Volkswagen Golf Match
The 1.4-litre TSI turbo petrol engine is smooth while delivering good performance and economy. Company car drivers could easily be tempted by the 1.6 diesel, though.
The VW Golf Match offers terrific value for money in a terrific car. For around £1,250 more than a base level Golf S, you get automatic lights and wipers, cruise control, front and rear parking sensors, USB and iPod connectors, a digital radio, a trip computer, alloy wheels, more storage areas and a classier interior finish. There's no better family car in this class. The Golf will transport four in comfort and five at a pinch, has a full five-star Euro NCAP safety rating and enjoys a fine reputation for reliability. In Match trim it is available with a 120bhp 1.4-litre turbo petrol engine and two diesels – a 103bhp 1.6 and a 138bhp 2.0-litre, both of which are available with VW's BlueMotion Technology, which adds engine stop-start, low rolling resistance tyres, a gearshift indicator and battery recharging under braking. BlueMotion Technology is an optional extra on Match and GT models, and shouldn’t be confused with the separate BlueMotion models, which have even more fuel-saving modifications.
There's no such thing as the perfect family car, but the Golf comes close. It's good to drive, comfortable to travel in, roomy, relatively compact, sensibly priced and fairly cheap to run. Throw in an excellent standard spec in Match trim and the usual Golf virtues of safety, quality and reliability, and it's hard to argue against it. The BlueMotion Technology diesels deliver around 6mpg more than those without the extra fuel-saving features, and in the 2.0-litre model this is enough to slash its company car tax rating by five bands. For private buyers who don’t do high annual mileages, the 1.4-litre turbo petrol engine is the ideal choice, delivering good performance with respectable economy.
Our list of complaints with the Golf is a short one. It's not as engaging to drive as a Ford Focus, doesn’t have the biggest luggage area in the compact hatchback class and the rear seats don’t fold flat. It also seems odd that five-door versions are available with a semi-automatic twin-clutch DSG gearbox, but three-door cars are not. The 2.0-litre diesel models are expensive, so probably best avoided unless you’re a business driver who can benefit from the tax breaks of models with BlueMotion Technology features. Resale values with the 1.4 petrol engine are weaker than with any other Golf.