We test Volkswagen's affordable petrol Golf. Does it maintain the high standards of the brand?

What is it?

The cheapest two-pedal version of the current Volkswagen Golf, fresh on UK shores – and as such, a potentially popular car for private buyers. 

The 1.2-litre TSI DSG develops 104bhp and 129lb ft of torque, qualifies for a £30 tax disc, for very reasonable group 11 insurance, and is claimed to return better than 50mpg.

Combine all that with the usual Golf ownership experience (high-rated service, excellent residuals) and the car would seem to offer plenty in principal.

What's it like?

Very good indeed. All of the Mk7 Volkswagen Golf’s chief qualities – comfort, refinement, integrity and usability – are present in this, the bottom-but-one petrol model.

It’s so often the measure of a great car that you don’t need to spend all the money on the most expensive versions to appreciate what makes it great. Because, while it isn’t either an out-and-out performance or economy champion and it doesn’t handle like a GTI, this car is so supremely easy to use that it would fit into your life like a hand in a tailored velvet glove.

Cultured manners are what really distinguishes it. The eight-valve 1.2-litre turbocharged engine instantly descends to a hushed idle. The 104bhp figure probably sounds like less than you might wish for in your family five-door, and there will be times when you’d welcome a few extra horses: when overtaking on the motorway, particularly.

But, on the flip side, so well-matched is that engine to VW’s seven-speed twin clutch gearbox, and so relaxing is this car to drive at everyday speeds, that you’ll seldom find yourself in a hurry. 

An inch-and-a-half of accelerator travel is enough to set the car in motion – smoothly, quietly, with the traffic, and with the minimum of fuss. The car has seamless, assured urban speed courtesy of peak torque from 1550rpm. Under most circumstances, you don’t even feel the gearchanges.

Rolling refinement is first rate too, with lots of quiet compliance from the chassis, overlaid by precise, predictable, obliging handling. You’ll get better day-to-day economy from a diesel, especially if you do lots of motorway miles – but not by a great deal. Around 45mpg is realistic on a mixed commute.

Should I buy one?

Bottom rung ‘S’ trim on the Volkswagen Golf means that you have to pay extra for an alarm, alloy wheels, electric rear windows and parking sensors, but you do get Bluetooth with audio streaming and a DAB radio here, packed into a typically smart, solid and ergonomically excellent cabin.

All of which leaves almost nothing to complain about here, and a great deal to like, for a very reasonable price. The crushingly competent VW Golf marches on.

VW Golf S 1.2 TSI DSG

Price £19,575; 0-62mph 10.2sec; Top speed 119mph; Economy 56.5mpg; CO2 114g/km; Kerbweight 1229kg; Engine type 4 cyls, 1197cc, turbocharged petrol; Power 104bhp at 5000rpm; Torque 129lb ft at 1550-4100rpm; Gearbox 7spd twin clutch

Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

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antk1989 15 June 2013

I know the price tag seems

I know the price tag seems expensive, and it is....but when you see this car in theflesh it really does have such quality to it.....and for a 1.2 it performs more like a 1.6.

antk1989 14 June 2013


Does anyone know how much extra it is for alloys?

fadyady 29 May 2013

It's happening...

Just the other day a comedian aka Richard Hammond joked about the fast depleting value of the pound and today the basic Golf's asking price exceeds 20 grand after you add in metalic paint, alloy wheels and alarm. What's next?