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Car Review

Volkswagen Golf (Mk8) review

£26,760 - £43,420
810
Published: 24 Jul 2024
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Driving

What is it like to drive?

Let’s quickly round up your engine choices before we get into the driving side of things. The engines are mostly upgraded versions – cleaner, more economical – of what went before.

The base 1.0-litre three-cylinder has gone, meaning your entry point into Golf ownership is the 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo, available with 113bhp or 148bhp. There's also mild hybrid versions of both, a pair of ICE-only 2.0-litre diesels, and two plug-in hybrids – the standard eHybrid and the GTE – offering 201bhp and 268bhp respectively and up to 88 miles of e-range.

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Moving up the range, the 2.0-litre GTD offers 197bhp, while the 2.0-litre GTI is now up from 242bhp to 261bhp. Sitting at the very top of the tree is the turbocharged 2.0-litre, 320bhp 4WD R. Got it?

Got it. Which of those is my best bet?

Depends on what you need. Of the 1.5-litre TSIs, the 113bhp variant mated to the 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. A little leggy too: 0-62mph is just shy of 10 seconds. But in the end, it’s quiet and reasonably economical. And that's all you might care about.

The 148bhp engine in mild hybrid guise works well out on the road, taking the edge off the lag by nudging the engine for a moment as you floor it, and boosting the 0-62mph time to 8.6 seconds (8.4s with the DSG). 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.

And the dinosaurs? Sorry, diesels?

Careful now. Of the 113bhp and 148bhp diesels (0-62mph in 10.2s and 8.0s respectively), we’ve had a crack at the latter, and it's reasonably quiet: the seven-speed DCT transmission keeps its efforts flowing with few jerks. The low power versions have a six-speed manual and twist-beam rear suspension, which tracks nicely on A-roads. 

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As you peel into a bend it’s a little limp, 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 nearly £900 for that on a base Golf?

Almost no one? What if I get something with more power?

Once you get to 148bhp, 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-sprung 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.

What about running costs?

Official fuel economy figures are fairly consistent across both 1.5-litre petrol powertrains, hovering around the respectable 50mpg mark, which we found achievable. 

If you’re planning on doing lots of motorway miles, then the 2.0-litre diesel offers an attractive alternative, offering around 60mpg. Or, if you can stomach the increased upfront cost, the plug-in eHybrid and GTE offer a claimed 942 and 702mpg respectively. Of course, these figures are utterly irrelevant to you because they assume you’ll do most of every single journey on battery power. C'mon WLTP, this is getting ridiculous.

Highlights from the range

the fastest

2.0 TSI 333 R Black Edition 4Motion 5dr DSG
  • 0-624.6s
  • CO2
  • BHP328.6
  • MPG
  • Price£43,420

the cheapest

1.5 TSI Life 5dr
  • 0-629.9s
  • CO2
  • BHP114
  • MPG
  • Price£26,760

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