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Andy Harris
Motoring and Property Editor
9:01 AM 12th August 2020

Volkswagen Golf – The 8th Generation On Test

It seems hard to believe that it is 45 years since the first Golf rolled off the production line, with some 35 million examples built. A top seller in Europe, UK buyers have always warmly embraced the Golf and therefore the importance of an all-new version cannot be underestimated.

The latest Golf is the most intelligent and connected yet. It offers a wide choice of drivetrains with new mild-hybrid and plug-in hybrids joining the more familiar diesel and petrol versions. Something for everyone.

Golf Mk8 is completely new, but the shape is familiar. No radical exterior changes, no need to alienate the established clientele.

The test car

On my driveway sat what is likely to be one of the most popular versions. Mid-spec ‘Style’ trim, a familiar 1.5-litre petrol engine and a six-speed manual gearbox. Optional lime yellow paint (add £625) would not be my choice, but it is distinctive, nonetheless. Add in a ‘Winter Pack’ (£285) and a ‘Discover Navigation Pro Touchscreen’ system (£1,600) and £28,605 would be required for a similar car to grace your driveway.


Fast facts

Volkswagen Golf Style TSi
Price £26,095 before options
150PS 1.5-litre petrol engine
6-speed manual gearbox
Torque 250Nm
0-62mph in 8.5 seconds
Top speed 139mph
Combined economy 50.2mpg
Emissions 125g/km CO2
Insurance group 20E

How does it drive?

Performance is suitably brisk, the gearbox slick and the clutch light. It is an easy car to pilot and demands little effort to get to know. Existing Golf owners will find little has changed.

The ride is a little firmer than before, but with no discernible gain in handling prowess. Safe, secure and sensible is the order of the day, with thrills saved for top GTi and R variants.

Even with my somewhat exuberant driving style, I was able to return a creditable 47mpg over 500 miles + of mixed driving, close to Volkswagen’s official figures. On long stretches of motorway, the trip computer showed over 50mpg. It is hard to see many buyers going down the diesel route.

It’s not all good news, however. In an effort to simplify the interior, many of the interior buttons and switchgear have been removed, replaced by sliders and touch panels for all key functions. This is a retrograde step as it introduces a level of complication not needed in the previous generation model. Of more concern is the amount of time eyes need to be averted from the road ahead to undertake simple tasks.

Volkswagen is not alone in pursuing this strategy and I would implore all manufacturers to desist. I fear it is all too late. I am probably just getting old…

Should I buy one?

If you are an existing owner, then upgrading to the latest model has always been a natural progression. I am sure that this will continue to be the case, though be prepared to deal with the latest tech.

There is ample room for four adults to travel in comfort, five at a push and the boot is well-shaped and reasonably commodious. Equipment count is high and there is all the expected safety kit fitted as standard. Euro NCAP has already awarded the Golf a 5-star rating and most commendable is a score of 95% for adult occupant safety.

Golfs are undemanding to drive and the ownership experience generally trouble free. Dealers are plentiful and servicing and maintenance costs should be low.

The Golf also boasts a rather impressive classless appeal. It manages to be attractive to all ages and backgrounds and to mind always seems a sensible choice. It is an easy car to recommend and I generally do.

The rivals

Almost every manufacturer makes a car to rival the Golf. If we look at the UK sales figures, then the Ford Focus and Mercedes-Benz A-Class are probably the nearest rivals. The Focus is a better choice for the keen driver and the A-Class, well it is a Mercedes and that carries a certain amount of kudos.

I would add the Kia Ceed, Skoda Octavia and Mazda3 to the list of cars worthy of comparison and I could make a case for each of them.

Verdict

It has always been very easy to answer the question, ‘why a Golf?’ Classless, well made and easy to own. Perhaps not the best at any one thing, but generally good in all areas. I do have some reservations with regards to Golf Mk 8, however. A little too ‘techy’ and a little firmer riding has allowed the rivals to close the gap.

Buy a Golf and I would still applaud the choice but do tell me you looked elsewhere before making that decision.