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Volkswagen Golf/Golf SV

£17,540£35,465
7/10
Overall verdict

For: 

Latest Golf improves a car that was already the class leader

Against: 

It could be more fun to drive...but would buyers want it to be?
It defines this sector and should be its default buy. You simply can’t go wrong.

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Our choice

Volkswagen

1.6 TDI 105 SE 5dr

£18,745
N/A
63mpg
11.30s
105bhp
119g/km

What we say: 

The Golf enters its seventh incarnation. And this time it's more revolution than evolution. Well, sort of

What is it?

Unlike the outgoing Golf MkVI, this is more than just a comprehensive and clever facelift. The Golf MkVII really is an all-new car. But instead of radically redesigning the hatch, VW has come up with… a Golf. When you’ve sold 29 million of ‘em, you don’t throw away a formula that’s so successful. Instead, you improve it. Which is why no stone has been left unturned in the pursuit of perfection.

Given how the old one was already the class leader, this means every other family hatchback should rightly be worried. You can sense the disquiet at Ford and Vauxhall: here’s cash-rich Volkswagen starting from scratch. And just to further compound things, it’s radically improved the Golf’s high-rise cousin, too. Bye bye dreary old Golf Plus, hello smart new Golf SV. 

Driving

The headline here is the ride, which is little short of a revelation. It absorbs, isolates and simply glides above the disturbance of Britain’s knackered roads. Yet, with less weight up front and all-new suspension, the chassis also delivers more feedback and grip than you may expect from such a supple ride. Sure, you’d never call it agile, but for progression and precision, it’s fine – albeit better on higher-end multi-link rear suspension than the penny-pinching torsion bar setup of lesser cars. The new Golf has some interesting new engines along with the familiar (and still able) TSIs and TDIs from the old one. The 150bhp 1.4 TSI ACT is most meritorious, with an ingenious cylinder shut-off feature that lets it run as a two-pot when power demand is low. You can just about tell when it’s doing so but the transition is buttery smooth, and it really does offer the best of both petrol and diesel. 

On the inside

Golfs have been defined by their interiors for years and this one doesn’t disappoint. It delivers a real sense of calm, orderly wellbeing but, thanks to the new platform, also has a lower and comfier driving position, better layout and generally makes smarter use of the space on offer. 

No doubting the quality either, while the top-level sat nav’s proximity-sensing feature is genius. You get all this in the Golf SV too: you also get even more room, practicality and boot space. 

Owning

Because it’s lighter, the new Golf is yet more fuel efficient. Even the standard 1.6 TDI matches the old Bluemotion’s 99g/km CO2 figure, while the greenest Golf is now, like most others, 15 per cent more efficient. The cut-above prices remain but you get even more for your money. As it’s cheaper to run and safer, it’s hard to see how any rival can compete. 

Highlights from the range

Title 0–62 CO2 MPG BHP Price
The fastest
2.0 TSI R 3dr DSG
4.9s 159g/km 40.9 300 £32,000
The cheapest
1.2 TSI S 3dr
11.9s 113g/km 57.6 85 £17,540
The greenest
e-Golf 5dr Auto
10.4s 0g/km 115 £31,270

Wildcard

How about something completely different?

Wildcard

7/10

Volkswagen Polo

£11,245£20,720
Think hard about what you want a Golf for. If you hang around town, the Polo is a better urban runabout