Volkswagen Golf Review 2022

Volkswagen Golf At A Glance

4/5
Honest John Overall Rating
The VW Golf is a classy and refined family hatchback. It's good to drive with a range of excellent engines. But it's less practical than its VW Group siblings, the infotainment isn't the best and the old Golf felt a tiny bit posher inside.

+Very comfortable and refined. Range of strong, quiet and efficient engines. Classy image.

-Infotainment is fiddly to use and often glitchy. Cabin quality isn't quite as good as the previous Golf. Its VW Group siblings are roomier in the back.

New prices start from £23,300, brokers can source from £22,731
Insurance Groups are between 15–27

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

Ask Honest John

Can you recommend any dual clutch small/medium crossovers?
"For the last 25 years I have always had torque converter automatics as well as driving the odd CVT and I am now looking to change my car again. I have been somewhat surprised that although there are still a few autos around such as those produced by the PSA Group and some of the premium brands, most manufacturers are now only using dual clutch transmissions or a few CVTs. I understand the economy and performance reasons for this but are there any dual clutch small/medium crossovers that are as smooth as a good torque converter or CVT, particularly when creeping in very slow traffic or shunting backwards and forwards to squeeze into a tight parking bay? "
The latest VW Group cars – so cars like the new Golf, Skoda Octavia and Audi A3 – have twin-clutch gearboxes that creep at slow speeds, so they're not as tricky to manoeuvre into parking spaces and the like as an old dual-clutch. They're not quite as smooth as, say, the ZF eight-speed gearbox you get in BMWs, but they're pretty close.
Answered by Russell Campbell
What fuel economy should I expect from my petrol Volkswagen Golf?
"I have just bought a Volkswagen Golf 1.5-litre petrol in exchange for my wonderful Golf TDI. I live in London otherwise I would not have sold such an excellent car with only 37,000 miles on the clock. The brakes on the new car make a real clunking sound. It feels sluggish and noisy on hills, especially going up, and although automatic, I am very conscious of changes in engine sound both up and down hill. It is harder to cruise at 70 on motorways and the car used half a tank of unleaded on a 120 mile journey. Is this what I should expect? "
There shouldn't be any clunking noises when braking, the car should have plenty of power for hills and you should be getting more than 400 miles from a tank of petrol – it does sound like something is wrong, I would take it to a garage.
Answered by Russell Campbell
What's the best small auto car with easy access for the driver?
"After a traumatic injury last year, I now have different needs from my car. I am in need of an automatic with an electric seat to aid getting in and out of the vehicle. I would prefer a small to medium size car but am having trouble finding something suitable. I have £20,000 to spend, what do you suggest I buy?"
You're right, this isn't a feature that you'll find on many cars this size, but it's possible. You can fit the BMW 1 Series with electric memory seats for £750 – with electrical adjustment for height, backrest tilt, seat position and seat base tilt. The memory function means by pressing a button your seat and exterior mirror settings can be returned after someone else drove the car. For £1500, BMW's Comfort Pack 2 bundles the electric seats together with an electric opening and closing boot that you may find handy. The pack also adds keyless entry and a heated steering wheel as part of the deal. Finding a second-hand car fitted with this pack will likely be easier than finding a car with just the electric seats fitted. The Volkswagen Golf can also be had with electric seats. They're an option that's only available on higher-end models – starting with the GTI – in combination with leather upholstery. The option costs £2130 in the GTI and gives you electric adjustment for the driver’s seat height, seat length, seat cushion angle, backrest angle and lumbar support. The VW's seats also have a memory function that returns your seat and mirrors to their original position. Finding these packs on either car will be easier to do at a franchised dealer which will have a comprehensive database of the options fitted to the cars it has in stock – some non franchised dealers do also offer this. Both the BMW 1 Series and Volkswagen Golf have recently been updated and the current new car shortage means both command strong residuals, you may struggle to find a car for £20,000. The good news is that electric seats were also offered on the older models that are in your budget. If you want as new a car as possible, I'd recommend the new Peugeot 208 – it's a small car that's pretty big by the standards of a few years ago. GT and GT Premiums models are available with optional Nappa leather seats that have driver seat multi-way electric adjustment (including electric lumbar adjustment) and a massage function. They're also heated. GT models built in 2021 with around 10,000 miles on the clock are currently on sale for just under £20,000.
Answered by Russell Campbell
Which is better, the new Volkswagen Golf or BMW 1 Series?
"I currently have a 2015 Volkswagen Golf with the DSG gearbox, which you have been critical of (but ours has had no trouble). I'm now thinking of a replacement. The new Golf has a DSG gearbox. Is this the same as mine or is it better/more reliable? I'm also looking at the BMW 118i SE, also automatic, but obviously different. Would this be a better option?"
We're receiving very few reports of issues with modern DSG gearboxes. With regular maintenance (i.e. fluid changes every few years) there's no reason why they won't be as reliable in the long-term as a traditional torque-converter transmission. Both the latest Golf and BMW 1 Series are great cars. There are a few flimsy materials in the cabin of the Golf which you won't find in the 1 Series, while we also prefer the infotainment in the BMW. It's more enjoyable to drive, too, if that's important.
Answered by Andrew Brady
More Questions

What does a Volkswagen Golf cost?

Buy new from £22,731(list price from £25,340)