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In-depth reviews

Volkswagen Golf review - Engines, drive & performance

The Volkswagen Golf maintains its careful balance between comfort and fun

Carbuyer Rating

4.1 out of 5

Owners Rating

4.0 out of 5

Read owner reviews
Engines, drive & performance Rating

4.5 out of 5

How the Mk8 drives depends heavily on the trim level and engine, because while entry-level versions get a simple torsion bar rear suspension, pricier Golfs swap this for a more advanced multi-link setup. Buyers can also order Dynamic Chassis Control, which includes adaptive dampers and Eco, Comfort, Sport and Individual driving modes.

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Comfort makes the steering too vague, while Sport makes the suspension slightly too firm for a normal hatchback, so cherry-picking the best setup is a big positive. Concentrate really hard and the Mk8 feels slightly more agile than the Mk7 on its standard suspension, with a fraction less body lean in corners and a keener steering response. However, the trade-off is a slightly less compliant feel over rough surfaces.

The Golf is excellent at higher speeds, particularly on the motorway, where very little effort is required of the driver to keep it in the middle of its lane at 70mph.

Volkswagen Golf petrol engines

There's certainly no lack of choice in the engine department. The 1.5-litre TSI (127 or 148bhp) engine is carried over from the Mk7 Golf, along with the 1.0-litre TSI with 108bhp. Most come with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard but can also be chosen with a seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox. The eTSI mild-hybrid system is only available with the automatic.

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Even the entry-level 1.5-litre petrol feels like it holds an advantage over the 1.0-litre EcoBoost found in the Ford Focus and the Vauxhall Astra’s 1.2-litre engine. It’s the only four-cylinder of the trio, which helps it deliver power smoothly and from low revs, with very little noise or vibration.

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Acceleration from 0-62mph takes just 8.5 seconds in the 148bhp eTSI, and unlike many mild-hybrids we've tried, you can feel the system boosting performance when pulling away. The engine cuts in and out smoothly, and at higher speeds the transition is barely noticeable. Here, the DSG gearbox is also the best it's been, with the electric motor helping smooth its shifts to the point it almost feels like a conventional automatic at all but the lowest manoeuvring speeds.

The Golf Black Edition is also offered with a unique 2.0-litre TSI petrol engine and 4MOTION four-wheel drive option, giving it 187bhp and plentiful traction, along with much of the styling of the Golf R hot hatchback. This is a throwback to old go-faster looking versions like the Golf Driver, and its 0-62mph dash of 6.7 seconds means it delivers reasonably punchy performance.

Diesel engines

There's just one diesel in the Mk8 Golf - a new version of the 2.0-litre TDI, with either 113 or 148bhp and extra technology to reduce exhaust emissions. We've tried the latter and found it impressively smooth; it may very well be more refined than the 1.5-litre eTSI under acceleration. The extra 20Nm of torque versus the old engine isn’t really noticeable, but it feels punchy and works well with the DSG automatic gearbox.

Hybrid engines

While you won't be able to get an all-electric Golf now that the ID.3 has arrived, the plug-in hybrid Golf GTE still boasts some impressive stats. For a start, it now has 242bhp from its 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine and electric motor, matching the Golf GTi and giving it an impressive turn of speed – 0-62mph takes just 6.7 seconds. However, weighing around 1,600kg and with a focus on efficiency, it isn't as sporty as the GTI. It still feels agile, though, and ride comfort doesn't appear to have suffered too badly either.

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Which Is Best?

Cheapest

  • Name
    1.5 TSI Life 5dr
  • Gearbox type
    Manual
  • Price
    £27,005

Most Economical

  • Name
    1.5 TSI Life 5dr
  • Gearbox type
    Manual
  • Price
    £27,005

Fastest

  • Name
    2.0 TSI 265 GTI 5dr DSG
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £38,805

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.

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