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. The fact it’s set out to design a car that’s cheaper to make, so can offer more features, quality and value than before, simply compounds the misery for them.
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. Just two provisos: the first test cars were on adaptive dampers, and had the multi-link rear suspension that lower-power Golfs now lack. We don’t expect either to affect the fundamentals too much, though. The new Golf has some interesting new engines along with the familiar (and still able) TSIs and TDIs from the old one. The 140bhp 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. Every snicky switch and button is new, while the top-level sat nav’s proximity-sensing feature is genius.
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.