The Golf, then. One of the few cars that can simply be itself, and one of the few that defines a genre. It’s not ‘Hyundai/Ford/BMW/whoever’s new Golf rival’; instead, it simply is what it is: the epitome of the small family car and the one by which others are judged.

It's now in Mk7 form, a Golf underpinned by a platform known as MQB that carries great responsibility for the Volkswagen Group. Dozens of cars within the group are being rolled out based on this architecture, throughout the group's brands, in sizes ranging from a VW Polo supermini to the likes of a seven-seat SUV as previewed by the VW CrossBlue concept

The Golf, as ever, is almost clinically evolutionary in its feel and appearance, yet it is ground-up fresh technology from its MQB platform to the all-new motors in its subtly more angular body.

There is no getting away from the fact the Golf is a recipe that works and Volkswagen would be bonkers to change it. The 29 million they’ve sold since it was launched in 1974 proves this.

Since then range has been expanded greatly, to encompass everything from a 1.2-litre petrol turbo, through to the fast Golf R hot hatchback with true sports car pace. Bodystyles include three- and five-door hatchbacks, plus an estate.

To come is a more spacious MPV-style offering to replace the Golf Plus. The Golf cabriolet is still sold alongside the new Mk7 range, despite its Golf Mk6 underpinnings.

Top 5 Family hatchbacks

  • Seventh generation Volkswagen Golf
    More than 29 million Golfs have been sold since 1974

    Volkswagen Golf

    1
  • The popular Ford Focus in 1.5 TDCi Zetec form
    The standout component of the Ford Focus has always been its handling

    Ford Focus

    2
  • Seat Leon
    Seat offers five engines for the Leon, ranging from a 104bhp 1.2 petrol to a 181bhp 2.0 diesel

    Seat Leon

    3
  • Seventh generation Vauxhall Astra
    The seventh-generation Vauxhall Astra seems to be a collection of General Motors' latest and greatest technology

    Vauxhall Astra

    4
  • Mazda 3
    The SkyActiv platform used in the 3 features more high and ultra-high-strength steel, offering greater strength and less weight

    Mazda 3

    5

First drives

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • 2016 Volkswagen Up 1.0 TSI review
    First Drive
    30 June 2016
    Volkswagen's city car becomes much more fun thanks to the addition of a turbocharger
  • Car review
    30 June 2016
    Volkswagen’s compact SUV bulks up for a bigger slice of segment sales
  • Audi A3 Cabriolet 1.4 TSFI S-line
    First Drive
    30 June 2016
    Audi has given its A3 Cabriolet a mid-life refresh. We drive it for the first time on UK roads.
  • Audi Q2 1.0 TFSI SE
    First Drive
    30 June 2016
    A 1.0 TFSI seems a small and unlikely engine for an SUV, but then the Q2 is Audi's newest and smallest soft-roader
  • Ferrari GTC4 Lusso
    First Drive
    29 June 2016
    Ferrari's four-wheel-drive GT car has been updated. We drive the GTC4 Lusso, replacement for the FF, and find out if it's worthy of its famous name