Practical, good-looking, decent to drive
Interior is infuriating, outshone by its Skoda sibling
What is it?
This is the estate version of the Mk8 Golf, known more familiarly as the Mk8 Golf Estate. It’s a bit bigger, a bit more sensible, though as we’ll get to in a bit, a thousand per cent more irritating than what has come before.
Looks quite nice, doesn’t it?
Indeed, we think the Mk8 Golf looks better in this estate form than it does as a hatchback. That certainly hasn’t been the case for previous generations: when Volkswagen has created Golf Estates before it’s just sort of grafted a bit of extra boxiness on the back of the hatch, but this time around there’s a sloping roofline, a ‘shooting brake inspired’ rear window and LED lights as standard to sharpen things up. It’s a very handsome thing, the Mk8 Estate.
And what about the fun versions?
It looks even smarter in top-spec R-Line trim, while the jacked-up, all-wheel-drive Alltrack will win you the most Cool Points (from Team TG, at least). The 4x4 version understandably comes with a fuel consumption and CO2 penalty, but with the extra cladding and the raised ride height it works very nicely. Worth getting and buying a field or something for.
Unfortunately for the sake of interesting cars on the road, Volkswagen reckons that most long-roofed Mk8s will be sold in base-spec Life or mid-range Style trim.
What are the engines like?
Petrol engines include a teeny 999cc three-cylinder turbocharged unit and a 1.5-litre four-pot that can be had with either 128bhp or 148bhp. A 6spd manual gearbox is standard fitment, but all petrol engines can be optioned with a seven-speed DSG that also adds 48V mild-hybrid tech. You’ll see those badged as eTSI models, although the claimed fuel economy and CO2 figures are remarkably similar even with the electric assist.
There is still a diesel option: a 2.0-litre TDI that comes with either 113bhp or 148bhp. Both of those can also be combined with a 6spd manual or 7spd DSG auto box, but neither is available with additional electricity.
Does it drive alright?
Driving isn’t the issue with the latest version of the Golf – it’s all very dependable and sensible. A great family car with neutral characteristics in standard form, a certain amount of off-road capability with the Alltrack version and fast grand touring potential if you go for the R version; perhaps even enough fun to muster up a B-road blat every now and then if you fancy.
No, the real issue – and we hate to keep banging on about this, but it’s a genuine hardship from a car that has always been so easy to live with – is the interior. Volkswagen lost all control of its senses when it signed off the infotainment set-up on the latest Golf (and most of its newest cars). The menus are infuriating, the buttonless interiors exasperating and the software experience muddily slow. It’s a rare misstep from one of the world’s most dependable carmakers.
How does the Golf Estate compare with a Skoda Octavia?
If we take the entry level trim as a comparison, prices start from around £27k for the bog standard Life model with the 1.0-litre 3cyl engine, up to £30k for the 113bhp diesel with DSG auto. Both ends of that spectrum make the Golf a solid chunk more expensive than the entry trim on the Octavia Estate (£25k–£26k), although admittedly that car isn’t available with a diesel engine until SE L trim, a £4k uplift on the entry petrol there.
Any others I should look at?
Outside of the VW Group stable, alternatives include the Ford Focus Estate, Toyota Corolla Touring Sports, Mazda 6 Tourer, Peugeot 508 SW and (arguably) the Kia Proceed. Stuff like the Volvo V60 and BMW 3 Series Touring represents a bit of a leap, price wise.
Our choice from the range
What's the verdict?
Overall it’s a very accomplished thing, the Mk8 Golf Estate. Massively practical too – much more so than that crossover you’re inevitably thinking of buying, even if it does have slightly less room than its Skoda and Seat siblings. You can read our Octavia Estate review by clicking these blue words, and our Leon Estate review by clicking these words.
If you’ve got your heart set on the VW, though, Style trim combined with the 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol probably provides the best value for money and balance between a decent drive and comfort. That’ll get you a strong spec with prices starting at just over £29k.
Make sure you have a good fiddle with the infotainment on your test drive though (you want to be sure you can live with it), and avoid the bigger wheels and sportier suspension set-ups to get the more relaxing road manners. Or maybe just buy the Octavia instead...