterpart. You get standard and sport modes to play with, and in truth, you can't really go wrong leaving it in auto and leaving the car to do all its gearchanging for you.

We've tried the six-speed manual (above) transmission in the 2.0TDI (115hp) model, and came away disappointed. It has a clunky, ever-so slightly obstructive change quality that does the car no favours at all. Having said that, the test car had fewer than 2,000 miles on it, and it may well ease off with more miles on it. But compared with older Golfs, which tend to have a silky-smooth change that's light and trouble-free, we can see many buyers being put off and heading for the DSG.

Hotter Golf GTD in the works

Volkswagen is touting this new model as having ‘one of the cleanest combustion engines in the world’. Described as ‘the long-distance sports car’, the GTD uses a more powerful version of the Volkswagen Group’s 2.0-litre, four-cylinder diesel engine. Power output sees a slight improvement over the previous car’s 184hp, climbing up to the same 200hp figure found on the new Skoda Octavia vRS diesel.

However as with any diesel engine, torque will be the driving factor of its performance and how muscular the engine feels, and here, it’s rated at 400Nm. The seven-speed automatic will be standard.

Volkswagen claims that the use of ‘twin-dosing’ – essentially using two exhaust gas treatment systems instead of just one – makes the GTD one of the cleanest diesel cars in the world. Only time will tell the effectiveness and, indeed, reliability of these emissions control systems, however.

Golf GTI also returning

When it's back on sale, the Golf GTI will be powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine, driving the front wheels and developing 245hp and 370Nm of torque. As before, a six-speed manual gearbox is standard, with a seven-speed DSG automatic as an option.

We're still months off the Golf GTI's arrival, but as with the rest of the range, expect the emphasis will be very much on tech and connectivity – but you can guarantee that it will still be the grown-up sports car that its predecessor was. And with 245hp on tap, expect a 0-62mph time in the six second range and a maximum speed of 150mph.

What is the Golf like to drive?

  • Greater distinction between comfort and performance
  • A very grown-up, mature-feeling car to drive
  • Different rear suspension depending on price

The Golf has always been comfortable riding and confidently grippy, but not the most exciting steer in the world – this generation aims to shed that reputation once and for all. And because it’s 2020 it does so with some mind-boggling tech (sort of, we’ve seen it in more performance-focused cars before) underneath the ‘driving dynamics manager’ umbrella.

Put simply this is a system that makes the suspension and various traction systems talk to each other in order to avoid conflicting commands. Put even more simply, VW says the Golf will be more comfortable at one end of the scale and sharper at the other.

We've only driven the Golf in Life form so far on UK roads, and we can certainly recommend it for ride comfort. That, you might think, may lead you to conclude that it's also not so sharp in the handling department. But you'd be wrong there, and although standard Golfs are not the most involving cars to drive, lacking a little feel, this one is precise in corners and inspires lots of confidence in all weathers.

Put it less simply…

VW uses two things to influence the handling of the Golf – suspension dampers that can rapidly shift from firm to soft and XDS torque vectoring, which applies the brakes to a wheel when it starts to lose grip.

These two ensure that all four tyres have as much traction as possible, and that power is sent to the wheels that can use it best. This time around VW says a better control system ensures this all works harmoniously making it roll around less and feel more responsive through the steering wheel. Cars that feature adaptive dampers now offer a wider range of settings between Comfort and Sport, with an adjustable slider on the main screen that gives you exactly the type of set-up you want.

On the whole it works well, but you'll only really notice this when pushing very hard indeed, at which point you can feel the wheels beneath you being braked here and there to keep things tidy. We've only driven more mainstream models so far and found them to be a great balance between everyday use and excitement, meaning the forthcoming performance models could be very accomplished.

Two different rear suspension options

Like a great many of its competitors (Ford Focus, Mercedes-Benz A-Class, but not the Kia Ceed) the VW Golf now comes with two different rear axles depending on which version you choose.

So what? Well one of them is usually quite a bit comfier and brings with it better handling – Golfs with less than 150hp and front wheel drive get a torsion beam, those 150hp and above or with all-wheel drive (presumably just the R) get a multilink set up. As alluded to, the multilink option is superior but it’s also more expensive, so you only get it on faster, pricier models.