£17,625 - £27,785 Price range
54 - 72 MPG
A huge selling point of the VW is its superb interior. Few rivals can beat its combination of soft-touch materials and robustness. Four adults easily fit inside and there’s ample space for luggage. Small storage bins are plentiful and well thought out.
The engine range is very strong, covering everything from a super-frugal 1.6-litre diesel to a mental 296hp 2.0-litre petrol in the Golf R. In between there’s a hybrid and an all-electric model, too. Few other cars offer such broad choice – there really is a Golf for everyone.
The Golf stops, steers and accelerates without fuss, making it very easy to drive. A stability control system gives confidence to driver of all experiences, and in the case of the Golf R – the four-wheel-drive system provides huge grip on slippery roads.
Entry level models get a 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment screen, air conditioning, electric windows and a DAB digital radio with Bluetooth phone connection as standard, so equipment levels are good, no matter which trim you go for.
Volkswagen is expected to reveal a new eighth-generation Golf in late 2016 with the first models going on sale at least a year later. Before this, however, the current model will receive a few choice revisions – read our dedicated Volkswagen Golf Mk 7 facelift guide for full details.
Step inside the Golf and you’ll find arguably the best interior in class this side of a more expensive Audi A3. Soft plastics and materials that seem borrowed from more premium brands mark it out from its rivals. Go for the high-spec GT trim and you get swathes of glossy black plastic. That said, although the materials are of a high quality, there isn’t much excitement in the design.
It’s the small things that bring satisfaction in the Golf’s interior. The air-con controls and infotainment system are incredibly intuitive and even if you’ve never been in a Golf before, it takes seconds to get acquainted with what’s what. Felt-lined door pockets mean the contents don’t rattle around, and touches such as this show real thought has gone into the car’s design.
Volkswagen Golf passenger space
For its size, the Golf is pretty spacious – six-footers can sit comfortably in the front without reducing legroom for tall rear-seat passengers. The middle rear seat is wide enough for an adult, but because of a bulge in the floor (caused by the transmission tunnel), legroom is limited. It’s worth noting that the Golf’s rivals also have the same problem.
Few buyers would want for more headroom in a car this size. Sit in the driver’s seat and the driving position is spot on – neither too low nor too high and that’s before you’ve adjusted it to your liking with one of the many levers on the side of the seat.
Every Golf model above the basic one comes with parking sensors, too. A self parking system is also available as a £600 option.
Volkswagen Golf boot space and storage
Though not as roomy as the Peugeot 308 (470 litres) and the Honda Civic (487 litres), the VW Golf packs a big boot. At 380 litres in capacity, it’s significantly larger than the 316 litres you get in the Ford Focus. Not only that, but the rectangular shape and low loading lip, coupled with plenty of hooks for shopping bags shows lots of thought has gone into making the load area as practical as possible.
A multitude of storage areas dotted around the cabin further increase the practicality credentials of the Golf. You can fit a litre bottle of water in each of the door pockets along with a large part of the clutter that accumulates during daily use. To hide things from prying eyes there are lidded storage areas between the front seats, in front of the gear lever and next to the steering wheel. An even more discreet storage area is the handy pull-out tray underneath the driver’s seat.
The main thing you notice while driving the Golf is how quiet the cabin is at speed. Many testers say overall road, wind and tyre suppression is similar to that of a more-expensive car from the class above.
Few hatchback rivals can match the Golf’s ability to swallow motorway miles, but ultimately the Ford Focus will be more fun to drive down a twisty road. If, however, you’re not looking for outright driving thrills, then the Golf is arguably the most balanced car in class. The minimal body roll and the nicely judged ride reduce long distance discomfort, while the light steering makes slow manoeuvres in the city a breeze.
However, the cosseting ride and great body control is at its best in larger-engined Golfs. For the entry-level 1.0-litre petrol and the 1.6-litre diesel models, the rear suspension is simpler in design and therefore lets more bumps through into the cabin.
The Golf range currently offers a wide array of engines, from the basic 1.0-litre petrol unit to the quick GTE, GTI, GTD diesel and fire-breathing Golf R variants – though we’ll cover the mainstream engines below.
Volkswagen Golf diesel engines
Those wanting high miles per gallon will most likely sway towards the 1.6 and 2.0-litre diesel engines because they have the cheapest running costs and, in a light car like the Golf, provide spritely acceleration. Go for the 148hp 2.0-litre and it can sprint from 0-62mph in 8.6 seconds and will return fuel economy of 67.3mpg. More fuel efficient, though, is the 1.6-litre, which is able to achieve 74mpg. It’s also exempt from paying road tax, because it emits 99g/km of CO2.
Those who want to beat fuel consumption records should have a look at the 88.3mpg BlueMotion. It gets a number of aerodynamic improvements that help it cut through the air, low-rolling resistance tyres, and battery regeneration that takes strain off the engine.
Volkswagen Golf petrol engines
Cheapest of all petrol models to run is the 1.0-litre BlueMotion. It can return 65.7mpg and is free to tax. Although it’s the slowest in the Golf petrol range, 0-62mph takes 9.7 seconds which is nearly two seconds quicker than a Ford Focus with the same size engine.
If you want a lively Golf though, the turbocharged 1.4-litre comes particularly highly rated – many testers are impressed by its refinement and, with the cylinder deactivation technology fitted, fuel economy of 52.3mpg and low CO2 emissions of 123g/km (for £110 annual road tax) make it cheap to run.
The Golf can also be equipped with a DSG automatic transmission that helps to marginally improve fuel economy and reduce CO2 emissions over the manual. However it’s a pricey option, so it might only be worth the premium if you plan on owning your Golf for a considerable amount of time, rack up a large annual mileage, or spend a lot of time driving in town.
Volkswagen Golf hybrid
An interesting addition to the range is the petrol-electric hybrid Golf GTE. With a combined power of 201hp and a commendable fuel consumption of 60mpg it seems like the best of both worlds. However, the added weight of the batteries makes the GTE roll more in corners and also overworks the brakes. Furthermore testers report the hybrid Golf never feels as fast as the figures suggest so ultimately the diesel-powered GTD still remains the thinking man’s hot hatch.
If you think cars like the Nissan Leaf and Renault Zoe look too unconventional, then the all-electric Golf is just for you because only someone ‘in the know’ will differentiate it from a regular Golf. Its ease of use wins over reviewers which say it’s no different to drive than a regular car, only easier, because you don’t need to change gears. Just press the accelerator and off you go.
Reviews are mixed, but that's mainly a symptom of the VW's pricing compared to similarly-propelled rivals from Skoda and SEAT. The engine itself is sweet - testers say it's hushed, and remains smooth even at high revs. It's also hooked up to an easy-shifting manual transmission - though a twin-clutch auto is available on 105 PS models. Reviewers say the 'box is "well matched" to the engine.
It does lack performance, particularly in its 85 PS state (11.9 seconds to 60 isn't fast, but it's not horrific either) but that may not matter in the city - one or two testers say the engine feels fine at lower speeds. If you want a Golf and don't intend to drive far (where diesels tend to excel), the entry-level petrol 1.2 could be worth a look.
The 1.4 petrol does have a lot going for it. Not only is it beautifully hushed and refined (especially at speed, which bodes well for long distance journeys), but the fuel saving systems – such as stop/start and the ‘ACT’ cylinder deactivation technology – help give the 1.4 TSI very impressive fuel economy figures: VW claims up to 58mpg is possible on the combined cycle, whilst the CO2 emissions of 112g/km (109g/km with the DSG auto) means the most you’ll end up paying in road tax is £30.
It's a punchy and peppy little unit, with the reports saying the pretty broad powerband means it’ll still get up to speed if you leave it in a gear higher than you normally would.
There is, though, a price to pay for the clever technology on this particular model – as it’s only available in top-spec GT trim, it’s one of the most expensive Golfs in the range to buy. That said, the low running costs should help balance that out in the long run and, if you’re not in the market for a diesel car, the new 1.4 petrol-powered Golf comes highly recommended if you can afford the fairly steep asking price.
However, those wanting more power may want to look at other engine options. The biggest selling point of the 1.6 diesel is that it is, by some margin, the most efficient engine in the range so far – with tax-exempt CO2 emissions of just 99g/km and claims of over 70mpg on the combined cycle, the 1.6 TDI is certainly one that many company car buyers will be enticed by.
It’s in other areas, though, where the perks of those ultra-low running costs start to be questioned. Two critics who tested this car say it’s not particularly quick, mostly due to the long gear ratios in the five speed manual gearbox and the narrow powerband.
The engine’s refinement was also the subject of scrutiny, with one tester stating the 2.0 TDI is the noticeably more hushed and silent engine. That said, the 1.6 diesel does appear to be more hushed and settled at motorway cruising speeds.
All in all, the 1.6 TDI is an engine that does have its perks and appealing attributes, especially if you’re a company car or fleet buyer. However, for private buyers, we reckon it’s perhaps worth looking at the other engines in the range before deciding which one is best for you.
You'll not hit those numbers in real life of course, but there's plenty more to recommend the Bluemotion - it's ranked highly by the experts. All are impressed by the "immediately responsive" engine and its "top-notch" refinement, though in each respect it lacks the punch and smoothness of VW's larger 2.0-litre diesel.
Importantly, real-world economy seems to be impressive - reviewers report figures from the mid-60s to 70 mpg, so it really won't cost much to run. If you regularly pound the nation's motorways, the BlueMotion should be high on your list.
With a seemingly dizzying array of positive perks and attributes on offer, it’s perhaps best to kick things off with the claimed economy figures. As with every VW Group diesel engine, this 2.0 TDI’s stats on paper certainly hint at impressively low real-world running costs – it’s claimed that, on the combined cycle, the 2.0 diesel can return up to 64 mpg, with the emissions-led VED tax being either £20 or £30, depending on whether you stick with the standard-fit six speed manual or specify the optional DSG automatic gearbox respectively.
The experts also agree that it’s also brisk enough for the needs of most buyers, and go on to say that, whilst it’s a little noisy when compared with the petrol engines on offer, it’s superbly refined for a diesel unit.
The big chink in the 2.0 TDI’s armour is that it’s one of the most expensive in the Golf range so far. Those wanting superior fuel economy at the expense of outright pace and refinement may also want to consider the cheaper 1.6 diesel.
That aside, there’s plenty of positive aspects about this engine to make it stand out amongst the other units in the range, so it’s worth putting down on your shortlist if you’ve decided outright that the Volkswagen Golf is the car for you.
A 2012 crash test conducted by Euro NCAP saw the Volkswagen Golf scoop full marks for the protection it gives its occupants. Even the basic model comes with a full complement of airbags, stability control, Isofix child-seat mounts, and brakes that are applied after an accident to stop the car rolling uncontrollably.
Mid-range Match specification is even safer, though, adding equipment such as automatic cruise control and automatic lights. Lane Assist – which warns when the car is drifting out of lane – is a further £700, but also includes automatically dipping headlights. They cancel full beam when they sense another vehicle on the road ahead.
Not counting performance, electric and hybrid models, you get six trims levels to choose from in the Volkswagen Golf range – including the new-for-2015 Edition models.
Volkswagen Golf S
The cheapest is the Golf S, which comes with all the basics you are likely to need including air-conditioning, DAB digital radio, a 6.5-inch touchscreen for the infotainment system with Bluetooth phone connection and a front centre armrest.
Volkswagen Golf Bluemotion
BlueMotion trim comes with a load of features that aim to cut running costs. Based on the S model, it adds an aerodynamic body kit, engine stop-start and a battery regeneration system that means less of the engine’s power is used recharging the battery. All of this helps it return fuel economy of more than 80mpg.
Volkswagen Golf Match BlueMotion Edition
The Match BlueMotion Edition comes with engine stop-start – even the petrol model gets quoted fuel economy of 65.7mpg. There’s also some handy additions to the basic car’s kit list, most notably front and rear parking sensors, as well as a sat-nav. On cold mornings you’ll also be thankful for its heated front seats and powerful headlight washers.
Volkswagen Golf Match Edition
Match Edition trim was added to the range in 2015, replacing the old Match model. If you cover a lot of motorway miles its standard active cruise control makes it tempting. The clever system can slow the car independently, braking the Golf when it approaches a slow-moving vehicle before returning to a preset cruising speed when the road is clear.
Volkswagen Golf GT Edition
GT Edition trims gets its own distinctive look thanks to unique 18-inch alloy wheels and tinted rear windows, while the car’s ambient lighting raises the appearance inside. An electric glass sunroof lets light in the cabin, making it seem more spacious.
Volkswagen Golf R-Line Edition
R-Line trim joined the Golf range in 2015. It’s designed for people who want something approaching the looks of the Golf GTI, but without its high running costs. It gets a sporty body kit, Serron-style 18-inch alloy wheels, body-hugging seats, tinted rear windows, a flat-bottomed multi-function steering wheel and R-Line Edition badges.
This seventh iteration of the VW Golf is the best one yet. In terms of providing an all-round package of qualities it eclipses its direct rivals.
It also has a vast range that means there is a Golf for every occasion. Want a car that is cheap to run? Choose the Golf Bluemotion. Need extra practicality? Consider the Golf Estate. Cheap running costs a priority? The electric e-Golf fits the bill. Something sporty and practical on the top of your shopping list? Try the Golf GTI. With all this choice it’s hardly a surprise that the Golf was the UK’s fourth bestselling car in 2015.