The Volkswagen Golf is a motoring institution, but it didn't become one by standing still. Instead it has evolved, taking account of exactly what buyers want -essential if it's to stay competitive with such established rivals as the the Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra, and Honda Civic, as well as the increasingly popular Kia Cee'd and Hyundai i30. It also faces competition from within the Volkswagen Group of companies -the SEAT Leon and Skoda Octavia both have parts in common with the Golf.
To keep the Golf's act as polished as possible, it was given a comprehensive makeover in early 2017, gaining the latest infotainment and safety technology a nip and tuck in the styling department. A sophisticated 1.5-litre petrol engine is also available and can be chosen in two power outputs: 129bhp in eco-focused BlueMotion form or a more performance-orientated 148bhp version.
The Volkswagen Golf is one of the most popular compact hatchbacks in the UK.
The Golf has always been a car that provides a moderate driving experience designed to please as many drivers as possible. Like its predecessors, the latest Golf is comfortable on most road surfaces, yet still capable of putting a smile on your face on more challenging roads. The forgiving suspension flatters the worst roads, yet resists body lean in corners. There's lots of sound insulation for a quiet, relaxed ride and the engines are at all times smooth and willing.
When deciding between engines, if you're after a blend of economy and all-round performance, our pick of the range is the 113bhp 1.6-litre diesel. It can do 72.4mpg when paired with the DSG automatic gearbox and emits 102g/km CO2 giving a company-car Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) tax rating of 22%. While its 0-62mph acceleration time of 10.5 seconds is very reasonable, the more powerful 2.0-litre diesel is almost two seconds faster and only a little less economical, but it's rather more expensive to buy, without making a huge difference to the everyday driving experience.
The least expensive Golf you can buy uses a 1.0-litre TSI turbocharged petrol engine, producing 83bhp. Even this feels surprisingly nippy while returning impressive fuel economy. This engine makes a good choice if you do a lot of urban motoring, but isn't out of its depth on motorways, either.
However, although the entry-level engine is a sound choice, the lowest-spec S trim level doesn't represent the best value in the range. Despite its bottom-of-the-ladder status, it's actually fairly well equipped, with air-conditioning, an eight-inch colour infotainment touchscreen and DAB radio. However, its price puts it on a par with better-equipped rivals and moving up to a Golf SE reduces this disparity somewhat.
Every engine in the Golf is fuel-efficient, while many offer remarkable performance as well
The Golf has always offered impressive interior quality and recent models are even better in this regard. Interior materials are first-class and the handsome dashboard is clear and logical, while interior space is reasonable for a car of this size. Also good news -especially for families -is that every model has autonomous emergency braking as standard.
The Volkswagen Golf finished 18th out of the 75 cars ranked in our 2017 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey of cars currently on sale in the UK and its proven durability helps it to remain a hot property on the used market. Its strong residual values also mean that it can be more cost-effective to finance than certain rivals. All in all, the latest Golf is as compelling a package as it ever has been and can still hold its own in the face of ever-strengthening competition.
MPG, running costs & CO2
4.5 / 5
The ultra-efficient BlueMotion model steals the headlines, but all Volkswagen Golf models are efficient relative to their performance
Engines, drive & performance
4 / 5
The Volkswagen Golf has turbocharged petrol engines ideal for low-mileage drivers, while its diesels are the best in the business
Interior & comfort
4.5 / 5
The Volkswagen Golf is supremely comfortable and quiet inside. Along with high quality, this is one of its most impressive features
Practicality & boot space
4 / 5
The Volkswagen Golf has improved passenger and boot space, so the latest model can hold plenty of stuff in either three or five-door form
Reliability & safety
4 / 5
Superb safety ratings and high build quality make the Volkswagen Golf a dependable choice for long-term ownership
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