Volkswagen Golf Review 2023
Volkswagen Golf At A Glance
On average it achieves 0% of the official MPG figure
The Volkswagen Golf is still the consumate all-rounder. There is no weak link in the engine range, it rides and handles well and it should prove cheap to run. But it isn't as roomy inside as the SEAT Leon and Skoda Octavia it shares its platforms and engines with, while the infotainment is frustrating at times and there are some cheaper plastics than you might expect in a Golf.
The Golf is as important to Volkswagen as the vacuum cleaner is to Dyson. Yes, both companies have diversified into new products (with VW in particular betting the farm on its EV future), but they are still known and recognised globally for that particular product.
It's an enduring success story spanning five decades and eight generations, but more than that the Golf is the only mainstream family hatchback that is considered classless. Whether you're a millionaire looking to blend into the background, a middle-income parent after a dependable family car, a new driver or a hot hatch enthusiast, chances are you've considered buying a Golf at some point in your life. What some see as 'dull' could actually be seen as subtlety and classiness.
This new, eighth-generation VW Golf appears a little bit more showy than its predecessor - at least until it becomes part of the street furniture like older Golfs. The distinctive 'monobrow' front-end look can be shown off even more with a full-width LED light bar, while inside most of the traditional buttons are replaced by touch sensitive panels and a cool-looking touchscreen.
Happily, elsewhere the Golf's tried and tested traits remain intact. It feels solid and built to last, its pretty roomy and practical, its comfortable and refined and yet good to drive, and it's well-equipped as standard even from base level.
There's also a range of engine options to suit pretty much every need, from the affordable 1.0-litre petrol that punches above its weight, to ultra-frugal diesels, to high-tech hybrids and fast and fun GTI models. The best all-rounder is the excellent 1.5-litre turbo petrol engine, which will meet most people's needs (although the 1.0-litre is a lot better than you might expect).
Volkswagen asks for more money for the Golf than its platform-sharing sibling models, the SEAT Leon and Skoda Octavia. For that you don't just get a more upmarket image, you also get more kit as standard, such as digital instruments, wireless phone charging and ambient lighting, and a classier interior. Whether it's worth the extra is up to you, though, and (if we're being picky) some areas of the new Golf's cabin don't feel quite as premium as they did in the seventh-generation Golf.
Another issue with the latest Golf is that its cheaper siblings are also longer, meaning more legroom in the back and (in the Skoda) bigger boot. It's not as if the Golf is cramped, but family buyers (or people with tall mates) may value that bit of extra space. And, like its siblings, there are some glaring issues with the infotainment that will take some getting used to.
The VW Golf might not be the clear favourite in the family car class any more, with rivals that are better than ever. But it's still an excellent buy, provided you're aware of its foibles.
Looking for a second opinion? Read heycar's Volkswagen Golf review.