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Volkswagen Golf interior

The new VW Golf’s interior is a massive step forward over the old car’s in terms of tech but some of its flashy features aren’t particularly easy to use.

Style

While this Golf’s cabin saw a step up in terms of style, compared to the old model it’s actually a slight step backwards in terms of user-friendliness.

To start with, the VW Golf’s interior looks great. VW has gone for a pared-back look that, not by accident, reflects the look of the smartphone that will be in the pockets and handbags of many of its owners. There’s a large 10-inch (as standard) touchscreen in the centre of the dash, and another 10-inch screen (also standard) behind the steering wheel.

There is some shiny trim that links the four slim air vents and a couple of contrasting trim pieces to stop the whole cabin looking too dark and dingy. And if, after all that, it’s still a bit too dark for your taste, then you can spec it up with an ‘IQ.Light’ ambient lighting strip that has a choice of some 30 colours for a full-on disco effect.

Pick a model with an automatic gearbox and the centre console looks super-minimalist, too. There are a couple of buttons for the likes of the parking brake and a tiny finger-sized gear selector, but that’s about it.

Overall, it looks quite cool and tech-y, but we can’t help but be a little disappointed that there’s not been more space made for storage next to the little gear selector toggle. A small, shallow extra storage tray is all you get.

The digital driver’s display makes up for some of that disappointment. It offers a choice of different layouts, and is controlled from the buttons on the steering wheel. It looks both slick and expensive, even though it’s standard on all Golf models.

Speaking of models, if you can stretch your budget to the sporty-looking Golf R-Line, you’ll get an interior upgrade that includes really comfy and supportive bucket seats with high-backed headrests. You’ll also get a black roof liner, which does make the Golf subjectively feel a little less roomy, but the upshot is a cabin that feels more driver-focussed and sporty.

Volkswagen Golf trim reviews

The Volkswagen Golf comes with a choice of four equipment grades, or trims – Life, Active, Style and R-Line.

Golf Life

Life is the entry-level model, but you still get a 10-inch colour touchscreen infotainment system, wireless connection for Apple CarPlay and standard wired connection for Android Auto.

With the latest software update, it also now includes an ‘In-Car Shop’ function, from which you can purchase additional apps and content, such as navigation upgrades, without ever leaving your seat (mind you, the standard-fit Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connections do render this a little superfluous). You also get a digital driver’s display instead of the traditional analogue dials behind the steering wheel. You can configure the display to show the info you’re most interested in.

Ambient lighting is also included in Life cars, but with the choice of 10 colour options, not the 30 you get in Active, Style and R Line. You get a huge amount of tech in the background, too, such as VW’s We Connect Plus system (which allows you to do things such as monitor your car’s status, lock and unlock it from your mobile phone, access breakdown and recovery services with an automatic location finder, and connect to an in-car wifi hotspot).

High-end safety items such as a speed limit display, radar-guided cruise control, driver alertness warning, and an automated emergency braking system (which can detect pedestrians as well as other traffic) are also all standard.

So, by opting for Life trim, you’re not missing out on the main tech offered in the Golf. It just looks a bit more plain than the other two versions.

You get cloth seats as standard – VW calls the seat cloth design ‘Maze’. Also as standard, you get 16-inch ‘Norfolk’ alloy wheels.

Golf Active

A Golf Active is around £500 more than a Golf Life, but adds such extra equipment as 16-inch ‘Galway’ alloy wheels, tinted rear glass, and a lighting system that projects an ‘Active’ logo onto the pavement when you unlock the car.

You also get brushed stainless steel pedals, a heated, multi-function steering wheel with touch-sensitive buttons (that are actually a little bit fiddly), heated front seats, a higher-spec ‘Waveform’ cloth upholstery, door sill protectors, 30-colour ambient lighting, three-zone climate control, and heated windscreen washer jets.

Arguably, an Active Golf doesn’t feature anything that you really might need, but for the £500 premium, it represents pretty good value over and above a Life mode.

Golf Style

Jumping from an Active to a Style Golf will cost you an extra £1,600, which is quite a bit extra (and more than £2,000 over the cost of the well-equipped Life), but you do get quite a lot of extra equipment for your cash.

That includes 17-inch ‘Belmont’ alloy wheels, and ‘Art Velours’ seat upholstery, which is a posh-looking microfibre artificial suede. As with the Active, you get the 30-colour ambient lighting and the three-zone climate control, but now the door mirrors come with electric heating, puddle lights, and an auto-dipping function on the passenger side to make reversing a little easier.

Style cars also come with useful safety kit. They get high-beam assist, so you don’t have to manually flick from low to high beam at night. They also get that Emergency assist system (for DSG automatic models) which brings the car to a controlled stop if it detects that you’ve become incapacitated (switching on the hazard warning lights as it does so). Manual versions get Side Assist, which monitors blind spots and gives a warning for lane changing. There’s also Travel Assist, which combines with the standard-fit active cruise control to help keep you safe and straight in your lane on a motorway or main road.

There are visual upgrades too that make the car look a bit smarter. You get brushed dark metal inserts in the dash and front door panels, carpet mats, front footwell lights and puddle lights on the door mirror.

The exterior is different to Life cars thanks to body coloured front air-intake fins and chrome strip, chrome surrounds on the window edges. There’s an LED light strip across the radiator grille and the headlights move as you corner, so you can see the edges of the road clearer.

Style is also the only trim in which you can get the Golf eHybrid plugin-hybrid. To help pick it out from other Style models, it gets its own eHybrid badging, and 16-inch ‘San Antonio’ alloy wheels. Inside, there’s a driving mode selector (which lets you choose between sportier or more economical driving setups), and an ‘e-sound’ system that plays a low hum when the car is rolling at slow speeds, to warn pedestrians that you’re coming. There’s also a charging socket (located behind a flap on the left-side front wing) and two charging cables — one for three-pin domestic sockets, and a ‘Type 2’ cable for public charging points.

Golf R-Line

R-Line is the sportiest-looking Golf – that is before you move on up to the GTI and full-fat R performance models. You get front sport seats – with a centre section made from ‘Sardegna’ cloth and Art Velours’ side bolsters. You get an R-Line logo on the seatbacks, too. There’s another R-Line logo on the steering wheel – which, by the way is heated.

The pedals are made from brushed stainless steel and you get carbon grey inserts on the dash and door panels. The biggest changes are reserved for the outside of the car. The R-Line exterior pack includes its own design of front and rear bumpers, side skirts, tinted glass on the rear and back windows and chrome effect exhaust tailpipes – although these are fake tailpipes, not real. You get ‘Valencia’ 17-inch grey alloy wheels and lowered sports suspension, too. It’s the coolest looking Golf in the range, which it’s why it’s our favourite.

See how much you can save on a Golf R-Line when you browse our Golf deals.

Some features of the VW Golf’s cabin are a little tricky to get used to, but it looks great and comes packed with standard equipment – even in entry-level models

Mat Watson
Mat Watson
carwow expert
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Infotainment

The Golf gets the same 10-inch central infotainment screen no matter which version you choose. It’s set high up, so it’s easy to glance at when driving, and it’s paired as standard with that 10-inch digital instrument panel.

Both screens look very high-end — unsurprisingly they’ve been influenced by modern smartphone and tablet design — but the blue-and-black colour scheme for the main menu on the central touchscreen can make it a little tricky to find your way around at first. There’s also no place to rest your hand nor your wrist below the screen when using it — that space is taken up by the fiddly and awkward sliding volume control for the stereo, and the climate temperature controls.

While there are no physical shortcut buttons, there are a number of functions that you can control using VW’s voice control system, such as adjusting the air conditioning, or picking a podcast. It’s a decent system, but not as reliable to use as the voice recognition in, say, a BMW 1 Series. There’s also ‘gesture control’, which allows you to change some settings (volume, for instance, or the radio station) by waving your hand in front of the screen; but to be honest it’s rather gimmicky, and very hit-and-miss in its operation.

You do get a built-in connection for Android Auto, though (the BMW doesn’t) which allows you to link up your smartphone. If you’re an Apple iPhone user, there’s actually a wireless connection for Apple CarPlay, so you can just leave your phone charging in the (optional) wireless charging pad.

Connect either type of phone and you can use such navigation systems as Google Maps, Apple Maps, or Waze up on the main touchscreen. Mind you, the built-in VW navigation system is very good, and thanks to VW’s We Connect setup, it can be configured to show live traffic, parking availability, and local fuel prices.

While the software system that controlled the touchscreen on early versions of this eighth-generation Golf was very glitch-y and occasionally downright unreliable, it does seem to be improving as VW gets more on its software and touchscreen game.

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