Volkswagen Golf 8 first drive review – Take the hi-tech route with new family hatchback


THERE can’t be a harder job at Volkswagen HQ than masterminding a new version of the Golf. We’re now on to the eighth edition and it’s got a lot to live up to.

Approaching half a century since that first Golf arrived from the German car maker, it’s been a bit of a success ever since, with more than 35million pouring off production lines in Germany, Brazil, China and Mexico.

And right from the first Golf, they’ve been one of a vanishingly small list of cars that are such a fine fit for their role in life that they sit happily anywhere, from poshest hotel car park to suburban semi, via the school run or a lap of a demanding race track.

Underneath the smart new suit – but still so obviously a Golf – sits a lot of the old car with the same, but gently tweaked, engines and suspension.

It’s grown a bit in length and width and the front is so covered in horizontal lines you wonder if the stylists were wary of curves. They certainly make the car look wide, which was probably the point.

However, it’s a different story inside, where there’s been nothing short of a revolution. Out goes anything that looks and feels like an old-fashioned knob or button. Instead, we have a dashboard that feels as though an iPad obsessive was let loose.

The eighth-generation Volkswagen Golf

It all looks clean and modern and VW has worked hard to make it easier than it might have been to change things like climate and entertainment settings.

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The new Golf comes in three trim levels, starting at £23,300 for the Life variant. That comes with alloy wheels and adaptive cruise control, sat nav, six-speaker sound system and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto linking. So it is a long way from a base spec.

Moving up to a Golf 8 Style, from £25,495, we find front seats with massage function, bigger alloys, LED headlights and climate control instead of manual air conditioning. There’s also a choice of 30 colours for interior ambient lighting, upgraded LED headlights and fancier trim.

Topping the current range is the Golf 8 R-Line (many more variants are inevitable as the months roll round), with a more sporty look, sportier looking front seats, leather wrapped multi-function steering wheel and rear tinted glass. Prices start at £26,165.

Powering the latest Golf are 110PS 1.0 and 1.5-litre petrol engines with 130 or 150PS and a 2.0-litre diesel with 115 or 150PS, and all driving the front wheels via six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic gearboxes.

A mild hybrid version of the 1.5-litre petrol Golf is available and comes with the auto box. Tailpipe emissions range from 108 to 142g/km and average economy from 44.1 to 68.9mpg, with diesels taking honours in both categories.

The eighth-generation Volkswagen Golf

Driver assistance programmes, which contribute to the Golf’s maximum five-star official safety rating, include adaptive cruise control, lane centring assist, road sign display and front assist that detects an object or person in front of the car and brakes for you if you ignore its warnings.

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Volkswagen reckons the 130PS version of the Golf 8 Life will be most popular with British buyers. They’re unlikely to think it sluggish, with a top speed of 133mph and 0-62mph in 9.2 seconds making it feel a genuine contender in the family hatchback market.

Several hundred miles in the more potent 150PS version revealed a car that felt genuinely pacey when pressed – as a 139mph top speed and 0-62mph time of 8.5 seconds ought to indicate.

As impressive was the 49.6mpg displayed on the dash after more than 400 miles of varied use from town stop/start to brisk motorway journeys. Ease off a little and better than 50mpg is comfortably on offer.

This eighth generation feels a mite more firmly sprung than before, helping up the enthusiasm factor for drivers who like to press on.

But then the Golf always was a car that was more than good enough in all the right places to make it Europe’s best-selling car. And nothing’s likely to change with the newest one.





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