The VW Golf is the king of the family hatch segment, often regarded as the definitive hot hatch and in certain west London postcodes nothing else will do. The combination of discreet yet sharp styling, high quality materials and that all-important snob factor makes it the compact hatchback everyone wants to buy — if only they could afford it. But does this sixth-generation Golf live up to its own legacy?
We tested the £19,430 Golf Bluemotion, a diesel model geared towards high economy and low emissions, to find out.
VW has cultivated a huge following for the Golf. The company knows it’s onto a winning formula where design is concerned and with this sixth-generation model you can clearly see a family resemblance that, over time, has appealed to young and old, rich and poor.
The overall shape is relatively simple and follows pretty much the same basic outline as every other hatch in the segment. However, the steep rear tailgate, the distinctive curve of the c-pillar and the prominent VW badge in the centre of the grille are all distinctly Golf.
Space is everything in this segment and the Golf does not disappoint in this area. The classic Golf shape affords generously-sized windows allowing plenty of light in the cabin, and there’s room for full-sized adults front and rear. The driver has the luxury of a height-adjustable seat while in the back head and legroom is well up to the class standard.
Boot space with the seats up is a very respectable 350 litres (more than you get in a Ford Focus). Dropping the rear seats is a breeze and frees up room for 1,305 litres to be carried. Inside the cabin there is a centre console/armrest and a decent glovebox, but there’s nothing in the way of clever MPV-style storage areas.
Performance & Handling
High performance isn’t something you would usually associate with an economy-biased model but the Golf Bluemotion gets along very nicely indeed. The 1.6-litre diesel may only have 104bhp but there is a healthy 250Nm of torque to play with. It’s just as powerful and just as quick as a regular 1.6 TDI, and should you find somewhere to do it, the Golf Bluemotion can reach 118mph and cracks 0-62mph in 11.3 seconds.
That’s not the end of the dynamic brilliance either, as the Golf has benefitted from independent rear suspension since the last generation model and is all the better for it. It steers ever so sweetly, grips well and feels perfectly balanced. It runs on skinny low-rolling resistance tyres to save fuel, but this actually gives more feel to the driver, making it a very enjoyable car to drive whatever the speed. Only the Ford Focus is arguably better in this respect.
Economy & Environment
Smugness comes as standard with the Golf Bluemotion. It costs £755 more than a mid-range Golf Match, but gives a lot in return. For starters it qualifies for zero Vehicle Excise Duty because of the 99g/km emissions level, while the combined fuel consumption figure of 74.3mpg makes it one of the most economical cars on sale in the UK.
And don’t feel you have to drive like a saint to feel the benefits either. Features like the automatic stop-start really help in crawling traffic, and even if you decide to exercise the performance you should still find it returning decent miles per gallon.
Equipment & Value
If the Golf is on your shortlist you have to be prepared to pay a little more for the privilege. Most of its key rivals are a little cheaper and tend to be better equipped. That said, the standard equipment level is decent; climate control, electric front windows and a decent radio/CD player with MP3 compatibility are all included. The Bluemotion also rides on alloy wheels as standard with sports suspension thrown in.
Expect a few quirks on the Bluemotion spec, though. Parking sensors are around £500, where adding this to the Golf Match costs just £90. DAB radio is completely unavailable. Owners may come to resent this if and when the analogue radio spectrum is switched off in the not too distant future.
Golfs have always had a well-deserved reputation for safety including a five-star Euro NCAP rating, and the amount of safety kit included is impressive. Seven airbags are installed as standard, you can add rear curtain airbags for a further £270, while the all-important ESP is included by default. You can also add an upgraded alarm and tyre pressure monitoring for a few pounds more.
You know exactly what you’re getting with a Golf; a classy, well-made and stylish hatchback that stands above the mainstream crowd despite being as popular as fish and chips. It drives as well as anything else in the class and in Bluemotion form should cost peanuts to run.
You will pay a premium to own one though, and arguably cars like the Ford Focus and VW family rivals like the Seat Leon offer many of the same qualities for less money. But it’s the cache of the badge that keeps buyers coming back, and that image is something that many buyers just can’t do without.
Model tested: Volkswagen Golf Bluemotion 1.6 TDi 105PS
Engine: 1.6-litre diesel
Acceleration: 0-62 in 11.3 seconds
Top speed: 118mph
Emissions: 99g/km CO2