What is it?
Probably the most broadly capable model within the new seventh-generation Golf - therefore arguably the single most able family hatchback ever to have been launched.
Like all Golfs of the new era, it benefits from an up to 100kg weight loss thanks in part to the generic MQB platform upon which it sits but also savings made from the engine, running gear and electrical systems.
Powered by a heavily reworked version of VW's ubiquitous 2.0-litre diesel, power has risen by a significant 10bhp to 148bhp, although torque remains unchanged at 236bhp. Added to weight reduction, this is enough to allow VW to slice 0.7sec off its 0-62mph claim, which is now reached in a brisk 8.6sec while top speed rises a less significant 4mph to 134mph.
But the biggest change is to fuel consumption. At 55.4mpg, few would have called the old Golf thirsty but, officially at least, the new car returns 68.9mpg, with the same CO2 output of a Vauxhall Agila with an engine half the size.
What is it like?
‘Good’ scarcely does it justice. For nearly 40 years the Golf has been the one size fits all default choice for customers seeking an all season, all reason car but it’s never been better than this.
The engine is a little noisy at start up from cold, but with a few miles under its wheels is detectable only as a gentle, inoffensive ambient sound. The size and shape of its torque curve appears not to have changed but upgraders will notice the extra power and reduced weight almost immediately. It doesn’t feel markedly faster, just effortlessly rapid like no Golf before. Both the manual and DSG transmission are class leading in their operation but still usually best to drop it into fourth and let the engine do the work.
Back to back comparisons may show the handling of the 2.0-litre diesel Golf is degraded somewhat compared to its petrol-powered sister, as the latter has a lighter motor and therefore more even weight distribution. But in isolation the ride/handling balance that’s been achieved by the new diesel Golf is still inspired. Like the Audi A3 using the same engine, it rides like a far larger and more luxurious car than it actually is. Unlike the Audi however, the Golf also has something to offer the enthusiast, thanks to better body control and more neutral handling.
This car’s static qualities have by now been well documented but it is worth repeating that quality, both perceived and real is as good as you’ll find in the class while the interior design, while unmistakably Golf, still seems both fresh and premium.
Should I buy one?
The first question anyone shopping in this market should now ask themselves is not whether they should buy one, but why they should not.
An Astra or Giulietta is more attractive and you quite easily spend more money buying a posher badge, but for all-round ability, the Golf is now untouched in its class.
And were we to bet which one would prove the pick of the crop (at least until GTIs start arriving next year), the 2.0-litre TDI would unquestionably be it.
Volkswagen Golf 2.0 TDI SE 5-door
Price £21,960 0-62mph 8.6sec Top Speed 134mph Economy 68.9mpg CO2 106g/km Kerb weight 1280kg Engine type 1968cc, 4 cyl, turbodiesel Power 148bhp at 3500rpm Torque 236lb ft at 1750rpm Gearbox 6-spd manual