Review

Volkswagen Golf hatchback

Price  £17,595 - £27,735

Volkswagen Golf hatchback

reviewed by Carbuyer

Pros
  • Well-built cabin
  • Economical engines
  • Strong residual values
Cons
  • Bland styling
  • Costlier than some rivals
  • Skoda Octavia offers more space

At a glance

Our Pick
Match Edition TDI 2.0 150 PS BMT 5dr £23,665
The greenest
BlueMotion TDI 1.6 110 PS 5dr £22,330
The cheapest
S TSI 1.2 85 PS BMT 3dr £17,595
The fastest
GT Edition 1.4 TSI ACT 150 PS DSG BMT 5dr £26,235
Top of the range
R-Line Edition TDI 2.0 150 PS DSG BMT 5dr £27,735

“The Volkswagen Golf continues to offer efficiency, class and solidity all-round; this new version is also a more involving car to drive than any previous Golf.”

The Volkswagen Golf is a bit of an institution on UK roads. In the 40-odd years it's been around, it has become one of the most popular and trusted hatchbacks you can buy. Today, you can choose from a three or five-door hatchback, an estate and even a mini-MPV model in the form of the Volkswagen Golf Plus.

Now in its seventh generation, the Golf is still the standard-bearer for what buyers expect from a family hatchback: rivals such as the Ford Focus, Peugeot 308 and Vauxhall Astra vie to keep up with it.

Volkswagen seems to build a Golf for almost every buyer: those after frugality have the efficiency-focused BlueMotion, the hybrid Golf GTE or even the electric e-Golf. VW also caters well for those after a sportier driving experience: the diesel-powered VW Golf GTD, together with the petrol VW Golf GTI and seriously swift range-topper the Volkswagen Golf R are fast and fun cars. We’ve reviewed these separately to give them the attention they deserve.

As befits a car that's been around for over four decades, the Volkswagen Golf has gained a reputation for reliability and build quality. That reputation comes at a cost, however: buyers can expect to pay a premium for the Golf compared to its rivals, some of which can be better value and more enjoyable to drive.

The seventh-generation Golf is still more expensive than many of the cars it competes with but for this version, Volkswagen has done its utmost to ensure the Golf is rewarding to drive, as well as being the well built and designed car we’ve come to expect. The Golf has always held its value well on the used market, and that should hold true for this latest version, too.

The most efficient Golf is the 1.6-litre TDI BlueMotion, which claims 83.1mpg fuel economy and emits 89g/km of CO2. Buyers who want efficiency in a petrol-powered Golf should choose the 1.0-litre BlueMotion, which is over £1,500 cheaper than the diesel, although it's less economical, returning 65.7mpg and emitting 99g/km of CO2. Both of these cars feature stop-start technology and are exempt from annual road tax.

We’d actually recommend the larger 2.0-litre engine if you’re after a diesel Golf: the extra power is very handy and its 68mpg economy is still very good. The 1.0-litre BlueMotion won’t be the car for everyone – if you do a lot of motorway mileage, you might yearn for more power – but we’d choose it over the diesel BlueMotion. Its engine is very refined when compared to rivals like the Ford Focus EcoBoost and Peugeot 308 PureTech. The stop-start system of the petrol BlueMotion seems particularly well-suited to the 1.0-litre engine, cutting in and out almost seamlessly.

As is usual, the diesel Golfs are more expensive than their petrol counterparts and if you’re a low-mileage driver, a petrol model is probably the way to go anyway. The punchy 148bhp 1.4-litre TSI is an appealing choice, particularly because it features cylinder-deactivation technology that shuts down part of the engine when full power isn’t needed, helping the car achieve a very reasonable official figure of 58.9mpg.

Though the conventional engine range is impressively efficient on the whole, none of them can touch the hybrid setup of the Golf GTE or the all-electric e-Golf for running costs. But that does, of course, have to be offset against the higher purchase of these two models.

The Volkswagen Golf comes with a five or six-speed manual gearbox or seven-speed DSG automatic, depending on which model you buy. The automatic is smooth, fast-shifting and economical, so it's worth considering if most of your driving includes traffic and low speeds.

There are five trim levels to choose from when buying a Golf (not including the GTD, GTI, GTE, R or e-Golf). They start with the basic S, followed by mid-range Match (which has the 1.0-litre BlueMotion petrol as one of its engine options), efficient BlueMotion (limited to the 1.6-litre TDI engine), sportier GT Edition and top-of-the range R-line Edition.

We’d recommend Match as your first port of call, as it offers a reasonable mix of price versus equipment, coming with alloy wheels on top of the multimedia system and DAB radio that are standard on all models. The Golf received the full five-star crash-safety rating from Euro NCAP and has a good reputation for build quality.

MPG, running costs & CO2

4.7 / 5

The ultra-efficient BlueMotion model steals the headlines, but all Volkswagen Golf models are efficient relative to their performance

Engines, drive & performance

4.2 / 5

The Volkswagen Golf has turbocharged petrol engines ideal for low-mileage drivers, while its diesels are the best in the business

Interior & comfort

4.5 / 5

The Volkswagen Golf is supremely comfortable and quiet inside. Along with high quality, this is one of its most impressive features

Practicality & boot space

4.2 / 5

The Volkswagen Golf has improved passenger and boot space, so the latest model can hold plenty of stuff in either three or five-door form

Reliability & safety

4 / 5

Superb safety ratings and high build quality make the Volkswagen Golf a dependable choice for long-term ownership

What the others say

4.3 / 5
based on 4 reviews
4 / 5
"The latest Volkswagen Golf is irritatingly good in all of the key areas. In fact, it may be the only car you will ever need."
5 / 5
"This generation of Volkswagen Golf is the best yet. Classy, refined and great to drive, it's one of the best small family cars."
9 / 10
"The 1.6-litre diesel Golf is an excellent all-rounder that makes a lot of sense as a company car, while the lower-powered 1.4-litre petrol is an even better choice if you’re a private buyer because it's cheaper and quieter."
7 / 10
"The latest Golf improves a car that was already the class leader. It defines this sector and should be its default buy. You simply can’t go wrong."
What owners say 
4.218201754386
4.2 /5 based on 912 reviews
70%
 of people would recommend this car to a friend
Last updated 
12 Jan 2016
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