Volkswagen Golf (2013 – 2020) Review

Volkswagen Golf (2013 – 2020) At A Glance

4/5
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

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

Can a car have four different tyres?
"My son purchased a 2018 Volkswagen Golf TSI with 2600 miles on the clock last week. I subsequently noticed that all four tyres were different brands - Dunlop, Davanti, Bridgestone and Hankook. All were 205/55 R16 91V with the exception of one which was 91H (acceptable rating for the vehicle). I suggested that he contact the seller to complain and he was told that it was perfectly acceptable and had passed the MoT. My take on this is that with such a mix of tyre and adhesion performance a vehicle is not 100 per cent roadworthy. I would appreciate your view on this and advice on any further action that could be taken."
This is a bit of a grey area - it is only illegal to mix cross ply and radial tyres or fit tyres that do not meet the size or rating requirements of the car. There is no law that specifies the same brand of tyre needs to be fitted on each corner, but it will affect the way the car performs, particularly in the wet or under braking. Was the car purchased from a dealer/independent garage? You may possibly be within your rights under the Consumer Rights Act to reject the car within 30 days of the sale, but this is pretty unlikely and the dealer will no doubt dispute this, requiring legal advice on your part. Sadly, as this was not noticed before the car was purchased the cheapest course of action would likely be to replace the tyres, and treat it as a learning curve to check before buying (and avoid said dealer!).
Answered by Lawrence Allan
Can you recommend a family vehicle for a £15,000 budget?
"I have up to £15,000 for a new used family vehicle. I am stuck as to what to purchase. I need a reliable and comfortable car for journeys or family trips out on the weekend, and during the week to and from work."
You won't go wrong with a Volkswagen Golf. It's a very comfortable family car that's ideal for long journeys. £15,000 will get you a 2017 or 2018 model with the eager 1.4 or 1.5 TSI petrol engine. Also consider an SUV alternative like the SEAT Ateca. This guide might be useful, too: https://www.honestjohn.co.uk/guides/best-used-cars-under-15-000/
Answered by Andrew Brady
What electric car should we buy to replace our MINI Clubman?
"We have a 2017 2-litre Golf TDI which I love. We decided that we needed a second car for the odd times we want to be in different places so just before lockdown (just our luck) we got a lovely MINI Clubman. It's a really nice car and we love the boot but I've got a bad shoulder that keeps needing attention and I find if I drive the MINI it really hurts me the day after as it is quite a stiff gear change. I don't have this problem with the Golf, which is as smooth as silk and obviously has lots of power. My husband thinks I would be better with an electric car but I really, really like the boot of the MINI. Obviously I know there are electric Volkswagens that look like Golfs but I would be losing the oomph when I want to put my foot down. Can you think of anything suitable please as I used to love driving and I'm finding it really frustrating? The MINI has done just over 7,000 miles and has just been serviced. "
I would have a look at the Volkswagen ID.4. Electric cars deliver all their performance instantly so even the basic ID.4 will feel quick next to your Golf, with the performance tailing off above 70mph where it isn't such an issue. It's this instant shove that means electric cars can get away with having only one gear, so they drive like an automatic, and their regenerative brakes mean they slow automatically when you take your foot off the accelerator – both of which makes them very relaxing to drive. The ID.4 has even more passenger space and a bigger boot than your Mini and its cabin feels light and inviting. It may be worth considering adding the Assistance Pack Plus which adds kit like a rearview camera, keyless entry and also an electrically operated boot lid that will help with your shoulder. It's hard to value your MINI without knowing the age and specification but Countrymans with that mileage sell for between £15,000 and £45,000.
Answered by Russell Campbell
What is the cost to change the cam belt on a Volkswagen Golf?
"How much should a timing belt change cost on a Mark 7 Volkswagen Golf?"
The cam belt, tensioner, pulley and water pump will all need to be changed. I'd expect it to cost around £550 at a main Volkswagen dealer or £350 at an independent garage.
Answered by Dan Powell
More Questions

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