Expert Reviews

First Drive: Volkswagen Golf

Thursday 09 February 2017

First Drive: Volkswagen Golf
Summary

Five years after we first saw the Mk7 Volkswagen Golf, the iconic hatchback has received a mid-life refresh.

The new Golf has received all manner of additions, including LED headlights and redesigned front and rear bumpers. New colours, wheels and trims are also available on the 2017 model.

One key update comes in the form of Volkswagen’s new 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine, which debutsin the Golf. The 148bhp four-cylinder engine can be coupled with a DSG dual-clutch automatic gearbox, as well as a six-speed manual.

The rest of the engines in the range remain the same, though GTI and GTI Performance variants gain a power increase.

A feature worth mentioning is the Golf’s gesture control. It’s the first compact car to incorporate this technology, which is more usually seen on larger premium cars. It comes as part of the car’s range-topping ‘Discover Pro’ infotainment system.

Looks & Image

Volkswagen has done well to maintain the Golf’s iconic looks through each and every incarnation. 

In its latest form, the Golf is the most advanced yet. A new front bumper sits alongside LED headlights with daytime running lights – these replace the Xenon units fitted to the previous model on higher-spec cars. The rear of the car has also received full LED lights as standard.

Space & Practicality

The dimensions of the new Golf haven’t changed from the previous car, so it’s just as accessible as ever.

Safety levels have been increased in the 2017 model, however, with the addition of camera- and radar-based aids. Emergency Assist is able to recognise if a driver becomes inactive and can use various measure to try to wake the driver. Should it not be able to do this, it will bring it to a controlled stop. 

Behind the Wheel

We drove the Golf SE Nav with the 1.5-litre TSI Evo powertrain. The engine, which is excellent in its own right, is further improved through the use of Volkswagen’s DSG gearbox. Despite weighing in at a £1,500 premium over the manual ‘box, the smooth-shifting unit is well worth picking.

There’s plenty of power at low revs, with this only diminishing further up the rev range. It takes a respectable 8.1 seconds to accelerate from 0 to 60mph, which certainly feels brisk enough for everyday driving.

The Golf’s various driving modes do make subtle differences to the car’s engine. In ‘Normal’ mode, it deals well with lumps and bumps in the road, while still affording you enough grunt when you need it. When moving into ‘Sport’ mode the car changes considerably, especially when combined with the option Dynamic Chassis Control, which adjusts the vehicle’s damping. The steering becomes sharper and weightier, while wheel-mounted gear paddles enable shifts as and when you want them.

Value for Money

While the exterior may not have experienced the most substantial of changes, it’s inside where the Golf has truly been refreshed. The infotainment system has been fully updated, with new designs and higher resolutions.

The stand-out interior feature is Discover Pro. Gesture control allows the driver to choose a song or adjust a range of settings simply by waving their hands in front of the main control screen. It takes a little while to get used to, but once you have it becomes a truly second nature way of adjusting elements of the car.

A 12.3-inch Active Info Display – similar to Audi’s Virtual Cockpit – sits behind the steering wheel, giving clear and active readouts directly to the driver. It replaces traditional analogue readouts, but also features other information such as SatNav routes.

Entry-level Golfs a priced from £17,625, with prices across the range coming in at, on average, £650 less than the outgoing model.

Who would buy one ?

The Golf was always designed to be a family hatchback, but with a new variety of trim levels and appearances it certainly appeals to a much wider market. 

This latest model is more economical and stylish, and is just as tempting as the outgoing model. Thanks to better levels of technology, it’s a more compelling package than ever before.

Facts at a Glance

Model: Volkswagen Golf
Engine: 1.5-litre TSI Evo
Transmission: Seven-speed dual clutch gearbox
Performance: 0-60mph in 8.1 seconds, 134mph top speed
Economy: 55.4mpg
Emissions: 114g/km

 

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