This is a first UK drive of the 2017 Volkswagen Golf, which comes with an updated infotainment system and a lower price. What's not to like?

What is it?

Big brands. If it’s a smartphone, it’s Apple; if it’s a burger, it’s McDonalds; and if it’s a car for the people, then it’s the people’s car: the Volkswagen Golf. And while VW’s been in a process of damage limitation ever since it meddled with its own exhaust fumes, the Volkswagen Golf remains an iconic and hugely important car – a point proved by one finding a home every 40 seconds since 1974, equating to 33 million sold around the world. 

When you have an icon on your hands, you don’t do radical things with it; hence why a Big Mac still looks and tastes like it did in 1967, and your iPhone 7 would feel familiar to anyone with a 2007 original. So the evolution of the Golf has been intentionally glacial, and you have to look very hard to spot the changes on this new Mk7.5. In fact, the MQB platform underpinning it hasn’t been touched at all, but on the outside there are slightly different bumpers, new front wings, new LED tail-lights and new halogen headlights, with LED units now available, too. 

Two things have changed noticeably, though: the extensively upgraded infotainment systems, which include the option of gesture control for the first time in this class, and the price, which has gone down. Now there’s a rare and very welcome treat.

Vw golf 10 ac 314

What's it like?

This 1.0 TSI 110 engine isn’t quite the entry point of the range – a 1.0 TSI 85 sits below it – but is likely to be the most recommendable place to start. But is 1.0 litre of capacity across three cylinders adequate for hauling around a Golf? Well, with driver and fuel it tips the scales at 1216kg, which isn’t particularly portly by today’s standards, and the 1.0 has just a much torque as the 1.4 TSI 125, albeit in a narrower band between 2000 and 3500rpm. 

So, and as with many a three-pot motor, it needs a few revs to get it off the line, but once you’re on your way it pulls merrily in the mid-range. If you need a bit more zip then it’s keen to rev out, singing away as it does so with that typically cheeky three-cylinder timbre. Okay, it’s not fast, but it's perfectly fine for anyone who spends large chunks of their time in the city, and should they venture farther afield, it’ll get to 70mph without fuss. 

If you always find yourself in the outside lane of the motorway trying to get somewhere fast, your foot will be hard down for more time than is conducive for decent economy - and if that's the case we'd recommend waiting for the all-new 1.5 TSI Evo that arrives later in the year. Driven more sedately, though, this 1.0 will average mid-40s with relative ease. 

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The rest of the package feels as well honed as ever: there’s plenty of space in the front and rear seats, the boot will take the family shop and even at motorway speeds it’s very good at isolating you from the outside world. 

Vw golf 10 ac 315

It's comfortable, too. Yes, this engine gets a rudimentary twist-beam rear axle Volkswagen instead of the fancy multi-link arrangement that higher-powered Golf's receive, but it's still among the best-riding cars in the class, and it displays great poise and balance along a challenging back road. 

The steering is sweet, too, with progressive gearing and good weighting around the straight-ahead that builds uniformly as you crank on lock. Even though it’s not bristling with sensations through the rim itself, you can stroke the nose into corners confidently and with pinpoint accuracy.

There will still be those who find the interior a little bland, but you can’t fault its fit and finish. And it must be said it's been augmented by that new, swish-looking, glass-fronted 8.0in touchscreen. It’s standard even on the basic S trim, while our SE Navigation test car, as the name suggests, had sat-nav too. But not gesture control; that comes on the optional Discover Navigation Pro system, which gets an even bigger 9.2in screen. 

The crystal-clear display is a definite step-up from the Golf’s previous infotainment systems, and although the menus are familiar, better processing power makes them more reactive to inputs. 

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Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink are standard from SE onwards so you can hook-up your smartphone, and from SE Navigation up you can access various online services. For the first time on a Golf you can also replace the regular instrument binnacle with a 12.3in digital screen, which puts loads of information, such as navigation maps, conveniently below the driver’s eye line.

Golf ac 316 0

Should I buy one?

There was little wrong with the way the previous Volkswagen Golf went about its business, apart from perhaps that it cost too much. Instead of choosing between a Golf or a Ford Focus, you found yourself weighing one up against a BMW 1 Series or Audi A3, but as powerful as the VW brand is, it would invariably lose out to those two on badge appeal. 

But now that it’s cheaper, by an average of £650 across the range, the Volkswagen Golf is right back in the mix. The infotainment improvements keep it feeling fresh and modern, and if you are looking for a sensible alternative to diesel, this peppy 1.0 TSI 110 petrol’s economy and emissions may well fit the bill. More than ever, then, you’d be mad not to have the Golf right at the top of your family car shopping list

Volkswagen Golf 1.0 TSI 110 SE Navigation 5dr manual

Location Bedfordshire; On sale now; Price £20,120; Engine 3 cyls, 999cc, turbo, petrol; Power 109bhp at 5000-5500rpm; Torque 148Ib ft at 2000-3500rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 1216kg; 0-62mph 9.9sec; Top speed 122mph; Economy 58.9mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 109g/km, 20%; Rivals Ford Focus 1.0T Ecoboost 125, Skoda Octavia 1.0 TSI 115

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Join the debate

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jer 3 January 2020

Just rented one

Review is correct but it minimises the problem where it bogs down on hill starts requiring lots of revs and clutch slipping. Like all VWs I have driven it baulks into second gear what I mean by that is slightly stiff long travel lever  into that makes for lost momentum.  Big fingers cause radio station to change when adjusting volume. Boot fits 2 medium suitcases only just.. Plastics and join where dash meets lower centre console cheep. But lots of good stuff as well that gets mentioned but why no critique of the bad?

CarGeek 31 March 2017

VW Group 1.0TSI real-world economy

As the owner of a 1.0TFSI 115 Audi A3, after 6 months and 12,000 miles my car averages around 50mpg on a mixed route (With a fairly heavy foot). Being thrashed over a distance it usually gets just below 40mpg and on a recent trip from Nottingham to Norfolk with four on board and air con etc, the trip computer claimed an average of 63.5mpg. Pretty impressive, I'd say!

Can't speak for other 1.0 3 cylinder turbos when it comes to economy but I'm certainly glad I didn't pay EXTRA for the awfully chuggy 1.6TDI unit.

winniethewoo 30 March 2017

I reckon the 1.4 tsi (7 year

I reckon the 1.4 tsi (7 year old engine) is still pick of the range. Independent rear suspension. I bet the fuel economy in the real world will be nigh on the same as this 1.0 tsi. Would be interesting to see 1.5 tsi cylinder of demand pricing, but I bet they will bundle that up with the more expensive GT spec.
Marc 30 March 2017

winniethewoo wrote:

winniethewoo wrote:

I reckon the 1.4 tsi (7 year old engine) is still pick of the range. Independent rear suspension. I bet the fuel economy in the real world will be nigh on the same as this 1.0 tsi. Would be interesting to see 1.5 tsi cylinder of demand pricing, but I bet they will bundle that up with the more expensive GT spec.

As a point of reference, we currently have a Ateca with the same engine, it's currently averaging 41 mpg, with only 700 miles on it.