Review

Volkswagen Golf hatchback

Price  £17,595 - £27,185

Volkswagen Golf hatchback

reviewed by Carbuyer

Pros
  • High-quality interior
  • Efficient engines
  • Holds value well
Cons
  • Unexciting looks
  • Rivals better to drive
  • Skoda Octavia more spacious

At a glance

The greenest
BlueMotion TDI 1.6 110 PS 5dr £22,090
The cheapest
S TSI 1.2 85 PS BMT 3dr £17,595
The fastest
GT 1.4 TSI ACT 150 PS DSG BMT 5dr £25,685
Top of the range
R-Line TDI 2.0 150 PS DSG BMT 5dr £27,185

"The Volkswagen Golf is one of the finest all-round cars on sale, combining classy looks and a high-quality interior with great efficiency and strong driver appeal."

The Volkswagen Golf is available as the bigger Golf Plus and the practical Golf Estate, but here we’re interested in its most familiar shape: the three and five-door hatchback. This model has been around for seven generations and is the car against which all family hatchbacks – such as the Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra and Peugeot 308 – are judged. We've reviewed the performance models – the VW Golf GTD, VW Golf GTI and VW Golf R – elsewhere.

Traditionally, the Golf has scored highly for build quality, performance and refinement, while dropping a mark or two in the fun and pricing department. This latest version is still not the cheapest car of its kind, but it's actually more fun to drive than ever before, making it one of the most rounded and complete cars on the market. As for its price, below-average depreciation (especially with the diesel versions), means a Golf will return more of your money than its competitors.

The Golf is available with a choice of three 1.6-litre diesel engines and one powerful 2.0-litre. The most frugal is the 1.6-litre TDI in the Golf BlueMotion. It returns 88mpg and costs nothing to tax. However, for its more rounded blend of performance and economy, our pick is the 148bhp 2.0-litre, which manages to achieve an impressive 68mpg.

Of course, the diesels carry a price premium and if yo do less than 12,000 miles a year, you may be better off with one of the petrol-powered models. They're not quite as economical as the diesels, but not so off the pace as to rule them out. In fact, the 146bhp 1.4-litre TSI with cylinder-deactivation technology (half the engine shuts down when you're cruising gently) can do 60mpg. It's worth pointing out that all Golfs feature elements of Volkswagen's BlueMotion technology that aims to improve their efficiency.

Even so, neither the diesels nor the petrols can come close to the petrol-electric Golf GTE hybrid, which manages 166mpg, or the purely electric e-Golf, which burns no fuel at all. However, both are expensive.

Depending on the version you choose, Golfs come with a choice of five or six-speed manual gearboxes, and a six or seven-speed automatic, called DSG. This clever gearbox is smooth, responsive and nothing like as inefficient as a conventional auto, so if you do a lot of urban driving or just like the relaxed style of an automatic, a DSG Golf should be on your shopping list.

There are five trim levels: basic S, mid-range Match, ultra-efficient BlueMotion (1.6-litre TDI only), sporty GT and stylish R-Line. Our pick is the decently equipped Match, which has adaptive cruise control, alloy wheels and parking sensors, in addition to the media system with display screen that all Golfs have. Other features common to all Golfs are a five-star Euro NCAP crash-test rating and a good reliability record.

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

5 / 5
based on 2 reviews
5 / 5
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.
5 / 5
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.
What owners say 
4.2197802197802
4.2 /5 based on 910 reviews
70%
 of people would recommend this car to a friend
Last updated 
8 Apr 2015
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