The Volkswagen Golf is a humble family car but its interior feels very well built and has an excellent range of infotainment systems. Having said that, you’ll have to pay extra for the best tech
Okay, the Volkswagen Golf’s interior might not have the minimalist look found in the Peugeot 308, but almost everything in the Golf works intuitively and the controls for the stereo, electric windows and mirrors are exactly where you would expect them to be, making them easy to operate while driving without looking down.
In terms of quality, the VW Golf trumps most cars of this size. It even feels nicer inside than more expensive cars such as the Mercedes A-Class. Up front, almost all of the plastics are soft to the touch, knobs are rubberised and buttons are well-damped. While the instruments – primarily the speedo and rev counter – lack fancy fonts, their white-on-black design is clear and extremely easy to read at a glance, and their backlight can be adjusted to your preference.
Basic models have shiny black plastic trim pieces while mid-range cars and above get nicer metal-effect highlights. The Golf’s interior fixtures and fittings can seem a little gloomy but the seats’ dark fabrics mask stains. Easy-to-clean leather is optional on all but the basic S version but costs up to an eye-watering £2,115, depending on the model you want to upgrade from.
Every button and switch is a delight to use and makes you feel good about life – touches like these set the VW Golf apart from other cars
Volkswagen Golfs in S and SE guise come with the basic Composition touchscreen infotainment system as standard. You’ll find its eight-inch screen is very easy to operate and the graphics are crisp, clear and colourful. SE models don’t get satellite-navigation, but they do get Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Mirrorlink systems, which mean the car’s infotainment screen can display sat-nav and music apps via your smartphone. As well as turning the car into an extension of your phone, these systems also solve the problem of connecting to the VW Golf‘s sometimes temperamental Bluetooth.
SE Navigation, GTE and all models in between get the Discovery Navigation setup – it uses the same eight-inch screen as in the SE but has sat-nav built in. While there’s something to be said for VW’s more detailed map graphics, it’s no easier to operate or follow than your favourite smartphone sat-nav app mirrored on the car’s infotainment screen. This upgraded system also buys you a three-year subscription to VW’s Car Net for real-time updates on traffic, parking spaces, fuel prices and news. Essentially, it’s a gimmick you can probably live without.
Which brings you nicely to the Discovery Navigation Pro system – a £1,325 option. It has a smarter 9.2-inch screen with a glassy finish and even-more-detailed graphics. Sadly, that bigger screen comes at the expense of the volume knob, which is replaced by fiddly touchscreen buttons. Voice recognition and gesture controls are also fitted but they are a little hit-and-miss in their operation. The DVD player and 64GB of music storage are nice features, but not enough to recommend this ahead of either of the standard systems.
Your money is much better spent on the 12.3-inch Active Info Display digital driver’s display – standard on VW Golf GTI models and above, and a £495 option on the rest of the range bar basic S cars, where it’s not available at all. Pioneered in expensive Audis, this display replaces the rev-counter and speed dials with a gorgeous sharp screen that you can switch between a number of functions including conventional-looking dials and a huge map display. The latter is colourful, detailed and extremely easy to follow, it raises the Golf’s interior to a level that other family hatchbacks can’t match.
All VW Golf models come as standard with an eight-speaker stereo with an 80w power output. All but basic S versions can be upgraded to the £550 Dynaudio Excite stereo, which has the same number of speakers but boosts power to 400w – it has heavyweight bass compared to the tinny noise produced by the standard unit.