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Volkswagen Golf verdict

2020 onwards (change model)
Parkers overall rating: 3.6 out of 53.6

Written by Keith Adams Published: 15 December 2022 Updated: 20 March 2023

Should you buy one?

The Golf is still an impressively complete car with a broad range – from lowly petrols to efficient diesels, plug-in hybrids to hot hatchbacks there is something for everybody here. Add in that badge kudos and it’s an appealing package – not to mention the scores of people for whom the default response to the hatchback question is simply ‘buy a Golf’.

We’re less impressed by the Mk8 model than we were its predecessors, though, and we think that rival models offer a better overall package. Not least the Golf’s platform siblings – cars like the SEAT Leon or the Skoda Octavia are bigger and cheaper, without sacrificing quality or drivability. Then there’s the increasing affordability of premium options like the BMW 1 Series – and, of course, we can’t forget the all-round package offered by our 2023 Car of the Year, the Honda Civic.

The Golf’s awkwardly touch-sensitive interior and the reduction in perceived quality from its immediate predecessor lose it some points, though it remains a comfortable, easy-to-drive and practical car. It’s a sound choice if you’d rather not think too hard about your new car purchase – or, if one of the Golf’s many derivatives suits you better than more specialised rivals.

What we like

Driver enjoyment, long seen as the main compromise when comparing the Golf to some of its more dynamic rivals has been given a suitable uplift. While it’s certainly sharper there’s still a sense of grip being prioritised over edge-of-your-seat excitement, but that’ll doubtless appeal to the Golf’s target market.

The Golf’s comfort impresses even more, especially if you stick to smaller 16-inch or 17-inch wheels and tick the box for DCC adaptive suspension.

What we don’t like

Over the last few years we’ve seen many rivals grow in size while the Golf has stayed much the same. That means the boot is now merely average in size while rear leg room is adequate but not generous for tall adults. More annoying is the switch from easy to operate physical controls to a heavy reliance on touch-sensitive controls. They are more distracting to operate on the move and make simple tasks like changing the heater settings tricky. 

Not helping matters here is the infotainment system which can be glitchy and doesn’t have the clearest menus out there.