CAR OF THE WEEK
BY BRIAN BYRNE
THE new generation Golf has impressed me in a short time much more than any other iteration of Volkswagen’s breadwinner hatchback. Not that there was anything wrong with its predecessors, but it seems to have lifted the modern automotive icon substantially higher this time.
The Golf has endured as the aspirational car for every young motorist not because it is special, but because it has been always accessible and safe.
The price made it always achievable, and the car was safe to buy both because it was well built and always reliable. If a lad or lass couldn’t afford a new one, they knew that used versions of varying ages wouldn’t let them down.
There was also a halo effect from GTI variants which added lustre and cred to the standard hatchbox.
The new one goes beyond standard, I think, after a few days with one. It took a bit of time to get my head around it.
The car looks like a Golf, obviously ... Volkswagen doesn’t mess with iconic cues. But there’s a bit more than sheetmetal evolution here. Partly to do with the changes to the front.
The ‘eagle eyes’ headlights that suggest this is a ‘hunter’ car rather than one in a pack being the hunted. The rakish design elements in the lower front area that add perceptive width.
Overall lines are a new minimalism, the new Golf looks sleeker. A really clean style here — which is what all Golf designers have made it their business to get, but more so now. Small details like centring the model name under the VW logo on the back door helps to stand the model out — though they do that with models from other brands within the group too. The rear lights mirror the style of the front, making for an edgier back end sense.
Inside, I felt there had been a significant lift in quality. But also in style, while keeping to the overall minimalism intent. The clean design of the dashboard makes the car feel roomier. The instrumentation is thoroughly digital, and done attractively.
I was initially disappointed to find that temperature controls seemed to have been shifted to the centre screen, until I worked out the new system of fingertip sliding on the ridge under the screen. It works. It works well.
There’s ample room in the latest Golf. It has always been part of the model’s styling that it offers decent headroom in the back, and I had no trouble when I tried that out. Boot capacity is the same as before at 380L.
My review car was in the middle of the grades choice, a Style version and powered by a 115hp diesel that is a familiar to many previous Golf owners.We know that Volkswagen, and others, have put a lot of work into their diesels to make them acceptable again, though I reckon we’re going to see less of them as a proportion of sales.
I liked the drive, which didn’t surprise me — there’s a pedigree here. The six-speed manual matched the engine well, though a DSG auto has definitely become my preference in recent years.
The car came with a full suite of driver assist systems, and those which are noticeable worked well. I’m now gone beyond listing these things, as they are ubiquitous, in review cars anyhow.
But with all that comes in a car these days, it’s not surprising that there has been an upward price creep for some time. This year exacerbated with the changes due to the shift fully to WLTP measurement of fuel efficiency.
So the Golf I got to like so quickly wasn’t cheap, in any way. But it was very, very good.
What I like: The old made really new in places.
Price: From €23,950 plus charges; review car from €32,795.