There’s a vast Gulf (German for Golf) between the VW Golf Mark 1 and the current Golf (number eight and now 47 years later).
So, given that the marketing of cars is now based as much on what technology you’re buying as upon anything else — like performance efficiency and plain old good looks — let’s remember that, actually, Volkswagen’s Golf is, bottom line, another very good hatchback.
This is noted because it can be said that the more new technical stuff you buy into, the more there is to go wrong. More of that later.
It must be challenging for car designers to keep up their creations’ attractive appearances. Changes from outgoing models are sometimes so subtle that perhaps your average bystander couldn’t tell the difference.
The best idea may be simply to keep the family resemblance…Thus Golf 8.
And it’s interesting to see how much influence a colour can have. It so happens that I just did not like the Lime Yellow of the test car, but that is subjective and probably irrelevant to this review…because the car itself soon won me over as a driver’s machine.
This version was a ‘mild hybrid’: eTSI (not to be mistaken for the similarly-named shopping website!) refers to the 48-volt lithium-ion battery and 48-volt belt starter generator that also adds a little plus to torque when pulling away. It’s just the electrics that are present with the car on longer downhill gradients, otherwise apparently coasting.
The 150 PS comes from the 1.5-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder petrol engine that also produced 250 Nm of torque at the convenient range from 1500-3500 rpm. The engine revs beautifully when you want, so temptingly that it’s an effort to resist finding an excuse to floor it at every available opportunity. If you are in a hurry, zero-to-sixty-two mph takes 8.5 seconds. And if that hurry continues onto a few miles of quiet country roads, the Golf handles nicely with accurate steering (re-worked got Golf 8) and decent brakes — as you are entitled to expect.
On the motorway, 70mph cruising had the engine revving at a leisurely 2000rpm.
This engine includes the automatic switch-off of two of the cylinders when the driving load is less and the imperceptible return to all four when appropriate.
The DSG gearbox, standard in this version, a 7-speeder, performed faultlessly; of course, manual selection is also available.
The car is a pleasure to travel in, thanks also to very comfortable seating and low interior noise levels. There is the usual easy rear seat folding to extend the luggage area. Adults in the back are about as comfortable as those in the front.
In modern cars, some wag remarked, there’s as much computer power as it took to land Neil Armstrong on the Moon. Good thing he didn’t suffer the Satnav issues experienced in the test car; otherwise, he might not have got there! Suffice to say that, amongst other things, it could not locate my home address; OK my address has not been around as long as the Moon, but it is approaching thirty years in existence, and the voice control system was as inept. Further to this, I got frequent displays warning that the driver alert traffic hazard system was restricted or unavailable. As for the theoretically-excellent Car2X technology, which is a standard EU automatic traffic information sharing system from any car that had it installed, of whatever make, I couldn’t say whether or not this was working (Brexit having nothing to do with it!).
Since the test car was returned to them, Volkswagen has reported back that they found an error stored against the voice control’ and a fault in the SOS system, both now resolved.
Although these problems did tarnish the Golf’s overall experience, it remains a car that has a lot to offer. Assuming it all works perfectly well, its attractions include being permanently linked to the Internet and an ability to call up Alexa! Of greater importance are myriad safety features and the fact that you can buy in techno upgrades after the initial purchase. The heated front seat control was a touch complicated: there is the heated-seat icon on the display, so you touch it expecting that to be that, but it isn’t, because touching it merely sequences you onto the next stage where you have to touch another icon, I am not sure why that was necessary.
Fuel consumption? With quite a few cold starts and shortish journeys, rather than long stretches of motorway, the trip computer registered 45.4 mpg. The official WLTP combined figure is 49.5 mpg. The price of the car tested was £27,180.
Tom Scanlan has written for a wide variety of magazines and newspapers, particularly the Reading Evening Post for ten years, having got into motoring journalism in 1973 via the somewhat unlikely back door of the British Forces Broadcasting Service. BFBS produced a weekly radio motoring show for the services overseas and Tom produced it, as well as interviewing experts and eventually reporting on cars.
He is into classic cars and has owned Porsche, Ferrari, pre-war Alvis and Rileys and currently owns his fifth old Alfa Romeo, a 1984 GTV 2.0.
In his spare time, Tom is a professional cricket coach.
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