There’s a reason why the Volkswagen Golf has one of the longest surviving nameplates of any car, and that’s because it’s a vehicle that has grown more competent and won more fans with every generation.
It has always been a high-quality offering, too - ever since the first VW Golf graced our streets in 1974, it has been a car that has exemplified superb build precision, inch-perfect panel gaps and materials that feel like they’ll last forever.
Everything that was true of the Golf when new still rings true today - it’s an impeccably well-made car that’s as subtly handsome as it always was.
It’s also still in huge demand as a used car - something that has been a Golf tradition for many years. Whichever Golf you go for, it will still be hot used car property when you decide it’s time to sell.
Every generation of Volkswagen Golf has been a case of evolution rather than revolution, but what that gives it is a wonderfully timeless quality.
It somehow manages to look modern, while at the same time retaining a classical elegance that instantly identifies it as a Golf.
There are many trim levels to choose from, and the Golf is a true chameleon, slipping seamlessly from unassuming compact hatchback to sporty GTi while still retaining the air of upmarket quality that has always made it a slightly more premium offering than other mainstream compact hatchbacks.
There are four body types on offer - three and five-door hatchbacks, a mini-MPV in the form of the Golf SV and a more conventional estate for those that favour a more traditional body style.
As ever, the Golf offers a cabin that feels solid and well-made, with good ergonomics and high-quality interior plastics.
Upmarket seat fabrics (or leather, in plusher models) plus soft-touch plastics give the interior a quality feel, while sportier R-Design models get figure-hugging sports seats.
Modern infotainment systems, the style of which varies according to model, complete the picture - there really is a Golf for everyone, from the fairly basic to the supremely well-equipped.
The interior is both comfortable and spacious, with a great driving position and above average rear legroom, while the Golf’s boot is also decent - 380-litres of luggage space with the rear seats up is about the class average, but with the back seats folded down, this can be increased to an impressive 1270-litres. The extended wheelbase of the estate adds to this yet further, so it’s no surprise that the VW is the best-selling small estate in the UK, even outselling the ever-popular Vauxhall Astra.
Driving and practicality
With such a sturdy feeling of quality, you might expect the Golf to feel a bit over-heavy and unwieldy out on the open road, but thanks to Volkswagen’s clever lightweight MQB platform, it’s actually one of the lightest and most agile cars in its class, with superb handling and above average ride quality.
The steering is sharp, though you’ll need to go for the iconic GTi or R-Line if you want sports car-like feel at the wheel. In ‘Sports’ mode, it weights up nicely and feels much more positive than in less sporty trims.
The cabin is hushed and refined, while the ride composure is generally excellent, soaking up all but the worst of bumps and imperfections in the road surface.
There’s a bewildering array of engines to choose from, from the frugal 83bhp 1.0 TSI petrol to the 309bhp 2.0 turbocharged Golf R, but the core models are the 1.4 and 1.5 TSI petrol and 1.6 and 2.0-litre diesels, all of which offer decent combinations of performance and economy.
There’s also a plug-in hybrid GTE and a fully electric e-Golf, further emphasising the fact that the Golf is all things to all people.
The good news is that, despite the myriad of models to choose from, there isn’t a bad car among them.
There has always been a huge amount of love for the Volkswagen Golf among the UK’s car buying public and it’s a love affair that continues unabated.
Family car, first car, company car or performance car, it manages to tick all of the boxes, as well as ‘electric car’ as well, in today’s evolving EV landscape.
Around town, on the motorway or out on the open road, the Golf is an admirable companion and a very rewarding choice of car.
- 13 engine choices - six petrol, five diesel, one PHEV, one full electric
- Entry-level petrol powerplant is the 1.0 turbo petrol with 83bhp, entry-level diesel is 1.6D with 110bhp
- Best-selling model is 1.4 TFSI with 125bhp
- E-Golf has 105-mile range, GTE has 39-mile electric range and 1.4 TSI petrol engine