When a car as important as the Volkswagen Golf gets updated, renewed and generally smartened up, we all simply need to sit up and take notice.
Because half a million Europeans a year, among them some 70,000 Brits, can’t all be wrong.
The Golf remains Europe’s biggest-selling new car and was the UK’s most popular family hatchback last year (assuming that you combine sales of the hatchback, estate and SV bodystyles). That’s not a bad result from a firm supposedly still racked by a Dieselgate-related crisis.
With its timeless progressive design and clever ‘semi-premium’ positioning, the Golf continues to dominate the heartland of the market for compact family cars, being impressively complete and competitive in almost every important way and forcing its competitors to seek their successes farther towards the notional margins.
This has brought all-new and revised engines, a new gearbox, a refreshed look inside and out, new infotainment systems and a price realignment to address a persistent criticism from some: that VW has always charged a little bit too much for its European hatchback icon.
The Golf took our top spot in the family hatchback class when we road tested it initially and it has defended its position very successfully since.
This facelifted version, in 108bhp 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol form, has already seen off the challenge of Honda’s new Civic and Peugeot’s 308, but we’ve had to wait until now to be able to test the most significant addition to the Golf’s engine range: VW’s all-new 1.5 TSI Evo turbocharged petrol engine.
This motor will replace the older 1.4 TSI throughout all of the Volkswagen Group brands’ model ranges – and it is being introduced just as the true extent of the diesel emissions scandal is becoming evident and more and more of us are choosing to trust petrol instead.
So can this trailblazing Mk7 Golf – the first to adopt VW’s versatile MQB platform – continue to rule the hatchback roost, even into its dotage?