Parkers overall rating: 4.3 out of 5 4.3

Blue 2020 Volkswagen Golf rear three-quarter

Should you buy one?

Short answer: yes. With the eight-generation Golf its position remains at the top of the family car pile.

Although it's excellent in most regards, it's only ahead of the competition by a nose. The Audi A3 has a nicer interior, the Ford Focus beats it for handling and steering, and the Skoda Octavia has additional room and practicality - but none match the Golf's all-round competence.

What we like

There really is a Golf for everyone. Petrol, diesel, mild hybrid and plug-in hybrid are all taken care of, with performance versions ranging from the 200hp GTD diesel, via the 245hp GTI to the 320hp R.

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 too. 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 size. 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.

Which Golf is best for you?

Out of the non-sporting Golfs, unless you cover lots of motorway miles, for us the pick of the range is a 130hp TSI petrol Style model, right from the middle of the range - it's difficult to go wrong with this one. The TDI, in either power output, is a fine choice if you rack up the miles, thanks to its 600-mile range, whilst the eHybrid is our pick of the plug-ins and has the most tempting company car tax bills.

Of the sporting ones, the standard GTI is still the epitome of a grown-up hot hatch, with a healthy dose of involvement that was severely lacking in the previous generation. It's still not the most exciting hot hatch on the market, but remains highly competent and easy to live with everyday, and feels all the sweeter in six-speed manual form. That leaves the more entertaining Clubsport model feeling like the sharper car the GTI should always have been, while the R is a consumate and impressive all-rounder with the advantage of four-wheel drive.

The GTE is also impressive in most conditions and does everything you’d expect. However, its GTE badge – and the connotations it comes with – sets high expectations and the hot hybrid fails to deliver the excitement you really should be getting with a GT-badged VW. You can read about that in its own separate in-depth review.

If you want to go fully electric, the Golf will no longer be the car in which to do it now that the e-Golf is history, putting this one firmly on the internal combustion side of the fence. Want an electric family-sized Volkswagen? Buy an ID.3.

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Further reading

Volkswagen Golf GTI (2021) rear view