Parkers overall rating: 4.3 out of 5 4.3
  • Dual screens are a radical departure...
  • Yet it feels familiar to use
  • Massively reduced button count

Most obvious of the changes for the eighth generation Volkswagen Golf is inside where you can enjoy what the German maker is calling a ‘digital revolution’ comparable to the launch of the first smartphone. In this day and age, making claims like this are obviously quite ambitious - and somewhat ambiguous.

Nevertheless, Volkswagen stands by the claim as most of it is centred on the development of its 10.25-inch Active Info Display screen behind the steering wheel where the dials used to go. This works in conjunction with a 10.0-inch infotainment screen on the same level to the right. You can add a head-up display too. Rather neatly, the colour of the displays can be made to complement or contrast with your choices for ambient lighting with a range of 30 different hues.

Minimalism has entered Volkswagen's interior design ethos with very few physical buttons. Fear not though, important functions such as the climate control haven’t been tucked away in a touchscreen menu (hello Citroen) but are regulated with a range of intuitive touch surfaces and voice controls.

This actually works quite well, once you're used to it, and isn't as complicated as it sounds. Each capacitive button works as a shortcut to a menu on the main screen containing more controls, so while the physical button count is down, there's no loss of function. They're not very well sighted, though, and if you want to raise the temperature manually, you end up prodding around trying to find the surface to touch – it gets easier with practice, but it will annoy newbies.

Voice control is triggered by the phrase ‘Hello Volkswagen’ and responds to natural commands like ‘go to London’ or ‘I’m cold’. Because it uses clever digital microphones that can tell where the talker is sitting, you can tell it 'I've got cold feet' and the car will warm up the driver's footwell.

If this is all starting to sound a bit out-there for the reliably middle-of-the-road Golf then fear not – quite a few things are controlled by a clever slider in the middle of the dash by swiping one way or the other – the panoramic roof (this has fewer joints and a 5% larger glazed area, by the way), the air con, and map zoom for example. It’s actually quite simple once acclimatised.

Thanks to an onboard eSIM card the Golf can hook up to VW’s new ‘We Ecosystem’ (no laughing at the back) which comprises We Connect (unlimited usage period) and We Connect Plus (free in Europe for one or three years).

Use this to pick up points of interest along a route, such as the phone number for the restaurant you’re going to, or to set your phone up as a car key, or to lock or unlock your car from a distance. You know, standard Q Branch stuff.

Other optional niceties include a Harman-Kardon sound system with 480-watts of power and 10 speakers including a subwoofer in the spare wheel well.

Downsides of the interior? In bright sunshine, the glare of the shiny black screen surrounds can dazzle a bit. This area of the dash also looks cheaply finished. There's a notable increase in the number of cheaper plastics found around the cabin, particularly on the lower areas of the dashboard and the mouldings surrounding the gearlever, which does feel rather jarring given the Golf's high retail prices.

Is the Golf comfortable?

  • Suspension reworked for improved comfort
  • Better aerodynamic shape for cabin hush
  • Seats prove comfortable and supportive

Depending on what model you pick this should be a real strong point for the VW Golf – it features clever suspension with a broader range of modes, including better ride comfort at the softer end.

Higher-end models have a more complicated rear suspension with adaptive dampers and found the ride in its softest mode to be very good indeed, with the ability to shift to a much firmer mode if the mood takes you.

The simply - and cheaper - torsion beam Golf rides well too but displays more thumpiness over potholes and other similarly poor surfaces. It’s also more aerodynamic this time around and features low-rolling resistance tyres, so noise in the cabin is kept in check, although there is still a bit of rustle from the door mirrors.

The seats in this new generation car are also excellent - comfortable and supportive but bolstered well enough to keep you pinned in during cornering. There's also a driver's massage function on higher spec cars.

Combined with the variable mood lighting settings, it's a very pleasant way in which to travel.