Volkswagen Golf hatchback
Price £16,775 - £30,845
- Decent practicality
- High-quality interior
- Economical engines
- A little bit boring to look at
- Not as big as a Skoda Octavia
- Not as fun to drive as a Ford Focus
At a glance
“The Volkswagen Golf is quite possibly all the car you’ll ever need. It's stylish, efficient and practical.“
The Volkswagen Golf has been around for years and, looking at the latest model, it's easy to see why. The Golf may be a little more expensive than its rivals, but it also looks better built, both inside and out.
The new car has also closed the gap on the Ford Focus, which has traditionally been the most fun-to-drive model in the class. The Golf gets an excellent range of engines that help it do that, ranging from the very economical BlueMotion up to the super-fast R model.
Another strength of the car is the interior trim, which feels a class above its rivals. The dashboard in particular is built from soft-touch plastics and is very easy to use.
Even the entry-level S model gets decent levels of equipment including a DAB digital radio and air conditioning, while top-of-the-range models can be specced to match an executive saloon.
MPG, running costs & CO2
The cleanest Golf BlueMotion model returns an impressive 88.3mpg
How much you want to spend on fuel and road tax is up to you, depending on what model of Volkswagen Golf you opt for. The BlueMotion model can get economy of 88.3mpg and is road tax exempt because of low CO2 emissions. The 2.0-litre 184 TDI model is much quicker, but can still manage almost 70mpg and emissions, meaning road tax is just £20.
Even the fast Golf R, which produces 296bhp, can return 40.9mpg, but its CO2 emissions mean that road tax is £265 a month. The new petrol-electric hybrid Volkswagen Golf GTE does a good job of offering the best of both worlds – performance close to the GTI's, economy of 188mpg, and road tax exemption. It can also run for 30 miles on electric power alone, meaning short journeys cost pennies.
Interior & comfort
Comfortable, quiet and effortless – the current VW Golf is more grown up than ever before
The Golf's standard suspension set up does an excellent job of soaking up the worst that UK roads can throw at it and buyers can also specify suspension that can be adjusted for comfort or more sporty driving – meaning there's less body lean in the corners. Even the stiffest setting is comfortable, though. In the same way, the Golf GTI's suspension is stiffer and lower to improve driving dynamics but still manages to be comfortable.
At speed the Golf's interior is extremely quiet and relaxing on the motorway, and all models get an armrest for the front-seat passengers, a DAB digital radio, air-con, and a Bluetooth phone connection.
Practicality & boot space
The Golf has grown and now features a bigger boot more passenger space
The Volkswagen Golf is a spacious family hatchback, which gets 15mm more rear legroom in the back than the old model and also a decent-sized boot of 380 litres, which is much bigger than you’ll get in the Ford Focus. The back seats also split 60:40 to reveal a total of 1,270 litres of capacity, and the boot gets a 12v plug, luggage hooks and a low load lip. If you need more load space, the Golf Estate is significantly bigger again.
The Golf gets plenty of storage spaces including a cubby under the front armrest, a glovebox that can be cooled by the car's air-conditioning, and numerous cup holders.
Reliability & safety
Well built and beautifully engineered – the VW Golf is a dependable car
Volkswagen gets a good reputation for reliability and, while its 16th place finish in our 2013 Driver Power survey could definitely be improved on, the company still finishes ahead of key rivals such as Ford, Citroen, Peugeot, and Renault. In the model rankings, the Golf came an impressive 16th out of 150 cars.
The latest Golf got a five-star safety rating when it was tested by Euro NCAP, with every area of protection being rated as good, apart from the driver's right leg area, which was marked as ‘adequate’. Even the basic S model gets airbags all round, a post-collision braking system (which applies the brakes to stop the car being involved in a secondary accident), and a tyre pressure warning buzzer.
Engines, drive & performance
Plenty of grip and a range of quiet engines make the Golf great to drive in any situation
The basic 1.2-litre TSI 85 petrol isn’t particularly fast, but the model up, the 1.2-litre TSI 105, is significantly quicker and keeps the same impressive economy of 57.6mpg. If economy is paramount, then the BlueMotion model is the best bet and it still gets from 0-60mph in 10.5 seconds. All the diesels are economical, though, and the 2.0-litre TDI 150 drops 0-60mph down to 8.6 seconds, while the 2.0 TDI 184 can dispatch it in 7.5 seconds.
Although all Golfs are fun to drive, with minimal body lean, the Golf GTI and Golf R models offer even more driving thrills. The GTI is quick with 217bhp and 0-60mph taking 6.5 seconds, while the R is quicker still, taking 4.9 seconds to get from 0-60mph. The latter also gets Volkswagen's 4MOTION four-wheel-drive system.
Price, value for money & options
There's more hi-tech standard equipment on the VW Golf than ever before
The cheapest Golf costs more than the basic Ford Focus, but gets good levels of equipment such as a DAB radio, Bluetooth phone connection, air-conditioning and cruise control. SE models add adaptive cruise control (which maintains a safe distance from the car in front, before returning to a pre-set cruising speed), autonomous emergency braking, and VW's Driver Alert system, which warns you when to take a break. GT models, meanwhile get part-leather seats, front and rear parking sensors, and sat-nav. GTI models can be specced with a performance pack.
What the others say
In isolation, the new Golf is predictably fantastic. In many ways, it's the iPhone of the car world – it's well designed and built and does everything you could ask of it. Its biggest test will come when it faces its sister cars – the good-looking SEAT Leon and plush Audi A3 – and our class current class leader, the BMW 1 Series. But from where we’re sitting, the Golf looks like a good bet.
Despite the improved technology and efficiency, the new Golf will cost you about the same as an equivalent version of the current car. This means it will sit between the Ford Focus and Audi A3 on price, then, although it's likely to work out cheaper than the Focus in the long run, due to better resale values. The A3 will provide a sterner test, especially when Audi introduces the five-door Sportback version in spring 2013. Still, whichever turns out to have the edge, it's clear that Volkswagen has succeeded in producing a better Golf, and that makes it one of the very best small family cars around.