The Volkswagen Golf has long been an obvious choice for a wide range of motorists, and has dominated the sales charts worldwide since the first model was introduced in 1974. So it’s no surprise that there are big hopes for this latest example, the Golf MK7. This new Golf has no sweeping aesthetic changes, but some new engines and an all-new platform help it stay true to previous models while also looking to the future. The Golf is something of a premium product in the family hatchback sector, and as such you’ll need to pay more for it than with rivals. We spent time in the £22,050 1.4 TSI ACT GT model and came away feeling it’s worth every penny.
The latest Golf’s design is evolution rather than revolution. The car accounts for around one third of VW’s UK sales, so messing with a tried and tested formula was never on the cards. There are shorter overhangs front and rear, larger wheels and a scalloped roofline that combine to make it look longer, sleeker and sharper than before, but it’s still instantly recognisable as a Golf. And compared to its rivals it tends to look more expensive too, with finer detailing and an overall selse of solidity to its design.
The new Golf is 56mm longer and 13mm wider than before, and that translates into extra room in the cabin, the wide flowing central console adding to the feeling of spaciousness. Plenty of adjustment in the wheel and seat makes for a great driving position and even our three-door car had lots of room in the rear seats, even for adults. It’s not just the occupants that are taken care of though; the boot is now 30-litres larger at 380-litres and there’s loads of storage space in the cabin, with each door pocket featuring a material lining to reduce any unwanted rattles from anything stored there.
Performance and handling
There’s a massive range of engines to choose from with the new Golf, from a 1.2-litre petrol to a 2.0-litre diesel, with power ranging from 84bhp to 148bhp – the hot GTI will come later. We decided to concentrate on the new 1.4-litre TSI with Active Cylinder Management (ACT) which shuts down two of the four cylinders under light engine loads to save fuel. This turbocharged unit pumps out 138bhp and 250Nm at 1,500rpm, so although it’s one of the most economical engines currently available in the Golf, it’s also one of the most lively.
The new VW Golf is around 100kg lighter than its predecessor and its XDS electronic differential and Driver Profile Selection system is sharper and more comfortable than before. In fact it’s safe to say that the new VW is a better all-rounder from behind the wheel than any of its rivals.
Economy & environment
Despite being the largest petrol engine currently available, the 1.4-litre TSI ACT unit is the most economical too, its 58.9mpg narrowly beating the 57.6mpg on offer from the 1.2-litre TSI. However if you opt for the DSG automatic transmission the larger engine’s economy rises to 60.1mpg, while CO2 emissions remain a reasonable 112g/km. The 1.6-litre TDI is the most economical of the lot though, keeping emissions below 100g/km while returning 74.3mpg. No matter what engine you choose, each Golf benefits from standard start/stop and battery regeneration, while BlueMotion technology models can use low rolling resistance tyres, low friction fluids and aerodynamic aids to achieve the best figures.
Equipment & value
The Volkswagen Golf has always been more expensive than its direct rivals, and the new car does nothing to change this. However, it also boasts some of the best residuals in the sector, so you’ll likely make up any difference in outlay when you come to sell, and currently the firm is offering a servicing package that covers the car for three years for a reasonable £329. All models come with air conditioning, Bluetooth and the XDS electronic differential, though a £935 upgrade to SE specification brings with it 16inch alloy wheels, automatic lights, leather steering wheel and Driver Profile selection.
The VW Golf is a 5-star Euro NCAP car with seven airbags and a host of other safety kit available. There’s an automatic post collision braking system, tyre pressure monitoring system and on SE and GT models Automatic Distance Control which includes a city stop function to reduce the likelihood of low-speed impacts.
Previous generations of Golf have set the bar sat very high indeed, and there was a worry that the latest car might not move the game on far enough. How wrong we were; the new Golf Mk7 has improved in ways that we couldn’t have dreamed of. It’s more refined, efficient, better to drive, look at and own, so it’s hard to find a reason not to recommend this car. We could accuse the Golf of being too expensive, but one look at the running costs and residuals will soon allay any fears. Expect to see lots on a road near you very soon.
Model tested: Volkswagen Golf GT 1.4 ACT 3 door
Engine: 1.4-litre turbocharged four cylinder
Acceleration: 0-62 in 8.4 seconds
Top speed: 132mph
Emissions: 112g/km CO2