Volkswagen Golf Review & Prices
The Volkswagen Golf Mk8 retains its core family hatchback appeal, and will appeal whatever your needs – even if some of its tech is a bit too fiddly
What's not so good
Find out more about the Volkswagen Golf
It’s just posh enough that you could consider it as an alternative to the likes of the BMW 1 Series, the Mercedes A-Class, or the Audi A3. At the same time, however, it’s priced in such a way that if you’re looking at a slightly humbler option – you know, like a Ford Focus or a Vauxhall Astra – it wouldn’t be a stretch to think the Golf might also be on your shortlist.
Think of it this way: if the Focus was the car equivalent of a Tesco supermarket and the Mercedes A-Class was a Marks & Spencer, the Golf would probably be a Waitrose. Probably.
First launched in 2020, the latest Golf is due for an update in 2024, where it'll gain some tweaks to the engines and interior as well as a brand-new infotainment system. We'll get behind the wheel of the facelifted 2024 Volkswagen Golf soon and will update this review when we have.
Anyway, as appealing as the idea of treating yourself and doing your weekly shop at a posher supermarket might be, you might not find the Golf’s styling to be quite as appetising.
Video group test: Audi A3 v BMW 1 Series v Mercedes A-Class v Volkswagen Golf
The low-set headlights and that prominent ‘monobrow’ front end in particular just aren’t very attractive (Bert from Sesame Street, anyone?), and viewed side on it just looks a bit droopy – which is odd considering it’s so squared off at the back.
At least once you’re inside, you don’t have to look at that nose; and instead of kids’ TV, the Golf’s cabin is more of an Emmy-winning performance. It’s comfortable and roomy, but while the cabin quality is very good, and better than what you’d find in a Focus or Astra, it’s not quite up to the task of taking on the BMW or the Mercedes.
That big touchscreen in the middle of the dash has some impressive software, and there’s still a good amount of soft-touch, high-quality materials in here too. You get more passenger space than you would in the BMW or Mercedes, but the Ford Focus is roomier still.
There’s a suitcase-friendly boot that easily has enough room for a family weekend away, too. And if you have lots of bags (or dogs, or whatever it is you need to carry) then there’s always the more practical Golf Estate.
My pick of the range is the Golf R Line 1.5 TSI 150. It looks cool and is the best balance of performance, fuel economy and equipment
The engine lineup is well-matched to the car, and none of the smooth, refined petrol or diesel options will leave you wheezing for more power. If fuel economy around town is a big priority for you, there’s even a plug-in hybrid model with an impressive electric range of up to 44 miles available too.
If you do a lot of long-distance motorway driving you might want to consider one of the diesel models, and optioning your Golf with the Travel Assist package might also be a good shout. This uses a combination of cameras and radar sensors to automatically help keep you in lane, and a safe distance from the car in front – though you’ll still need to keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road at all times.
With a chassis set up to please as many people as possible, the Golf has a very broad spread of talents. It’s good at soothing away nasty urban surfaces, but it doesn’t feel soggy or slack when you’re taking on a twisty road. If you spec it with the optional adaptive shock absorbers, it’s even more talented, able to switch from softly-softly to sporty at the flick of a touchscreen icon.
Is it as fun to drive as the benchmark Ford Focus? No, but it’s not miles away either. In short, it should certainly be on your hit list if you’re looking for a posh family hatchback with lots of tech, refined on-road manners and a high-quality, practical interior.
Head on over to the Volkswagen Golf deals or other new Volkswagen deals pages to see how much you can save through carwow. Alternatively, check out offers on used models or sell your car through carwow.
The Volkswagen Golf has a RRP range of £26,945 to £37,040. However, with carwow you can save on average £2,331. Prices start at £24,877 if paying cash. Monthly payments start at £227. The price of a used Volkswagen Golf on carwow starts at £13,200.
Our most popular versions of the Volkswagen Golf are:
|carwow price from
|1.0 TSI Life 5dr
All versions of the Golf come with a multi-function digital display in place of old-fashioned conventional dials, you get parking sensors at the front and back, as well as active cruise control which can brake and accelerate the car automatically.
The Volkswagen Golf is easy to drive in town, comfortable on the motorway and fun in bends, but it isn't the best at anything – it’s a jack of all trades but a master of none
The Volkswagen Golf is easy to drive in town. You get good all-around visibility, light steering, a clutch pedal that isn’t too springy and brakes that are progressive, not snatchy. The manual gearbox is a little bit notchy, but there’s always the option to go for the seven-speed automatic.
It shifts gear smoothly once you’re underway, but can be slightly jerky at slow speeds which you’ll notice when parking. Otherwise, the Golf is an easy car to park. All models come with progressive steering that has not much more than one turn lock-to-lock, front and rear parking sensors and the optional auto-park system can park the Golf in bays and perpendicular spaces. It can even nose you into gaps if it needs to.
The Golf’s adjustable dampers are another option that’s worth considering. It gives the Volkswagen a surprisingly comfortable ride over poor surfaces like cobbles and potholes. A word of warning, though, only Golfs with 150hp or more get independent rear suspension that deals better with bumps than the standard setup.
On the motorway
The Volkswagen Golf is very relaxing for a car this size when you get up to speed on the motorway with comfortable suspension and a quiet cabin that’s only spoiled by a little flutter of wind from around the wing mirrors.
All models come with active cruise control that can accelerate and brake the car automatically. It works best when paired with the Golf's automatic gearbox, which means the car can come to a complete stop with no outside interference.
Matrix LEDs are another option worth considering. They have multiple separate LEDs that can be controlled individually so they don’t blind other road users while keeping the area around them fully illuminated.
On a twisty road
Volkswagen has even managed to make the Golf fun to drive in corners. It grips well and putting the car in Sport mode makes the steering heavier, sharpens the throttle and (in cars with adjustable dampers) stiffens the suspension. Okay, so it’s not quite as engaging to drive as a Ford Focus, but it is a better package all around.
The Volkswagen Golf is an easy car to get comfortable in and has a well-designed cabin with plenty of storage, although heated seats are an option on most of the range
Getting a comfortable driving position is easy in the Volkswagen Golf. All models get height-adjustable front seats with lumbar adjustment and the steering wheel also has a wide range of adjustments for height and reach.
Want your Golf to take the edge of winter? Then consider the winter pack which adds heated seats, a heated steering wheel, a quick clear heated windscreen and heated washer jet nozzles that won’t freeze.
There’s not much wrong with the car’s interior storage. All models have large bins in each door – they’re felt-lined to stop things jiggling about – a decent-sized glovebox and a small storage space under the front-centre armrest. The cup holders are also well designed so that they can grip large and small drinks, while the vanity mirrors behind the sun visors are illuminated so you can see your face at night.
Space in the back seats
There's plenty of room in the back of the Volkswagen Golf with decent knee room and headroom for six-footers thanks to the car’s boxy shape. The large rear windows also help make the car feel light and airy.
Wedge three people into the back and the middle passenger will feel squished but, on the bright side, your outer passengers won’t find their heads get rammed into the roof like they would in a Toyota Corolla.
The Volkswagen’s doors also open wider than the Toyota, which makes it easy to get a child seat lined up to the car’s clearly marked Isofix mounting points.
The Volkswagen Golf has a 381-litre boot – a litre bigger than you get in an Audi A3 or BMW 1 Series (both 380 litres), although the BMW can swallow six carry-on suitcases while the shape of the Volkswagen’s boot limits it to five. The Toyota Corolla (361 litres) also falls behind, but the Honda Civic (410 litres) does best the Golf.
On the upside, the Golf’s boot has plenty of features including shopping hooks and a ski hatch that lets you feed longer luggage through into the cabin. An adjustable boot floor is also standard with it set in its highest position, there’s no load lip to lift luggage over.
It also means the boot floor remains flat when you fold down the back seats to reveal a total load capacity of 1,237 litres. That’s a bit bigger than the 1,200 litres found in both the Audi and the BMW.
The Volkswagen Golf’s interior – with its big screens and limited conventional buttons – looks very modern but it’s less easy to use as a result
The Volkswagen Golf may have a conservative look on the outside, but inside it’s modern and avant-garde. All models come with a large centre touchscreen that’s supported by another digital display behind the steering wheel where you’d expect to find analogue dials. Quality is good with smart trims and plenty of squidgy plastics.
Where you used to find knobs and buttons in a Golf, the new model now has touch-sensitive sliders for the ventilation system and stereo, while you can make use of the system gesture controls by karate chopping the air to swipe through menus.
The result of having no buttons is that the Golf’s interior has a clean minimal look and you get colourful ambient lighting fitted as standard.
Keeping up the modern theme is the Golf’s touchscreen infotainment. It has a vibrant display with sharp graphics and quick response times, although it’s annoying you have to navigate the infotainment menus just to adjust the heater.
To get around this, you can fall back on the car’s colloquial voice commands which can control everything from the sat-nav to the seat heater so long as you start your command with the words ‘Hello Volkswagen…’ followed by whatever you want it to do. Sounds good in theory, but it doesn’t always work.
Most of the time, you’ll be better off using your smartphone’s voice commands via wireless Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, which also lets you mirror your smartphone’s apps – for features like sat-nav and music – on the car’s big screen. The only annoying thing is that you can't beam your phone’s sat-nav display onto the digital instrument binnacle.
To do that, you’ll need to use the Golf’s in-built sat-nav and having the directions behind the wheel makes them easy to follow. You can also have your Golf with a fighter-jet style head-up display.
All models get a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic available as an option which comes complete with mild-hybrid technology. That technology allows the Golf to coast on the motorway and to activate its engine stop-start while the car is slowing to a stop.
The range kicks off with VW’s 110hp, 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol which returns fuel economy of around 50mpg and produces CO2 emissions of 122g/km for first-year road tax of £190. Want an automatic gearbox? Then you can swap the manual for a seven-speed twin-clutch automatic, which comes along with mild hybrid technology and improves fuel economy slightly.
Not enough power? Then try the 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol. It’s smoother than the 1.0-litre and available with 130 or 150hp, getting from 0-62mph in nine or 8.5 seconds respectively. Both will return fuel economy of 50mpg, cost £190 and can be specified with the same automatic gearbox and mild-hybrid technology as the 1.0-litre. Their mixture of nippy performance and still-excellent fuel economy makes them the pick of the bunch.
Do lots of motorway driving? Then consider a 115 or 150hp diesel – both have plenty of mid-range shove, are cheap to tax and can return fuel economy of more than 60mpg.
More of a townie that does occasional trips out of the city? Then consider the 204hp plug-in hybrid. It can travel more than 40 miles on battery power alone, meaning there’s the potential to save cash if you have a short commute and somewhere to charge the car. It gets from 0-62mph in 7.4 seconds and officially returns more than 300mpg, but that’ll drop very quickly when the battery is flat.
European safety body Euro NCAP scored the Volkswagen Golf five stars for safety when it was crash tested in 2019. It comes with eight airbags and active cruise control that can brake and accelerate the car automatically. You also get automatic emergency brakes, lane assist, road-sign detection and driver alert which senses when it’s time for you to take a break. All models also come with an alarm, which has an interior sensor.
The new Volkswagen Golf has suffered from various infotainment gremlins that have been fixed with several updates – make sure any car you buy has been treated to the latest software.
Recalls are limited to a fix involving the high-voltage power system in plug-in hybrid models and engine compartment covers that come loose. Both can be fixed free of charge at the dealer. The Golf comes with a three-year/60,000-mile warranty.
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*Please contact the dealer for a personalised quote, including terms and conditions. Quote is subject to dealer requirements, including status and availability. Illustrations are based on personal contract hire, 9 month upfront fee, 48 month term and 8000 miles annually, VAT included.