Nothing about the driving experience has changed with this improved seventh generation Golf Estate - but then you could argue, as Volkswagen does, that nothing really needed to. There's a polish to this car that's evident not only in the way it's built, the way it looks and the quality of its interior fittings but also in the way it drives. Get used to your Golf and you'll find that progress can be effortless, thanks to a combination of stability, poise and control that makes journey times shrink rapidly.
That'll be evident whichever powerplant you choose. At the foot of the range, there's the well-regarded 1.0-litre TSI petrol unit, a three cylinder powerplant developing 115PS. Next up is the 1.5 EVO TSI petrol engine, offered in either 130PS or 150PS guises. Many Golf buyers though, still want a diesel - possibly the 115PS 1.6-litre TDI diesel, but more probably the 2.0-litre TDI, available with 150PS. On the 1.5-litre EVO TSI petrol and the 2.0-litre TDI diesel, buyers are offered the option of a 7-speed DSG auto gearbox for just under £1,500 more. As before, only variants developing more than 120PS get multi-link rear suspension: below that level, your Golf will come with a less sophisticated torsion bean set-up.
In the compact family estate segment, there's still nothing quite as classy-looking as a Golf. Many variants get full-LED headlamps and jewel-like LED tail lamps are standard across the range. On top versions, there are smart animated flowing indicators too. As usual, this design sits on the Volkswagen Group's light, stiff and very sophisticated MQB chassis.
And behind the thinner multi-function steering wheel? Well, as ever, nobody does it better than this. It isn't that it feels especially plush, though the quality of materials used is excellent. It's just that everything is of just the right quality and feels absolutely fit for purpose. In recent times, the cabin was given a lift by the addition of smarter decorative trim panels on the doors, the dash panel and the centre console, as well as classier seat covers. You get more space inside than you might expect. There's 605-litres of cargo space if you load up to the parcel shelf. Flip the rear seats down and you get a full 1,620-litres. At 4,562mm, the Golf Estate is 307mm longer than the hatchback, so do bear this in mind if you're already tight for parking space with a hatchback model.
There's a premium of £1,220 to choose the estate body style over the hatch and the UK Golf Estate line-up is now based around two trim levels - Match Edition and GT Edition, which Volkswagen says add around £1,500-worth of customer value, yet cost only slightly more than the trim variants they replace. Estate prices start from around £23,500.
The three new trim levels replace the existing Match and GT specs, and cost £400 more than the trims they replace. They build upon their predecessors' already generous standard equipment, adding two-zone climate control, LED headlights and Winter Pack (including heated front seats) - optional extras worth £1,910 when equipped individually.
These options enhance the comfort and visible qualities of the three Golf specs, with the added luxury of the two-zone climate control over manual air conditioning, while the heated front seats included in the winter pack provide further comfort. The winter pack also adds headlight washers, heated windscreen washer jets and a low washer-fluid warning light which, combined with LED headlights, optimise visibility at all times - especially during winter months when road grime can obscure a driver's view.
When this seventh generation Golf Estate was originally launched, its efficiency figures took a big step forward, thanks to the lighter MQB chassis. Those returns still look pretty good today: the 1.6-litre TDI 115PS engine is capable of returning CO2 emissions of 109g/km (NEDC) and 56.5mpg on the WLTP combined cycle. Go for the 2.0 TDI 150PS variant and the figures are up to 114g/km and up to 55.4mpg in manual form.
What about petrol power? Well the base 1.0 TSI petrol unit puts out only 110g/km of CO2 and up to 50.4mpg, while the 130PS 1.5 TSI EVO variant puts out just 115g/km of CO2 thanks to its use of Volkswagen's frugal Cylinder-on-Demand technology - and also 50.4mpg. In its 150PS form, Volkswagen reckons that this unit will return 45.6mpg on the combined cycle and 116g/km of CO2, figures not too far off what you'd get from some diesels.
The Golf Estate has never been one of the brighter stars in the Volkswagen firmament. It was always too small, too overshadowed by the hatch or too dowdy to really appeal. While this improved Mk 7 version isn't about to outshine the hatchback version, it at least addresses these other two issues reasonably well. It's usefully spacious and the styling is agreeably sleek.
The rest of the news is good too. The improvements in equipment and media connectivity are welcome and a number of efficiency measures mean that estate buyers who would have automatically looked to diesel engines should also now consider powerplants like the ingenious 1.5 TSI Evo unit with Active Cylinder Technology. Small estates will never be big sellers but, as Volkswagen has demonstrated, if a job's worth doing, it's worth doing well.