In-depth reviews

Volkswagen Golf hatchback review

"The eighth-generation Volkswagen Golf improves incrementally in most areas, but its new digital interior is far from perfect"

Carbuyer Rating

4.1 out of 5

Owners Rating

4.0 out of 5

Read owner reviews
Price
£26,925 - £44,455

Pros

  • Digital dashboard
  • Polished drive
  • New engine tech

Cons

  • Conservative styling
  • Rivals with bigger boots
  • Vague steering in Comfort mode

Verdict - Is the Volkswagen Golf a good car?

As you'd expect, the Golf has evolved and improved in a number of areas, with improved engines, interior space and technology, but some buyers may find a few of the new features frustrating. For instance, relegating virtually every dashboard button to menus within the central screen has made the Golf less easy to use than it once was. We also suspect the gap between the Golf, SEAT Leon and Skoda Octavia will prove closer than ever, while electric hatchbacks like the Cupra Born and Volkwagen’s own ID.3 will prove tempting for company car choosers and some private buyers.

Volkswagen Golf models, specs and alternatives

This is the eighth-generation Volkswagen Golf, the latest version of the family hatchback that has racked up more than 35 million sales worldwide since it was first launched.

It comes as no surprise that VW’s designers have again refrained from breaking the mould when it comes to styling, instead choosing to subtly update the existing design. Most noticeably, the front of the Golf is now lower and sleeker than the old car. This is helped by slim LED headlights and a minimalist lower grille and the removal of separate fog lights in favour of a full-width opening. It also features VW’s latest badges, including ‘Golf’ script on the tailgate, flanked by a modern, intricate rear-light design.

The best hatchbacks 2023 heroTop 10 best hatchbacks 2024

A pie chart for the design budget would reveal that the most money has been spent inside, where the Golf embraces the digital age wholesale. Like the trend-setting Mercedes A-Class, the Golf's instruments and infotainment are now taken care of by two screens sitting side-by-side. Buttons have largely been consigned to history, but you can say "Hello Volkswagen" instead to use voice commands for a variety of actions. Overall, the interior is more attractive and interesting than before, even if there have been a few unexpected cuts in quality – the plastic trim spanning the dash looks a bit cheap, for example. Some may also find the lack of buttons and touch-sensitive slider for volume and interior temperature a backwards step in a car renowned for its logical controls.

Volkswagen has now adopted the Golf trim levels used across continental Europe in the UK, with Life and Style joining the sporty R-Line that we had already. In September 2023 a Black Edition was also announced, with distinctive 18-inch black Bergamo alloy wheels, an illuminated strip across its nose, black exterior trim and extra kit. LED headlights are standard across the range, along with front and rear parking sensors and automatic air conditioning. It commands a price premium, however, costing around £3,000 more than an entry-level SEAT Leon.

Entry-level Life spec cars get 16-inch alloy wheels, with standard safety tech including adaptive cruise control, a dynamic road sign display and lane keep assist. Upgrading to the Style trim level adds 17-inch alloy wheels and LED ‘Plus’ headlights.

Heading up the standard Golf line-up is the R-Line trim, which has a sportier feel thanks to restyled front and rear bumpers, front sports seats and 17-inch alloy wheels finished in a ‘Valencia Grey’ metallic grey paint scheme. Other additions include rear privacy glass and LED tail lights.

The Mk8 Golf GTI, GTD and GTE plug-in hybrids have more muscular styling, LED lights and an optional full-width LED light bar in the front grille. All also gain a five-element foglight design housed in the lower front honeycomb grille, as well as different alloy wheel designs. Trim colours will help separate the three, with the GTI getting the traditional red contrast striping, the GTD silver and the GTE blue to indicate its PHEV powertrain.

New bodywork makes the Golf slightly longer, but its interior dimensions are almost identical, so there's plenty of room to accommodate four adults and 380 litres of boot space. This is about average for a hatchback, but models like the Honda Civic and Skoda Octavia offer more luggage space if you need it.

Volkswagen has targeted efficiency gains with its engine line-up, and there are plenty of powertrains on offer. The 1.0-litre petrol is the most affordable, followed by a larger 1.5-litre TSI with 148bhp, and a number of petrols get eTSI mild-hybrid technology as standard when a seven-speed DSG automatic is chosen. This tech uses a 48-volt starter generator and battery to offer engine-off coasting and a small performance boost, improving overall efficiency.

High-mileage drivers are catered for by a single 2.0-litre TDI diesel with 113 or 148bhp. It’s a newly developed engine that features improved emissions-reducing technology to help cut NOx emissions by almost 20%. Alternatively, there's the Golf GTE, now with an impressive 242bhp. As well as being quick, it has an electric range of up to 37 miles, making it highly appealing for business buyers looking to save on company-car tax. That's especially the case now the all-electric Volkswagen e-Golf has been superseded by the all-electric ID.3.

On the move, the Volkswagen Golf feels slightly more agile than before but maintains the tried-and-tested recipe of being both comfortable and rewarding to drive. You can feel the extra boost of the eTSI system at low revs, but the 2.0-litre TDI with 148bhp is arguably even smoother and refinement impresses across the board, rivalling the Mazda3 or BMW 1 Series.

As you'd expect, the Golf has evolved and improved in a number of areas, with improved engines, interior space and technology, but some buyers may find a few of the new features frustrating. For instance, relegating virtually every dashboard button to menus within the central screen has made the Golf less easy to use than it once was. We also suspect the gap between the Golf, Leon and Octavia will prove closer than ever.

What about buying a used or nearly new Volkswagen Golf Mk8?

Volkswagen has no trouble selling Golfs to UK buyers and that means plenty of choice for those seeking new or nearly new models. The Mk8 is in plentiful supply as a used car these days and VW’s extensive franchised dealer network will have plenty of options. As always, the Golf holds its value very well, propped up by the classy image VW has built for it over the years. You’ll pay a little bit more than for rivals but the investment should pay off when the time comes to sell.  

What’s its history?

The Golf has been around in numerous forms since 1974 and is currently on its 8th generation. The Mk8 car launched in 2019 following a similar formula to the Mk7 car with significant upgrades in cabin technology.

The Golf Mk7 first went on sale in the UK in 2013 as a roomy and sophisticated three- and five-door mid-size family hatchback, powered by a range of economical and zippy turbocharged petrol and diesel engines. Other body styles arrived over the years – a five-door estate car, mini-MPV and a two-door cabriolet. 

Used VW Golf Mk7 (2013-2019)

VW Golf Mk 7.5

A top quality mid-sized family hatchback, the Volkswagen Golf Mk7 makes an excellent secondhand buy because of its robust construction, top-notch materials and overall dependability. A small number of Golf Mk7s have suffered reliability issues, but Volkswagen was quick to resolve these as they became apparent so most cars should be back to rude health by now – do check that remedial work has been done, however. Because it was a big seller in the UK, used Golf Mk7s are plentiful both as private sales and on dealer forecourts, so you should be spoilt for choice. Expect to pay more for a Golf than most of its rivals – the car has a strong reputation for being pleasant to drive and easy to own, and that bolsters values. The flip-side is that you should get a good price when it comes time to sell. The Golf Mk7 has a wide and sometimes confusing range of engines – if you’re after the best all-rounder then we recommend the 1.5 TSI petrol, but there are no bad choices.

Read the full Golf Mk7 review...

Used VW Golf Mk6 (2009-2013)

VW Golf Mk6

Based heavily on the Mk5 that preceded it, the three- and five-door Golf Mk6 hatchback is neatly styled, solidly made, roomy, a treat to drive, largely reliable, and not too expensive to run if you buy wisely. The Golf Mk6 is available with a range of diesel and petrol engines that span from the very economical to the very powerful, and offers you the choice of manual and automatic gearboxes. As with other Golfs, the Mk6 is often more expensive than other comparable family hatchbacks.

Read the full VW Golf Mk6 review...

Used VW Golf Mk5 (2004-2008)

Golf GTI Mk5

The Golf Mk5 represents a big step up over its predecessors in terms of cabin design, quality and in-car technology. Practical, classy, spacious and enjoyable to drive, the Golf Mk5 remains a very appealing mid-sized hatchback despite its age. Its range of diesel and petrol engines aren’t the most modern – the non-turbo 1.6 diesel especially – and yet they’re fairly economical and perform well. Because Golfs tend to be quite durable cars you should have no trouble finding a decent selection of used Mk5s, but beware older, poorly maintained examples.

Read the full VW Golf Mk5 review...

Older VW Golf models (1974-2003)

Launched in 1974, the original Golf wasn’t just a significant car for Volkswagen, it popularised the notion of the hatchback as the ideal family car – by the time production of the Mk1 ceased in 1983 it had sold nearly 7-million examples. It also established a styling template that has continued through all eight generations of the Golf – you can clearly see the lineage when they’re parked together – and ensured that the name ‘Golf’ would from then on be associated with high quality materials, durable engineering, a fine driving experience, millions of happy owners, and solid secondhand values.

The Golf Mk2 of 1983 was a bigger car and more substantial, so felt roomier and safer. Although a mass-produced model, Volkswagen used it to introduce new technology to this sector of the market – catalytic convertors, ABS brakes, four-wheel drive, even an electric-hybrid prototype. The Mk2 also cemented the reputation of the Golf GTI as the best all-round hot hatch: the Mk1 Golf GTI was responsible for creating that important sector of the car market.

A third generation Golf arrived in 1991. Same deal – bigger, safer, newer technology. The Golf Mk3 was an early adopter of airbags, brought cruise control to this market sector, introduced more advanced diesel engines, and in 1996 established ABS brakes as standard across the range, a significant contribution to road safety.

Those ‘in the know’ can sometimes be heard grumbling about the Golf Mk4, which made its debut in 1997, citing the fact that it’s not as good to drive as earlier Golfs: it still sold nearly five million units, despite their moaning. The Mk4 once again ramped up the Golf’s interior quality and it introduced into mass production several technical advances – a six-speed manual gearbox, electronic stability control, and the sophisticated ‘dual-clutch’ DSG automatic gearbox that today can be found in most car manufacturer’s ranges.

Which Is Best?

Cheapest

  • Name
    1.0 TSI Active 5dr
  • Gearbox type
    Manual
  • Price
    £24,995

Most Economical

  • Name
    2.0 TDI Life 5dr
  • Gearbox type
    Manual
  • Price
    £27,480

Fastest

  • Name
    2.0 TSI 333 R 20 Years 4Motion 5dr DSG
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £48,195

Richard is a former editor of Carbuyer, as well as sister site DrivingElectric.com, and he's now Deputy Editor at Auto Express. Having spent a decade working in the automotive industry, he understands exactly what makes new car buyers tick.

Recommended

Hot car deal: striking-looking Peugeot 308 hatchback for £186 a month
2022 Peugeot 308 driving
Deals
20 Feb 2024

Hot car deal: striking-looking Peugeot 308 hatchback for £186 a month

Dacia Duster review – a great-value SUV that owners love
Dacia Duster SUV
In-depth reviews
20 Feb 2024

Dacia Duster review – a great-value SUV that owners love

Hyundai i30 review – A worthy family hatchback
2021 Hyundai i30 driving
In-depth reviews
16 Feb 2024

Hyundai i30 review – A worthy family hatchback

Cupra Formentor review – our favourite hot SUV
Best Hot SUV: Cupra Formentor
In-depth reviews
16 Feb 2024

Cupra Formentor review – our favourite hot SUV

Most Popular

Best new car deals 2024: this week’s top car offers
Carbuyer best new car deals hero
Deals
23 Feb 2024

Best new car deals 2024: this week’s top car offers

New Mercedes CLE Cabriolet released, costing from £53k
Mercedes CLE Cabriolet front quarter
News
22 Feb 2024

New Mercedes CLE Cabriolet released, costing from £53k

Hot car deal: sporty Skoda Octavia vRS Estate for £278 a month
octavia vrs hot deal
Deals
19 Feb 2024

Hot car deal: sporty Skoda Octavia vRS Estate for £278 a month

More on Golf

Top 10 best estate cars 2024
Best estate cars 2024
Best cars
8 Feb 2024

Top 10 best estate cars 2024

They’re practical, great to drive and less bulky than an SUV – here are the best estate cars
Hot car deal: classy Volkswagen Golf for £139 a month
Volkswagen Golf hatchback
Deals
7 Feb 2024

Hot car deal: classy Volkswagen Golf for £139 a month

Our hot car deal for February 7th is the Volkswagen Golf family favourite for just £139 a month
New Volkswagen Golf GTI is here with 20 extra horsepower
2024 Volkswagen Golf GTI static quarter
News
23 Jan 2024

New Volkswagen Golf GTI is here with 20 extra horsepower

The grandfather of hot hatchbacks is revised for the Mk8.5 generation, with visual tweaks and more power
New Volkswagen Golf – hatchback hero arrives with updated interior, engines and more
2024 Volkswagen Golf static quarter
News
23 Jan 2024

New Volkswagen Golf – hatchback hero arrives with updated interior, engines and more

Facelifted hatchback gets an extensive list of upgrades, just in time for its 50th birthday
Top 10 best fast estate cars
Best fast estate cars
Best cars
12 Jan 2024

Top 10 best fast estate cars

Got stuff to move and no time to waste? You’ll want to take a look at these fast estate cars
New Volkswagen Golf GTI: hot hatch icon gets a refresh
VW Golf GTI tracking front quarter
News
9 Jan 2024

New Volkswagen Golf GTI: hot hatch icon gets a refresh

Iconic performance car will receive tweaks for its mid-life facelift, including visual changes and a potential bump in power
Top 10 best cars for winter 2024
The best cars for winter 2023
Best cars
8 Jan 2024

Top 10 best cars for winter 2024

We select a great group of 4x4 cars to help keep you on the road and moving this winter
New Volkswagen Golf facelift brings minor tweaks and ChatGPT
Volkswagen Golf Facelift static front
News
8 Jan 2024

New Volkswagen Golf facelift brings minor tweaks and ChatGPT

We take a look at the initial images of the facelifted Golf, biggest changes reserved for the interior
Volkswagen Golf R review – the ultimate Golf
Volkswagen Golf R driving
In-depth reviews
5 Jan 2024

Volkswagen Golf R review – the ultimate Golf

“The Volkswagen Golf R is one of the hottest Golfs ever, and handles very well”
The UK's top 10 fastest hot hatchbacks 2024
Fastest hot hatchbacks hero
Best cars
2 Jan 2024

The UK's top 10 fastest hot hatchbacks 2024

While hatchbacks might normally be used for trips to the shops, the hot hatch power war has resulted in the fastest models being quicker than most spo…
Top 10 best hot hatchbacks 2024
Best hot hatchbacks
Best cars
2 Jan 2024

Top 10 best hot hatchbacks 2024

A hot hatch should combine driving thrills with everyday usability at a reasonable price – we round up the best
Today’s hot car deal: evergreen Volkswagen Golf for £189 a month
Volkswagen Golf hatchback
Deals
27 Nov 2023

Today’s hot car deal: evergreen Volkswagen Golf for £189 a month

Our hot deal for November 27 is an affordable lease on one of the most popular cars on sale
Volkswagen Golf GTI hatchback review
Volkswagen Golf GTI hatchback front 3/4 tracking
In-depth reviews
17 Oct 2023

Volkswagen Golf GTI hatchback review

"Favouring precision over power, the Volkswagen Golf GTI is a sophisticated hot hatch"
Updated Volkswagen Golf GTI hot hatch inbound for next year
Facelifted Volkswagen Golf GTI
News
10 Oct 2023

Updated Volkswagen Golf GTI hot hatch inbound for next year

Volkswagen’s Golf Mk8.5 is set to come back fighting, armed with a slew of updates to take on rivals
Future Volkswagen Golf R to live on as an electric model
Volkswagen Golf R electric front CB
News
21 Sep 2023

Future Volkswagen Golf R to live on as an electric model

Volkswagen will continue to produce the Golf R hot-hatch into the future as an EV, and here’s what it could look like
Top 10 best used estate cars
The best used estate cars 2023
Best cars
4 Aug 2023

Top 10 best used estate cars

Estate cars are a great alternative to SUVs; they offer lots of boot space without compromising on running costs. Here are the best used estate cars y…
Top 10 best diesel cars
The best diesel cars
Best cars
14 Jul 2023

Top 10 best diesel cars

Diesel cars are well known for excellent fuel economy and great performance - here are 10 of the best on sale today
Top 9 most economical cars
Top most economical cars 2023 hero
Best cars
24 May 2023

Top 9 most economical cars

Choose one of the most economical cars in the UK and save money thanks to their fuel-efficient engines
Volkswagen Golf Estate review
Volkswagen Golf Alltrack estate front 3/4 driving
In-depth reviews
20 Apr 2023

Volkswagen Golf Estate review

"The Volkswagen Golf Estate is sophisticated and practical but some cheaper models offer even more space"
Electric Volkswagen ID. Golf set to receive next-generation battery tech
Volkswagen ID. Golf - front
News
3 Feb 2023

Electric Volkswagen ID. Golf set to receive next-generation battery tech

VW is seeking to keep the iconic Golf nameplate alive with an all-new electric hatchback to sit alongside the ID.3
New Ford Focus vs VW Golf vs Vauxhall Astra
Focus vs Golf vs Astra hero
News
26 Aug 2022

New Ford Focus vs VW Golf vs Vauxhall Astra

The Ford Focus has had a recent refresh, but how does it compare to the latest Volkswagen Golf and Vauxhall Astra?
Honda Civic Type R vs Ford Focus ST vs Volkswagen Golf R: which should you buy?
Honda Civic Type R vs Ford Focus ST vs Volkswagen Golf R header
News
18 Aug 2022

Honda Civic Type R vs Ford Focus ST vs Volkswagen Golf R: which should you buy?

We’ve picked three of the best hot hatches currently on the market to see which is worth your money
Volkswagen Golf vs Volkswagen ID.3: which should you buy?
Volkswagen Golf vs Volkswagen ID.3 header
News
13 Jul 2022

Volkswagen Golf vs Volkswagen ID.3: which should you buy?

The Volkswagen ID.3 is similar in size to a VW Golf, but it uses electric power only. Find out which is best for you

Tips & advice

View All
Car dashboard warning lights: the complete guide
Car dashboard symbols and meanings
Tips and advice
19 Dec 2023

Car dashboard warning lights: the complete guide

Electric car charging stations: a complete guide
Public EV charge point
Tips and advice
11 Jan 2023

Electric car charging stations: a complete guide

PCP vs HP – which type of car finance is right for you?
PCP vs HP
Tips and advice
17 May 2022

PCP vs HP – which type of car finance is right for you?

Average speed cameras: how do they work?
Average speed cameras: how do they work?
Tips and advice
12 Apr 2023

Average speed cameras: how do they work?

Best cars

View All
Top 10 best car interiors
Peugeot 208 hatchback
Best cars
25 Jun 2021

Top 10 best car interiors

Top 10 best electric cars 2024
The best electric cars 2023
Best cars
2 Jan 2024

Top 10 best electric cars 2024

Top 10 best cheap-to-run cars 2024
The best cheap-to-run cars 2023
Best cars
2 Jan 2024

Top 10 best cheap-to-run cars 2024

The UK's top 10 fastest hot hatchbacks 2024
Fastest hot hatchbacks hero
Best cars
2 Jan 2024

The UK's top 10 fastest hot hatchbacks 2024