Refined, great engines, spacious, cabin quality
More composed than fun to drive, new cabin tech is a pain to use
What is it?
The Golf is to hatchbacks what the Mercedes S-Class is to luxury limos, or the iPhone is to mobile telephones: a crowd-pleasing, endlessly popular device that covers every base 99.9 per cent of the population could ever want – or need – it to. This Mk7 version is lighter than before, and in facelifted, post-2016 guise, offers self-driving-in-traffic function, and updated engines. Need more practicality? There’s a longer estate, or taller Golf SV mini-MPV. Need more performance? There’s a GTI hot hatch – the tartan-seated icon – and the R super-hatch. Want to meet in the middle? You can have a GTE plug-in hybrid or the GTD go-faster diesel. Or the electric e-Golf, with its 190-mile range. See what we mean about having all the bases covered?
Price-wise, the Golf is a more premium option than say, a Focus or an Astra, but it's also a far more multi-talented one, offering a securer and supremely refined drive in regular guise, and a high-quality, largely ergonomic cabin – we used to have higher praise for it, but recently VW’s had a go at ruining it inside with new touchscreens that are worse, and so on. But it’s spacious, quiet, safe, and smart. As an all-rounder, the Golf simply cannot be beaten. As a result, it’s the car that Top Gear staffers tend to recommend when asked ‘what should I buy?’ more often than anything else.
Our choice from the range
What's the verdict?
The Golf, despite ever more talented rivals, VW’s best efforts to ruin the cabin tech, and the scandal of its own making, is as strong as it’s ever been. Supremely refined, really sorted to drive and boasting a breadth of range that means there’s something for everyone, it’s the easiest car to recommend this side of a McLaren F1 kit car that costs a tenner and runs on water. We’d have a Golf R, but the 1.5’s just as good to live with.