Volkswagen Golf - Preview

New Car Review

7.2 out of 10

10 Second Review

Volkswagen has reimagined what its Golf family hatchback should be, this eighth generation model packaged very differently from its predecessor. Under the skin, hybrid engineering is prevalent further up the range but for potential buyers, what will probably matter most is the distinctive new nose and the classy minimalist cabin. Loyal Golf owners will find lots to like here.

+ More

Detailed ratings

Overall
72 %
Economy
8 / 10
Space
7 / 10
Value
6 / 10
Handling
8 / 10
Depreciation
8 / 10
Styling
7 / 10
Build
8 / 10
Comfort
7 / 10
Insurance
6 / 10
Performance
7 / 10
Equipment
7 / 10

Background

As one former Volkswagen Group Chairman once pointed out, 'the biggest mistake any Volkswagen Golf can make is to stop being a Golf'. Which is why the seven previous generation versions of this model have been marked by such gradual evolution. Visually though, this MK8 model certainly looks a little more distinct. Too much of a change? Only you can decide.
In some ways, this eighth generation version isn't actually quite as much of a step forward as its predecessor. Most of the stuff you can't see is the same as before - the MQB platform and most of the engines for example. And the ground-breaking full-electric e-Golf is no more; Volkswagen wants to reserve full-battery-tech for its new ID family of models. Still, mild hybrid-tech features strongly and there are big steps forward in cabin design and quality. Sounds promising.
+ More

Video

Driving experience

Most of the engineware in this Golf is carried over from before. So that means an entry-level 90PS 1.0-litre TSI turbo petrol unit propping up the range, this unit also available with 110PS. Next up in the petrol line-up is the usual 1.5-litre TSI EVO powerplant, now boosted with the addition of mild hybrid tech and developing either 130 or 150PS. Alternatively, you could consider the Golf GTE plug-in hybrid, which continues to use the old 1.4-litre TSI petrol motor, but mates it with a more powerful electric motor, meaning that total output rises to 245PS. Battery capacity is up too - to 13kWh, allowing for a higher 43 mile all-electric range between charges and battery-powered speeds of up to 87mph. The GTE is auto-only, but mainstream Golfs are available with the usual choice of either a 6-speed manual or a 7-speed DSG auto.
Volkswagen has also developed the usual Golf GTI and Golf R hot hatch models, which will use a 2.0-litre TSI petrol engine also featuring mild hybrid assistance - the kind we've lately seen on various Audi models. If you want a diesel, you'll find that Volkswagen has improved its 2.0-litre TDI 150PS offering, plus, as before, there's a 115PS 1.6-litre TDI powerplant for entry-level customers. You'll search in vain for a full-electric version to replace the outgoing e-Golf: Volkswagen's ID3 model will cover off that niche.
+ More

Design and build

From the front, you might think that this MK8 model line doesn't look especially 'Golf-like' with its lower nose and slimmer grille flanked by beady full-LED headlights. Different front bumper styling varies with different trim levels and the rear features a set of angular LED tail lamps. The rear hatch features the brand's latest logo above 'Golf' lettering and the arrow-shaped C-pillar design (a Golf signature feature since the fourth generation model) is carried forward onto this one. Dimensionally, this model is virtually the same size as its predecessor and as before, there's a choice of either five-door hatch or estate body styles.
Inside, there's a radical difference over the previous model with a contemporary cabin dominated by a couple of screens. There's a 10-inch centre-dash infotainment monitor with the usual features - including 'Apple CarPlay'/'Android Auto' smartphone-mirroring which can now be operated wirelessly. Complementing this is a 10.25-inch 'Digital Cockpit' TFT instrument display screen - the largest in the segment. Elsewhere, virtually all the traditional switches and buttons have made way for touch-sensitive ones - though buttons on the steering wheel and door panel do remain, as does the dash one for the hazard flashers. Rear seat space and boot capacity both remain much as before, so reasonably class-competitive.
+ More

Market and model

Expect Golf prices to remain much as before, which will mean that most models will sell in the £23,000 to £35,000 bracket. In other words, this car, as before, has been price-positioned just above mainstream family hatch models like Ford's Focus and Vauxhall's Astra. And just below premium-badged family hatch contenders like BMW's 1 Series, Audi's A3 and the Mercedes A-Class. To combat the technology of ritzy models like these, this MK8 Golf arrives with quite a portfolio of optional semi-autonomous driving tech, including a 'Travel Assist' feature that allows the car to accelerate, steer and brake on motorways at speeds of up to 130mph.
Standard equipment across the range includes a 10-inch centre-dash infotainment screen with an operating interface that responds to the command 'Hey Volkswagen', followed by whatever you want to ask. Also standard are the full-LED headlights and the 10.25-inch 'Digital Cockpit' instrument binnacle screen. Entry-level cars run on 16in wheels, but higher levels will gain 17-inch rims, plus extra ambient lighting options, chrome exhausts and leather trim options. Plush 'R-Line' models will get bespoke bumpers, trim elements and sports seats, with various similar tweaks featuring on the GTE version. Volkswagen also says that this MK8 Golf will be upgradeable, so if required, features like adaptive cruise control, light assist and a wi-fi hotspot can be added and enabled after you bought the car.
+ More

Cost of ownership

The mild hybrid 48-volt electrical system that features on the volume 1.5-litre petrol Golf models should allow for a decent improvement in running cost efficiency. It recovers energy that would otherwise be wasted when slowing down, redeploying up to 16hp and 25Nm of electric boost under acceleration. If you'd rather have one of the more conventional TDI diesel units, you'll find that both are cleaner than before, with changes claimed to cut CO2 emissions by 17%. The car's coasting function (available with DSG auto transmission) is always active helping with combined cycle WLTP-rated mpg that the engineers claim can be as much as 63mpg in regular driving. Across the range, fuel consumption is claimed to have improved by around 10%. Even more significantly, a new AdBlue delivery system cuts nitrogen oxide emissions across the TDI range by 80%. Volkswagen plans to introduce mild hybrid into these diesel units too in the near future.
And warranties? Well the standard package is three years and 60,000 miles. We can't see why Volkswagen couldn't extend that mileage limit to 100,000 miles, since that what you get on its mechanically very similar Caddy model. Doing that though, wouldn't give Volkswagen dealers so much of an opportunity to sell extended warranty packages. There's one for four years and 75,000 miles or, if you plan to see a bit more of the world in your Golf, there's a five year / 90,000 mile package.
+ More

Summary

Where the MK7 Golf was radical in its engineering but conservative in its packaging, this MK8 model is the precise opposite. To some extent, it's a pattern we've seen before with this model line and in this case, the result is a very complete package. The Golf has always been slightly pricier than mainstream-branded family hatch rivals but lesser versions have sometimes struggled to justify that premium. With this eighth generation version, we venture to suggest that you'll feel much happier about parting with the extra cash. And you might even feel that this VW is a better home for your money than a pricier premium-branded model of this sort - the Audi A3 that shares nearly all of this car's engineering for instance.
This is still, as a Golf always should be, a benchmark in its segment; a car that must feature highly on any family hatch buyer's shopping list. In short, this is still a Golf - with all the model line heritage, depth of engineering and inherent quality that this badge has come to represent. So nothing's changed. Even if everything seems different.
+ More