Seek out a good used example of the 2013-2020 Volkswagen Golf Mk7 and you’ll have yourself one of the most multi-talented cars of all time.
What it offered was a combination of extremely useful all-round abilities in a delightfully classy and tastefully restrained package, all wrapped up in an eminently affordable car that you would be happy to take anywhere.
For starters, there’s the range of 1.0, 1.4 and later 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engines that punch far above their weight in terms of performance yet return impressive fuel efficiency. Then there are the 1.6 and 2.0-litre diesel engines for those who might be doing big miles. Anybody interested in low-emission driving might want to consider either the plug-in hybrid GTE or fully electric e-Golf. For those more interested in speed, there’s always the hot hatch GTI or ballistically quick Golf R.
On the regular models, entry-level S trim isn’t lavishly equipped: you get air conditioning but there are no alloy wheels and few other niceties. Move up to the rather better-equipped Match and SE and you’ll add 16in alloy wheels, a leather-trimmed steering wheel, power-folding door mirrors and adaptive cruise control, plus many useful driving aids, infotainment upgrades and safety features. Next up the scale, GT added more luxuries, and later models topped out with R-Line trim, which made the Golf a very smart and well-equipped car indeed.
To drive, even the regular versions of the Golf offer enough agility and steering sharpness to make them enjoyable, with the extra and impressive speed of the GTI and R versions making them a delight on an empty road or a twisting stretch of Tarmac. All versions are refined and stable, too, and the Golf rides better than most of its contemporaries, thanks to its supple suspension.
The interior is very smart, whichever trim you go for. The dashboard is built from upmarket-feeling materials and is laid out almost ideally, with all the major controls right where you need them to be. Infotainment is taken care of by an 8.0in touchscreen system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto phone mirroring.