Volkswagen Golf S
"The Volkswagen Golf is simply a brilliant family car. In entry-level S trim, it covers all the basic amenities drivers will need and it's comfortable too."
The Volkswagen Golf is all the car most families will ever need. It’s big enough to get four people in, although five is a bit of a squeeze. It strikes a perfect balance between driver enjoyment and passenger comfort. It’s well made and has a superb image, which keeps secondhand values higher than those of any rival car. Like a lot of Volkswagen models, there is a premium to pay over its rivals. For example, even though the Volkswagen Golf S is the entry-level offering in the Golf range, it's around £3,000 more expensive than a Ford Focus Studio.
There's a decent amount of safety equipment on board, including a post-collision braking system and an airbag for the drivers knee, and even though it's the entry-level model, the Golf S still comes with DAB radio, Bluetooth and manual air conditioning.
In terms of engines, the Golf has a bewildering array of choices, but the standout options are the 1.2-litre 103bhp TSI petrol and the 108bhp 1.6-litre TDI diesel. The latter has the best fuel economy in the range, as it can return up to 74mpg. CO2 emissions of 99g/km means it escapes road tax too. The diesels are around £1,500 more expensive to buy than the petrol options, though, so they may only be worth it for company car drivers and fleets.
The Volkswagen Golf is the best small family car you can buy. Whatever your requirements – space, comfort, quality, reliability or low ownership costs – you’ll find it here, and there’s a good range of engines. Ignore their relatively small sizes and concentrate instead on the fact that all of them are turbocharged, which guarantees excellent driveability. As a car to put your own money into, there’s none finer in this class – you can reckon on getting almost half of what you paid back after three years.
There are no real bad points with the Volkswagen Golf – merely aspects which aren’t as good as in one or two rivals. The Ford Focus is more engaging to drive, for example, and the entry level version is a lot cheaper than the Golf S. The boot is merely average for a car of this size and the rear seats don’t go flat when you fold them down. It’s extremely conservatively styled, although for many people that’s part of the Golf’s appeal. In S trim there are quite a few things you might feel compelled to add from the options list, which defeats the point; you may as well opt for the more expensive Match.
What you get
- Folding rear seats
- Tyre pressure sensors
- Passenger & Driver airbag
- Front side airbags
- Curtain airbags
- Manual air conditioning
- Height adjustable driver's seat
- Front electric windows
- Single CD player
- AUX stereo input
- DAB Radio
Recommended optional extras
- Alloy wheels
The 1.2-litre TSI petrol engine developing 103bhp provides good performance and good fuel economy, although business drivers get the same benefits and a lower tax rate with the 108bhp 1.6 diesel.