Volkswagen Golf (Mk8) Driving, Engines & Performance | Top Gear
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BBC TopGear
Car Review

Volkswagen Golf (Mk8)

£ 18,325 - £ 39,520
Published: 21 Jan 2021


What is it like to drive?

The engines are mostly upgraded versions – cleaner, more economical – of what went before. Options include standard and mild-hybrid 1.0 and 1.5-litre petrols (click these words for more on the base-spec 1.0-litre three-cylinder Golf) and ICE-only 2.0-litre diesels, while there’s also a plug-in hybrid GTE with 242bhp and a useful 13kWh battery for at least 40 miles of e-range. Moving up the range, the 2.0-litre GTD offers 197bhp, while the 2.0-litre GTI has 242bhp. Sitting at the very top of the tree is the turbocharged 2.0-litre, 320bhp 4WD R. Got it?

If you followed the link above, you’ll know that we’re big fans of the 1.0-litre engine in the Mk8 Golf, and it’s just as good in eTSI form with the additional 48V mild-hybrid assist. The 1.5-litre TSI comes in both 130 and 150bhp setups. The former, with a six-speed manual and likely the biggest seller, is OK but not great – notably laggy low down, a little rough around the critical 4,000rpm band. But in the end quiet and reasonably economical.

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The 150bhp engine, when you spec DSG, comes with a 48V mild-hybrid system. Its electric motor/generator is connected to the engine by belt, as these things usually are. Out on the road it works well, ameliorating the lag by nudging the engine for a moment as you floor it. And it reclaims energy on the over-run, and starts the engine super-quickly after a junction stop. The economy boost is claimed to be about 10 per cent.

Of the 115bhp and 150bhp diesels, we’ve had a crack at the latter, which is a reasonably quiet example of the kind. The DCT transmission keeps its efforts flowing with few jerks. The low-power versions have a twist-beam rear suspension. It tracks nicely on A-roads. As you peel into a bend it’s a little soggy, but get it loaded up and it tautens its sinews, resisting understeer well. That’s partly because in the background it pinches individual brakes to keep the thing faithful to your steering. Adaptive damping is optional, but who will pay £1,000 for that on a base Golf?

Once you get to 150bhp, a more sophisticated multi-link rear suspension is also yours. This has more precision and progression in all its reactions, and really quite good steering feel. The ride’s mostly nicely supple especially over coarse gritty impacts. But the firmer-spring diesel is a bit more knobbly.

So you’ve got a car that nudges Focus levels of handling and ride, though just like a Focus it’s spec dependent. The BMW 1 Series in contrast has a multi-link axle in all versions.

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Highlights from the range

the fastest

Volkswagen Golf 2.0 TSI 320 R 4Motion 5dr DSG
  • 0-624.7s
  • CO2161.0g/km
  • BHP320
  • MPG
  • Price£ 39,075

the cheapest

Volkswagen Golf 1.0 TSI Life 5dr
  • 0-6210.2s
  • CO2104.0g/km
  • BHP110
  • MPG
  • Price£ 23,275

the greenest

Volkswagen Golf 1.4 TSI GTE 5dr DSG
  • 0-626.7s
  • CO234.0g/km
  • BHP245
  • MPG
  • Price£ 36,105
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