“Practical, comfortable and economical, the Volkswagen Golf estate is an impressive all-round package.”
The arrival of the Volkswagen Golf estate means that there's now a much more practical version of VW's most popular family car on the market. It adds to the Mk7 Golf's growing line-up of models, retaining most of the new version's sleek dimensions and stylish good looks – it certainly trumps the old Golf estate in this capacity, looking more like the current design of the latest Golf range than before, too. You can get the Golf estate in three main specifications – entry-level S, mid-range SE and top-of-the-range GT, which all come with decent equipment levels as standard. Its primary competitor is the Skoda Octavia estate, but it also has to fend off mass-market rivals like the Ford Focus estate and the Kia Cee’d Sportswagon. Its VW Group brother, the Octavia, may be cheaper and (arguably) more practical, although the Golf estate offers slightly more legroom and a lot more badge appeal. But if the badge isn't important to you, the Golf estate struggles to match the Skoda.
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
There's clearly been a lot of work done on keeping the estate's fuel economy as close to the standard Golf as possible. So, all engines in the range come fitted with stop-start technology to improve fuel consumption. The result is that, even though the estate is heavier than the hatchback, all models can manage to return more than 50mpg. For instance, the 1.4-litre petrol engine is solid to drive and efficient, too, returning 53.3mpg, while the popular 1.6-litre diesel engine should manage to return more than 70mpg. However, the most efficient engine in the range is easily the 1.6-litre diesel engine fitted with BlueMotion technology, which can return as much as 85.6mpg and while emitting only 87g/km of CO2 emissions. That's truly great economy for a car of this size, and will even qualify for free road tax.
Interior & comfort
We’d definitely suggest opting to get the Adaptive Chassis Control for the Golf estate, which really helps to iron out any bumps on the UK's rough roads and to give it a generally comfortable ride – even if you’ve got a model that is fitted with the larger 17-inch alloy wheels. It really makes a significant difference to the car's comfort levels if you regularly clock up a lot of miles – which isn’t to say that the standard suspension set up is bad, it's not, but the chassis control is particularly good. Headroom and legroom in the back is excellent, beating the Skoda Octavia. And this is an important distinction – before buying either the Golf or Octavia estate, consider what you need the extra space for most: the Golf has more space for passengers, while the Octavia has more boot space and luggage capacity. Like the standard hatchback, the estate's engines are all quiet, and refined, making it an enjoyable car on long motorway cruises.
Practicality & boot space
The standard hatchback Golf is already a very practical car, but the bigger dimensions offered by an estate body shape give it that little extra edge and versatility. With the rear seats in place, the Golf estate offers 605 litres of boot space – only five litres smaller than the boot in the Skoda Octavia estate, the class leader for space. The boot opening is very wide, so there's lots of room for loading bulky items. The loading lip is low, too, which means getting things in an out is easy. The boot is 1,005mm long, but fold the back seats down and that extends to 1,831mm. The boot floor also folds to change the depth of the load area, too – which is a good idea, if only it wasn’t so hard to use, like fitting a double duvet cover in a single room, so you’re unlikely to do it on a whim. Also, the seats don’t fold flat, so even sliding objects in isn’t as easy it should be. Overall it is very practical if flawed.
Reliability & safety
Volkswagen came a very middle-of-the-road 16th out of 32 in the 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey's manufacturer rankings, a really quite average performance for a car maker with such rock-solid heritage and strong reputation for reliability. Admittedly, it was an improvement of two places on VW's 2012 showing, but customers clearly expect a little more from cars in VW's price range. However, the Golf estate is constructed from quality materials via high-grade engineering and should last as long as you need it while coping with anything you can throw at it. And with the estate built using parts and components from the standard Golf, you know it will perform well in the real world. The estate also has lots of safety equipment, including seven airbags, automatic post-collision braking system, automatic distance control and city emergency braking. No surprise, then, that it secured the maximum five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests.
Engines, drive & performance
There isn’t a huge amount of difference between the Golf estate and the standard hatchback, with the bigger estate inheriting the hatch's strong brakes and accurate steering. It is a bit heavier, so it can’t quite match the speed and performance of its lighter, more agile stablemate, but the 1.4-litre petrol engine is more than powerful enough to transport heavy loads around with relative ease – and without the engines getting too loud, either. You can get the Golf estate with either a manual or automatic gearbox, and both are precise and easy to use without having much impact on efficiency at all.
Price, value for money & options
You’ll have to pay nearly £800 for the extra boot space in the back of the Golf estate over the equivalent hatchback model, but equipment fitted as standard does include a touchscreen display, digital radio, roof rails, Bluetooth connectivity, a trip computer and an electronic parking brake. If you stump up the money for the more expensive SE, you’ll also get 16-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, automatic windscreen wipers and extra safety technology, including a system that automatically brakes the Golf if it senses that a collision is imminent. The top-of-the-range GT models add 17-inch alloy wheels, tinted windows, sat-nav, parking sensors and sportier suspension to the package. So, it certainly isn’t a cheap car, especially compare to its main rival, the Skoda Octavia estate, which is better value overall. VW expect the bestselling model to be the 104bhp diesel SE, which offers a good mix of equipment, economy and performance – but list prices remain on the expensive side.