Used Volkswagen Golf (2019 – present) buying guide

September 12, 2022 by

The Volkswagen Golf is one of the best all-rounders you can buy. So if you’re considering this practical and desirable family car, here’s everything you need to know.

Car makes and models normally fall into well-defined categories, with premium brands that cost a bit more and budget models for those saving cash, or big cars with lots of space and small cars for urban motoring.

But the Volkswagen Golf is one of those cars that straddles everything and could work for just about everyone. It has the brand appeal to match the likes of the BMW 1 Series or Audi A3, but is priced more competitively with the likes of the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra.

There’s also a wide range of body shapes and fuel types so no matter your needs and preference, there should be a Golf for you.

Volkswagen Golf: Pros and cons

What’s good
Efficient engines available
Comfortable on bumpy roads
Good driver assistance technology

What’s not so good
Not the best-looking Golf ever
Infotainment not particularly slick
Practicality hasn’t improved over the previous Golf

Click any of the links below to jump to the relevant section.

Is a used Volkswagen Golf a good car?
What body styles are available?
What are the engine options?
What trim levels are available?
How practical is it?
What’s it like to drive?
What to look out for
Volkswagen Golf recalls
Safety and security
What else should I consider?

Is a used Volkswagen Golf a good car?

The Volkswagen Golf is the safe car choice with an incredibly wide appeal. Need something for the school run? Get yourself a Golf. Want a hybrid family car? That’ll be the Golf GTE. Like the car but need more space? Grab a Golf Estate. More performance? There’s the iconic Golf GTI and rapid R.

Despite being widely regarded as a great all-rounder, the latest generation, which went on sale in 2019, hasn’t had the smoothest introduction. Early cars had big problems with the infotainment software, but updates improved things.

On top of these software updates, the German firm also introduced improved computing and graphical power to make the infotainment more slick for 2022 cars onwards, though this is only for the high-spec Discover Pro system.

The tech-heavy cabin is a blessing and a curse. The big touchscreen massively modernises the Golf’s interior, making it an appealing upgrade for owners of the older model in particular. However, navigating the infotainment menus is far from intuitive, particularly on the move, while the touch-sensitive buttons found on the steering wheel on higher trims are a real pain to use.

Despite these niggles the cabin as a whole is decent. The build quality is great with materials only beaten by the likes of BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

What body styles are available?

The Volkswagen Golf is available in both hatchback and estate forms. As a hatchback, it’s a practical five-door, and you can get both sporty GTI and R models in this shape.

Opt for the Estate and there’s an Alltrack option, adding extra body cladding and raised suspension that make it more off-road friendly. There’s no GTI wagon, but you can still have the R, which makes for a great mix of practicality and high performance. These wagons also have

What are the engine options?

Whatever your fuelling preference it will likely be catered for on the Golf. All engines have the choice of a six-speed manual gearbox and seven-speed automatic unless stated otherwise.

Starting with petrol, there’s a 1.0-litre engine making 110hp to kick off the range, followed by a 1.5-litre with a choice of 130hp and 150hp. If you want the plug-in hybrid, it uses a 1.4-litre petrol and electric motor making a combined 204hp, only has an automatic gearbox, and is offered on both the GTE and Style trims.

The GTI gets a 2.0-litre engine making 245hp, while the GTI Clubsport ups this to 300hp while also dropping the manual gearbox option. The R is the fastest Golf of all, making 320hp with the automatic gearbox.

Long distance drivers will likely be drawn to the diesels. There’s a 2.0-litre that comes with 115hp and 150hp, while the sportier GTD gets 200hp and no manual gearbox option.

The 1.0- and 1.5-litre petrol engines should get around 50mpg in sensible driving, according to official figures, so our pick as a great all-rounder would be the 150hp engine, which has a great compromise between power and running costs.

Naturally, if you can regularly charge the battery and typically travel shorter distances, the GTE will see the lowest running costs by far. However, do bear in mind these models are typically quite expensive to buy, while fuel economy won’t be great if you’re driving around with an empty battery all the time.

What trim levels are available?

There are three key trim levels that are shared across both the hatchback and estate. The entry-level model is called Life and features 16-inch alloy wheels, adaptive cruise control, LED lights all around, and a digital instrument display.

Step up to Style and you get 17-inch alloy wheels, three-zone air conditioning, carpet mats and decorative inserts inside. Then R-Line models get sporty exterior styling, sports seats up-front, driving profile selection, and a different 17-inch alloy wheel design.

On the hatchback, the GTE builds on R-Line with exterior illuminated styling elements, keyless entry, leather steering wheel and LED Matrix headlights. GTD and GTI models get unique 18-inch alloy wheel designs.

On estate models you have the Alltrack trim, which gives you that extra body cladding and raised ride height as well as LED ‘Plus’ headlights and 17-inch alloy wheels.

At the top of the range of both body styles is the R, which gets its own styling pack on the outside, all-wheel drive, and black 18-inch alloy wheels.

How practical is it?

In line with its all-rounder status, the Golf is about average for its class in terms of practicality. Starting with the hatchback, the boot size is 381 litres with the rear seats up and 1,237 litres when they’re folded down. That makes it slightly bigger than a Focus as standard, though slightly smaller with the seats down. The Skoda Octavia dwarfs both, though.

It’s also worth noting that the plug-in hybrid models have a smaller boot capacity of 273 litres/1,163 litres because the battery pack is stored beneath the boot. On top of this, you’ll need to store the cables in the boot if you want to charge on the move, eating a little more space.

The estate is the one to go for if practicality is key, offering 611 litres of seats up space and a massive 1,642 litres with them down.

For passengers, roominess increased a fraction on the old model but, again, the Golf is pretty average against alternatives. While the likes of the Focus, Octavia and Seat’s Leon might be roomier for those in the back, the Golf can accommodate adults in all seats with a comfortable amount of legroom.

In the cabin, there are decent-sized door bins with a felt lining so your keys and other items don’t rattle about while you drive, and there’s a secure mobile phone holder in the centre that doubles up as a wireless charger as standard.

What’s it like to drive?

We’re starting to sound like a broken record, but the Golf’s jack of all trades status applies to the driving experience, too. That’s no slight intended, because it’s exactly this that gives the Golf such wide appeal.

Those who want their family car to be fun and capable in corners should look to the Focus, but the Golf is happier with a more measured approach. The 150hp petrol in particular nudges the Ford for fun, though, because it gets a more sophisticated suspension.

Even without that, the Golf does a good job of ironing out nasty bumps and broken urban road surfaces, while also being composed and refined at motorway speeds, making it a good option for those travelling longer distances.

What to look out for

When looking for a used example of the latest Golf, the infotainment system is something to take note of. Volkswagen updated the early cars that had issues, so make sure the work has been done.

Regardless, some owners have complained that their infotainment systems remain buggy, so be sure to navigate around the menus on the test drive for any signs of issues, such as laggy responses to your inputs. Others have reported the screen occasionally switching off completely until the car is turned off and on again, too.

Aside from the numerous software bugs, there don’t yet appear to be any major mechanical issues or build quality concerns to watch out for.

However, on all but Life, Style and GTD models, there are touch-sensitive steering wheel controls that will not be to everyone’s tastes, so are another thing you should get to grips with on the test drive.

Volkswagen Golf recalls

Recalls happen regularly in the car industry as the result of a manufacturer or the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) finding an issue with a vehicle.

These are mostly preventative, and can be related to issues as wide-ranging as intermittent electrical faults to potential failures in major components. You can type your number plate into the Government website to find out if there are any related recalls.

You can read more about what recalls are in this handy guide, or continue below to see what recalls have been issued for the Volkswagen Golf.

The first recall is for engine compartment covers that could come loose from their attachment. This affected over 7,500 cars built between September 5th 2020 and February 17th 2022.

A fuse in the high-voltage system of 1,868 plug-in hybrid Volkswagens needs an additional protective insulating mat fitted. The affected Golfs were built between January 23rd 2019 and February 10th 2022.

Two more recalls, affecting just over 100 cars each, were issued for a bolt in the brakes that could come loose and faulty crash sensors in the air bag and restrain systems.

Safety and security

The Volkswagen Golf underwent Euro NCAP crash testing in 2019 and scored the full five stars. It was rated particularly well for occupant protection, achieving 95% and 89% for adults and children respectively.

The Golf received an award after this testing for its Local Hazard Warning technology, which allows cars to ‘talk’ to each other, warning of hazards ahead such as stationary vehicles, roadworks or accidents.

This kit is fitted as standard and the driver doesn’t have to do anything as it works quietly in the background until it’s needed. As this technology becomes more commonplace it also becomes more effective, as the number of cars sharing information with each other increases.

Travel Assist is an optional extra that’s worth keeping an eye out for on used models. It’s essentially an advanced cruise control that can steer, accelerate and brake to keep pace with the traffic ahead as well as keep the car in its lane.

What else should I consider?

The family car segment is hotly contested between some excellent makes and models. One of the Golf’s key competitors is the Ford Focus, which offers great value for money and one of the most fun driving experiences in its class.

The Vauxhall Astra and Peugeot 308 are decent alternatives, but you’ll have to find 2022-onwards models to get the latest generation of each, which push the Golf for style and technology much closer.

With the VW losing some of the premium appeal seen in its predecessor, it might be worth taking a look at the BMW 1-Series, Audi A3 and Mercedes-Benz A-Class for a little extra badge appeal and cabin quality.

If you’re interested in buying a used Volkswagen Golf, you can find the latest stock from a network of trusted dealers. You can also sell your old car though carwow, and it’s quick and easy. Tap the button below to find out more.