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. Although the Mk8 is on the horizon with the replacement Golf set to be unveil in November.

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 1.0-litre petrol turbo, through to the fast Golf R hot hatchback with true sports car pace. Bodystyles include three- and five-door hatchbacks, an estate, the MPV-styled SV, the rugged Alltrack and the recently axed convertible.

Although since diesel-gate much pressure has been put on the VW Group and as an attempt to hone in on increasing profit margins the next generation Golf will only be available in certain guises.

Top 5 Family hatchbacks

  • Volkswagen Golf

    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 Leon

    3
  • 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

    4
  • Peugeot 308

    Peugeot 308

    5

First drives

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Audi S5 Sportback
    First Drive
    19 January 2017
    The Audi S5 Sportback is more bruising GT than practical sports car, but it makes sense for those wanting a fast executive saloon in coupé get-up
  • First Drive
    18 January 2017
    Despite receiving a cosmetic and mechanical refresh, Lexus's compact executive saloon still fails to provide much driving involvement
  • 2017 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV 5h review
    First Drive
    18 January 2017
    Big-selling plug-in SUV gets a light refresh in the face of new challengers to offer decent economy but only average driving dynamics
  • Mini Countryman Cooper S
    First Drive
    18 January 2017
    All-new bigger Mini continues to make a curious, flawed crossover hatchback, though it’s more compelling to drive than some and more practical than it used to be
  • Porsche Panamera 4 E-Hybrid
    First Drive
    17 January 2017
    Plug-in petrol-electric Panamera makes a better case than ever to supplant the diesel best seller, but it still appeals more to the head than the heart