It is a mark of the Golf’s ability, as it has been with some of its forebears, that you frequently find yourself unconsciously driving it rather quickly. Not because it’s a particular riot to drive, but because it quietly encases you in a bubble of stability, accuracy and assuring control.

Such behaviour is bred by crisp refinement, confident body control and the electric power steering’s habit of not throwing on quite enough resistance until you’re travelling at a right old gallop.

Nic Cackett

Road tester
The golf's enthusiasm is tempered somewhat by stability control that can't be disabled

Pay attention to the car’s performance rather than let it wash over you, and not only is it clear that the Golf is finding decent grip at each corner, but also that each wheel’s behaviour is registering somewhere in your sensory perception.

Which isn’t to suggest that what’s happening beneath you is particularly electrifying (the car’s handling is as predictable as a nativity play’s plot), but merely that it’s probably the reason for your newly liberal attitude to speed limits.

The steering colludes in this effect without ever dazzling. It’s light, but precise and reasonably brisk to self-centre. Sport mode does a better job of tweaking the weight advantage than Audi’s equivalent software, but Volkswagen is still well short of the Ford Focus’s intuitive bite. Turn-in, however, seems marginally sharper in the Golf.

There’s less pitch and greater initial tenacity, and even if our test car’s traction control could not be deactivated, the VW will transfer its weight efficiently if asked to do so.

On a car with the multi-link rear suspension, the ride is effective: tight-fitting but obliging. It’s not as nuanced on the standard SE set-up as we have previously found on the optional adaptive dampers – rough roads revealed the odd bristle from the enthusiastic rebound – but the vast majority of buyers are likely to report high satisfaction with the way the Mk7 goes about its business, and we see little reason to quibble with that.

And the good news for anyone contemplating a Golf with the torsion beam rear is that the difference is not as marked as you might have feared. You'd really need to drive the two cars one after the other to feel it: the torsion beam car is a bit noisier and less calm over potholes and broken surfaces, but it's by no means unbearable.

Drive the GTD at cross-country pace, the chassis has a good breadth of ability, with the softer settings allowing better ride comfort and some body movement, and Sport tightening things up to a level of body control unknown even by the previous-generation Golf GTI. But you still wouldn’t describe the car’s handling as exciting.

The GTD continues to go about its business in an effective but slightly aloof way. It’s quick enough, but doesn’t grip or involve quite like a full-fat petrol hot hatch.

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

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