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Europe’s biggest-selling new car, in eighth-generation form, joins the tech revolution

If success breeds complacency in the car business, one car above all others ought to bear it out: the Volkswagen Golf. And yet, over nearly five decades, we’ve yet to see much more than a sniff of proof of it. In the Volkswagen ’s case, the standing of one of the industry’s quiet icons only gets greater and greater.

Understanding the unique position the Golf occupies on this continent can only be done by appreciating the margin of its sales dominance. In a good calendar year, there might be as many as 10 new cars that break the 250,000-unit marker across Europe; perhaps four or five of them sneaking above the 300,000-unit barrier.

For now, there’s only one mild-hybrid eTSI Golf: a 148bhp 1.5-litre TSI Evo with a dual-clutch automatic gearbox and 48V electrical assistance

But the Golf was the only new car in Europe to record more than half a million registered sales in any calendar year throughout the whole of the past decade; and it managed that twice, in 2014 and 2015. It is by a country mile Europe’s biggest-selling new car, and typically it outsells the very best of its direct rivals, such as the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra, by more than two to one.

Into that context, however, there now enters something of a gamble. The Golf Mk8 might be the boldest redefinition of Volkswagen's enduring family five-door since the Mk5. This, remember, from a car maker not habitually given to risk-taking.

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Allied to its crisp-looking new suit of clothes, this car’s newly hybridised powertrain armoury, sharpened ride and handling, reductionist cabin design and market-leading active safety technology can be seen, when viewed together, as the most concerted effort that can be made by one of the world’s most powerful car makers to arrest the steady shrinking of the European mid-sized hatch segment.

The Volkswagen Golf line-up at a glance

The Golf’s typically fulsome model range is somewhat truncated for now, the entry-level 1.0-litre TSI petrol engine only just having been added to it. Volkswagen Golf GTI, Golf GTD, Volkswagen Golf GTE plug-in hybrid and Volkswagen Golf R versions will come later, although it remains to be seen if the UK market will get the cheaper eHybrid PHEV version of the car, or the other 48V eTSI versions that are available in other markets.

Trim levels range from Life through mid-range Style to R-Line, which gets variable-rate steering and lowered sport suspension.

Price £28,025 Power 148bhp Torque 184lb ft 0-60mph 8.3sec 30-70mph in fourth 9.1sec Fuel economy 45.9mpg CO2 emissions 134g/km 70-0mph 45.4m

 

Volkswagen Golf FAQs

Is the Volkswagen Golf available as a plug-in or electric?

Yes it is. In fact, the Volkswagen Golf is available with a choice of two plug-in variants - the entry-level Style eHybrid and the hot hatch-flavoured GTE. The former combines a 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol and electric motor to deliver 201bhp and an EV range of 42 miles, while the latter travels a little less far at 38 miles, but packs 242bhp from its similar engine and motor combination. There was an all-electric e-Golf version of the previous generation car, but this was effectively replaced by the ID3.

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What are the main rivals to the Volkswagen Golf?

Buyers are becoming increasingly keen on SUVs, but compact family hatchbacks are still big business, meaning the Volkswagen Golf has plenty of competitors. For driving fun the Ford Focus takes some beating, while like the Volkswagen the Peugeot 308 and Vauxhall Astra are available with plug-in hybrid engines. The Kia Ceed and Hyundai i30 are no nonsense options with loads of kit and long warranties, much like the stylish, hybrid-powered Toyota Corolla. Under the skin, the Skoda Octavia and SEAT Leon are similar to the Golf, but the former offers more space and the latter more style.

How much power does the Volkswagen Golf have?

As one of the brand’s most popular models, the Volkswagen Golf is available with a wide range of engines. Entry-level models feature a 108bhp 1.0-litre TSI petrol, while there’s also 1.5-litre TSI with either 128bhp or 148bhp. There’s also a 2.0-litre TDI diesel that’s available with a number of power outputs, from 114bhp, through to 148bhp and onto 197bhp in the GTD. A plug-in hybrid option combines 1.4-litre petrol and electric motor for either 201bhp or 242bhp. The latter figure is the same as the 2.0-litre petrol in the GTI, while the GT Clubsport serves-up 296bhp and the four-wheel drive R packs 316bhp.

What choices of gearbox are available for the Volkswagen Golf?

Standard on all Volkswagen Golf petrol and diesel models up to the GTI is a six-speed manual gearbox. Like all the brand’s three-pedal transmissions it has a relatively precise action and is easy to use thanks to a light and smooth clutch. Available as an option, and standard on the GTD, GTI Clubsport and R, a seven-speed automatic. A twin-clutch unit, it serves up impressive smooth and swift shifts that both enhance comfort and performance. The plug-in hybrids use the same set-up but only get six speeds.

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Where is the Volkswagen Golf built?

Given it’s one of the brand’s most popular models, it’s no surprise to find that the Volkswagen Golf is built at the vast Wolfsburg factory in Germany. Over eight generations more than 26 million examples of the Golf have been assembled at the facility, where from sheet metal to finished article it travels along nearly 43 miles of production line. The Golf is also produced in China at the joint Venture FAW-VW plant in Foshan, as well as the DRB-HICOM factory in Pekan, Malaysia.

How many generations of Volkswagen Golf have there been?

Few family cars can match the Volkswagen Golf for longevity. Having made its debut in 1974, the evergreen German family hatch is now in its eighth generation, the current model having been launched in 2019. The original car was styled by Giorgetto Giugiaro and was the firm’s second ever front-wheel drive model with a water cooled engine, following on from the Passat a year earlier. It remains Volkswagen’s most popular car of all time, with more than 35 million built over nearly 50 years.

Volkswagen Golf First drives