Volkswagen Golf (2013 – 2020) Review

Volkswagen Golf (2013 – 2020) At A Glance

Honest John Overall Rating
The Volkswagen Golf is the benchmark in the family hatchback class. Some rivals might be nicer to drive, cheaper, more practical or more exciting, but few, if any, match the Golf in terms of overall appeal.

+Plenty of second-hand choice, excellent cabin quality, efficient petrol and diesel engines.

-A tad dull, more expensive than mainstream rivals, too much choice?

Insurance Groups are between 10–27
On average it achieves 78% of the official MPG figure

If you're looking for the newer version, you need our Volkswagen Golf review

Launched in 2013, the Volkswagen Golf remains the default choice for many family hatchback buyers. Even in its most basic form, the Golf feels more solid and special than mainstream rivals such as the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra. It ticks so many boxes: dependability, reliability, safety, desirability and efficiency. If it ends in ‘y’, the Golf delivers. Sure, the cabin is a little sombre and the Focus is nicer to drive, but there’s a Golf for everyone, from a frugal diesel to a ‘bahnstorming’ GTI or R model. The Golf might be the obvious choice, but millions of buyers can’t be wrong.

The Volkswagen Golf has become the default choice. The safe bet. The ‘nobody got fired for buying IBM’ car.

Launched in 2013, and facelifted in 2017, the Mk7 Volkswagen Golf is one of the most popular Golfs ever. It helps that there’s a Golf for everybody, whether you’re after a frugal family car or an exhilarating hot hatchback. There’s even an estate model, if you fancy something with more space.

Finding a terrible Golf is like searching for a truffle in an overgrown woodland. Even a lowly S model feels a class above its mainstream rivals, while higher trim levels nudge the Golf into premium territory. The interior might be uninspiring, the styling rather predictable, and the driving experience nothing to write home about, but the Golf does nothing wrong. It’s the ultimate all-rounder.

The facelifted model, known as the Mk7.5, is the best version. Although the facelift was little more than a nip and tuck exercise, the new engines and upgraded infotainment system mean it’s the Golf to choose when buying used. We expect it to be very popular, especially if people don’t warm to the digital focus of the new Golf Mk8.

With the exception of the brilliant Golf GTI and Golf R, the driving experience could be described as dull. Everything appears to be configured to provide a safe, predictable and comfortable experience behind the wheel, because that’s what most people want. The R-Line version adds a touch of excitement, but it wouldn’t rank higher than ‘medium’ on the Peri-ometer.

One of the Golf’s biggest problems is the level of choice. It will take you a while to work out the different trim levels, and there’s a bewildering array of engines to choose from. SE, SE Nav or Match versions should be fine for most people, although R-Line adds some style and a slightly enhanced driving experience.

As for engines, all of them are superb. The small turbocharged petrols offer excellent economy and a surprising amount of poke, while the diesels are economical and punchy. We’d recommend the 1.0-litre TSI petrol if you intend to spend most of your time in the city, or the 1.6-litre TDI for longer trips.

It speaks volumes that, even today, as the Mk7 Golf makes way for a new model, the outgoing model is still the best car in its class. The Ford Focus is more fun, the Mazda 3 is more stylish, the Skoda Octavia is more practical and the Vauxhall Astra is cheaper, but none of these cars offer the all-round excellence of the Volkswagen Golf.

As Robin Thicke might say, you know you want it. So go ahead and buy a Volkswagen Golf. You won’t regret it.

Ask Honest John

My VW Golf Infotainment has failed - what can I do?

"The screen has died on my VW Golf. The VW agent charged £100 to confirm it was dead and offer a new system at £3100, or local man might offer a secondhand, no warranted screen for £800. What should I do?"
Unfortunately there is no easy option here. Replacing the infotainment system with a new part from Volkswagen is very expensive, but comes with the assurance of it being brand-new and we would hope with some form of guarantee. Buying a used part is considerably cheaper, but there is no guarantee that the same fault could occur. Ultimately it comes down to how much you are prepared to spend on your car to keep it functioning, although you may wish to seek a second opinion from an independent Volkswagen specialist or car audio specialist who may be able to offer another solution.
Answered by David Ross

Is my car likely to be a write off?

"My 6 year old 1.4 TSI Golf Estate was damaged by a coach while parked. It has just gone away to be assessed. The damage seems superficial, but it involves multiple panels starting at the bumper and rear lights, the rear side panel around the fuel filler and above the wheel, onto the rear drivers side door with some minor scratches on the drivers door. The car has no outstanding finance and is driveable, but I am concerned that with the number of panels damaged and the age, plus the cost of parts and labour that it may be a write off. If it is I am insure what the valuation from the insurance company will be and I will likely have to take out some additional finance to get a replacement which due to the high interest rates may be financially difficult. The mechanic that collected it couldn't give me an answer but didn't appear massively confident. I appreciate that without seeing it you may not know more than me, but any advice would be very helpful."
It is difficult to judge on whether a car will be written off even with access to pictures, as it depends on whether there is structural or mechanical damage, but also where your insurance company will set the boundary for writing the car off, which could be anywhere between 50% and 70% of the vehicle's value. Based on the information you provided we would estimate your car to be worth at least £10,000 pre-accident. If your insurance company decides to write the vehicle off, as long as it is not declared a category A or B you may have the option to buy the vehicle back and pay for the repairs yourself, which may mean you can avoid the need to obtain finance for a replacement.
Answered by David Ross

What hatchback should I buy for 15,000+ miles a year?

"I need help to decide what car to buy. I'm looking a premium hatchback to buy for business and personal use, circa 16k miles per year. Looking at a second hand car no more than 5 years old for £13-20k. Can't decide between Mercedes A-Class, VW Golf, BMW 1 Series or Lexus CT. Thinking a diesel, as I'll be doing a 200 mile trip every week. Something that is efficient on fuel and has decent kit/ interior. Any help if appreciated. "
A diesel still makes sense for regular motorway journeys (especially if you cover more than 12,000 miles a year). We'd recommend a Volkswagen Golf - a late example of the seventh-generation model (replaced in 2020) would be an excellent used buy.
Answered by Andrew Brady

My Mk 7 Golf has a catalytic converter issue, should I repair or get a new car?

"I took my Golf in to an independent garage for its MOT and Service in Feb of this year. It’s a 2015, 1.6 diesel. The garage did not have the tool to reset the service interval in the Golf computer. The day after I got it back the catalytic converter light came on an hour into a four hour journey from Leicester to Brighton. I limped back to Leicester and took it to a local independent VW specialist. They gave it a look over and then reset the light. They suggested driving it and then if the warning light reappeared to come back. Since then I have been to Austria and back and completed a number of long motorway drives. The light came once on whilst I was abroad –after 4 hours driving. But then had gone off the next day. Most recently it came on when I pulled off the drive and the car was cold but the car drove perfectly for the 6 hour motorway trip I then completed. It was still on when I drove for an hour this morning but went off when I started the car to come home! The garage says a new sensor is circa £800 and a new/refurbished cat is several thousand. I have the money to change the car either for a Kamiq or a VW T-Roc I’m thinking. But I really like the Golf! I’m not sure of the wisdom of spending strong money on an eight year old car or the wisdom of spending £20k on something newish to give me a car I like driving – which I have already!"
It can be a difficult decision on whether to replace a car with an issue or spend money on fixing the problem, but generally speaking it comes down to a matter of finances and how much you want to keep your existing vehicle. If you are happy with the service you have received from the independent specialist we would suggest sticking with them - a garage completing a service should have the facility to reset your service light. You may wish to get a second opinion from another independent specialist before committing to having work carried out. You can search for one near you using the Honest John Good Garage Guide here:
Answered by David Ross
More Questions

What does a Volkswagen Golf (2013 – 2020) cost?