The Volkswagen Golf seems to have been ever-present at the top of the family hatchback class and, despite having been around for what seems like forever, it's never far from the top of the sales charts either.
There are several good reasons why this is the case, as despite being up against some superb opposition in the shape of the Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra, Skoda Octavia and SEAT Leon, the Golf is still consistently named among the leaders in this particular class.
If you’re after a Golf, you’re almost spoilt for choice, as there's a model for every occasion these days, with GTI, GTD and R high-performance variants, estate versions and the plug-in hybrid GTE all offering variations on a theme. Here, however, we’ll be concentrating on the traditional small family hatchback version.
Over the course of its four decades on sale, the VW Golf has become associated with desirability, quality and engineering excellence. This reputation does come at a price, however, as the latest Golf commands a premium compared to its more humble rivals from the likes of Ford and Vauxhall. It is, however, likely to retain more of its original price when the time comes to sell, and it's still not as expensive as an Audi A3 (which is based on the same underpinnings).
If low running costs are your primary concern, then the 1.6-litre diesel Bluemotion model is the one to go for. It's claimed to return around 83mpg and emits just 89g/km of CO2. This means very low fuel costs, as well as zero road tax and just an 18% Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) company car tax bill, too. However, our favourite diesel engine is the 148bhp 2.0-litre version that still returns a claimed 67mpg. Its 109g/km CO2 rating results in a £20 tax bill and a reasonably low 21% BiK rating, while the extra performance is very useful.
Petrol may suit you better if you don’t do too many miles (less than 12,500 annually) and there are a couple of options that we’d recommend above all others. If economy and low running costs are your absolute priorities, then the 1.0-litre, 113bhp three-cylinder engine is worth a look thanks to a tax-free 99g/km of CO2 emissions and economy of 65.7mpg.
You may, however, end up yearning for a bit more power, in which case, we’d advise you take a look at the 148bhp turbocharged 1.4-litre four-cylinder engine. It's much quicker and, thanks to cylinder de-activation technology (a system that shuts down two of the cylinders when full power isn’t required) it still manages 58.9mpg and will cost just £30 to tax.
As with the engines, there's a massive range of trim levels to choose from, but in terms of combining purchase price, engine choice and equipment levels, the Match Edition is our favourite.
As well as all the standard kit you get across the range such as digital radio, Bluetooth connectivity and full smartphone integration (including Android Auto, MirrorLink and Apple CarPlay) you also get extra such as alloy wheels, some stylish interior trim pieces, adaptive cruise control and front and rear parking sensors.
The safety of the car shouldn’t cause you any sleepless nights, either, thanks to a five-star Euro NCAP score and plenty of standard safety equipment. The Golf's reputation for sturdy build quality is hard earned and backed up by its performance in our 2015 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey. It placed 30th overall out of 200 cars and, while its 75th place finish for reliability may be a little disappointing, coming 39th for build quality – up against some seriously luxurious competition – shows how good the Golf is.