With its blend of the present and the future, is the still the perfectly balanced hot hatch?

Why we ran it: To find out if the Mk8 Golf remains the world’s most rounded family hatch

Month 6 - Month 5Month 4Month 3 - Month 2Month 1 - Prices and specs


Life with a VW Golf: Month 6

Staying relevant while not breaking with tradition is a tricky balance for car makers to strike - 20 October 2021

We last had a Volkswagen Golf GTI on our long-term fleet back in 2018. It was a late-era Mk7.5 model and offered very little cause for complaint. In fact, our wish list of improvements basically extended to... a volume knob. That’s it.

That the lack of one little twiddly dial caused so much consternation reflects the high standards the Golf GTI has achieved over the years – and shows how high the bar was set for the eighth-generation version that has just left our fleet. Spoiler alert: a volume knob is not the only item on our wish list of improvements for the latest GTI.

Let’s not get carried away with the negatives, though: there remain far more positives. The GTI was the second in a pair of Golfs we ran this year to assess the two ends of the range of the ever-popular hatch, following an eTSI mild hybrid in entry-level Life spec. And both models showed that the Golf is an excellent all-round choice that is incredibly easy to live with.

It’s pleasingly relaxing and easy to drive, and plenty comfortable and spacious inside. The interior of our GTI featured sports seats and posh kit such as a heated steering wheel and wireless charger (although on my non-wireless-charging iPhone, that only served to open up Apple Pay, weirdly). But even the more basic Life trim was comfortable and spacious.

While there have been gripes about the latest-generation Golf’s ride, the mild-hybrid version offered little to complain about. Still, having heard from our road testers how VW had stiffened up the GTI towards the hotter end of the hatchback market, I was prepared for a jolt when I switched into the tartan-seated model. It was stiffer than the eTSI but, once I’d adjusted, it was nowhere near as bad as feared. It took some fiddling with the driving mode settings to soften the suspension – Sport is best saved for special occasions – but it certainly wasn’t as bracingly firm as some hot hatch rivals.



Read our review

Car review

The firmest, feistiest Golf GTI in a long time has plenty to excite. It knows some refinement and restraint, but possibly not enough to maintain its reputation as the most mature hot hatch on the block

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And while the Golf GTI was at its best winding down a B-road, unlike some hot hatches it was also at home anywhere else you cared to use it: driving to the shops, commuting, motorway cruises. That overall balance has always been the GTI recipe, and even if this one does lean a little to the hard side, it proved commendably easy to live with. It could be surprisingly economical, too: with careful use of the throttle, it was possible to get close to 50mpg on certain trips, which isn’t far off what I was achieving in the eTSI.

Many of the grumblings I’ve been sent about ride quality were from people who had traded in an older Golf for the new one. My suspicion is that the slightly harder edge of the GTI is because VW is trying to appeal to its committed GTI audience. In an age of electrification, the fabled 2.0-litre turbocharged engine doesn’t even feature the mildest of hybrid elements; perhaps VW feels it is pitching the GTI at a more selective and committed audience who want their hot hatches with extra spice.

That said, even in GTI form, the Mk8 Golf isn’t an automotive dinosaur, waiting to be made extinct by an ID 3-shaped meteor. When it comes to digitisation, this Golf is very modern – and this, predictably, is where the criticism comes in.

The stripped-back dashboard, dominated by a central touchscreen and a handful of haptic panels, is genuinely progressive, and promises a simple, refined experience. And it is – when it works. But frustratingly, it very often didn’t.

The touchscreen is well placed on the dash and crystal clear, and VW’s operating system is slick and well laid out, which is good. But the software, in both Golfs we ran, was glitchy.

It could be slow to load pages, and was often reluctant to fire up Apple CarPlay. Occasionally, the loading screen would freeze for a minute or so on start-up, which was forgivable for a ZX Spectrum back in the day but isn’t what you want in a new car.

VW hasn’t entirely eliminated physical controls, of course, and most key functions were operational through a number of steering-wheel buttons. Less useful were the sliders under the touchscreen that controlled the heating and volume, and were at best fiddly. Ultimately, I came to ignore them when possible, simply jabbing them like buttons when I had to interact.

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We also encountered the odd software glitch in some of the driver assistance systems. The adaptive cruise control generally worked well, but on rare occasions it would suddenly switch from miles per hour to kilometres per hour, which is a problem when it spots a 70mph sign and decides to slow the car to 70kph.

Still, it would be easy to overstate these complaints. For the most part, they were relatively minor niggles that most likely can be solved with a software update. But they annoy and frustrate more because they jar with the Golf’s reputation for offering all-round motoring excellence.

The truth is that, whether at entry level or in GTI form, the Golf remains among the best in a competitive class and a brilliant all-rounder. It just can’t quite live up to the lofty standards of its predecessor – lack of volume knob notwithstanding.

Second Opinion

Volkswagen is held to a very high standard for attention to detail, but very few of my colleagues have great things to say about the group’s current-generation MIB 3 electronics. They’ve never bothered me, personally – but there’s no smoke without fire.

Matt Saunders

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Love it:

All-round comfort Comfy and classless, the Golf’s interior reflects 40-plus years of refinement.

Not to cold, not too hot A well-tuned turbo engine and six-speed manual is a recipe for country road fulfilment.

Evolved styling Familiarity has bred contentment with the Golf 8’s styling. Still looks sharp, in a very Golf way.

Loathe it:

Start-up struggles The Volkswagen OS loading screen looks nice. I don’t want to stare at it for a minute, though.

volume control slider A volume knob, a volume knob, my kingdom for a volume knob.

Final mileage: 6471

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mpg, not mph - 8 September 2021

Thanks to a friend showing off on social media a 53.2mpg average achieved by their Mk8 Golf GTI on a long commute, I’ve become mildly obsessed with hypermiling in mine. So far my best effort is 49.5mpg
on a 127-mile trip, which is pretty impressive for a hot hatch. Are there better ways to have fun in a GTI? Probably, but first I’m determined to break that 50mpg barrier.

Mileage: 4287

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You’ve got the touch - 18 August 2021


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The Golf GTI has a more upmarket interior than our previous 1.5 eTSI Life model, including haptic controls instead of buttons on the steering wheel. They’re intuitively placed but actually a little too easy to use: on several occasions now,
I’ve unintentionally turned on the steering wheel heating. Not ideal in a rare moment of British summer.

Mileage: 3472

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We’ve upgraded our trusty entry-level Golf to a hotter one - 4 August 2021

Vw golf 8 long term review 4 august 1

As the tartan teaser image previously hinted, we’ve switched our Volkswagen Golf long-termer for a newer model. Our trusty, dependable and very yellow 1.5 eTSI has been swapped for a red and somewhat more raucous GTI version. Which, as I’m sure you will agree, seems like a pretty good trade.

Our time with the eTSI in entry-level Life trim (albeit with a significant number of option boxes ticked) was all about judging how well the newest Golf performs as the sort of general, all-round family transport that it has been renowned for being over eight generations. The answer, somewhat predictably, is really rather well. Touchscreen aside, it was hard to find substantial faults.

But there’s far more to the Golf family, of course, both in terms of trim options and variants. And while the household-name recognition of the Golf heaps expectations on every model, there’s no Golf that carries a greater burden than the GTI. In fact, such is the fame of those letters that in recent years Volkswagen has used them in place of model names on the bootlid of the range.

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The Golf GTI has a starting price of £33,525 – around £7000 more than that of the eTSI Life – although with options our test car comes in at £37,230. We added features such as a rear-view camera and head-up display to try some of the higher-end functions the eTSI didn’t have, while the addition of Dynamic Chassis Control, with its customisable suspension settings, felt like a no-brainer given the car’s performance brief.

But we didn’t mess with the basics: we made sure that our GTI’s 242bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine (yes, it’s the Volkswagen Group’s venerable EA288 performance unit) is driven through a six-speed manual gearbox. It’s a satisfyingly chunky gearstick, too – a notable contrast from the minimalist selector used for the eTSI’s automatic unit.

The difference between our old and new Golfs is obvious from the outside, given the GTI badging, quad exhausts and bespoke front bumper design. But it’s perhaps even more striking inside. Including that famous tartan trim, the cabin is a notable step up in perceived quality from the Life-spec eTSI. The dashboard has a honeycomb effect, the 10in infotainment screen and digital display feature bespoke GTI designs and the chunkier sports steering wheel is adorned with haptic panel switches rather than buttons. There are bigger, plusher sports seats too, although I have yet to get fully comfortable in them.

Vw golf 8 long term review 4 august 2

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Hopefully that will come in time. On first impression, the eighth- generation GTI takes a slightly more hardcore approach than its predecessors, making for a more raw but less rounded hot hatchback. Certainly, the ride seems firmer than in our previous Golf, jarringly so over rough roads. Again, this is something we hope to get used to in the weeks and months to come. But the overriding early impression is of the joy that really only a Golf GTI can deliver through a pliant chassis, well-tuned engine and slick manual gearbox. The question is whether that familiar GTI recipe is as well honed as it has been in previous generations.

Love it:

Tartan trim Set Golf GTI trim is a design classic. Really, why doesn’t the ID 4 GTX feature tartan?

Loathe it:

Measurement mess-up The traffic sign recognition has an odd habit of occasionally converting speed-limit signs from MPH to KPH.

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A new arrival - 28 July 2021

Vw golf 8 long term review 28 july

My driveway is looking a lot less yellow: our Golf eTSI has departed. I was sad to see it go – it’s provided quiet, efficient, comfortable and largely pleasurable transport. So what’s replacing it? It’s... another Golf, in a somewhat more subtle shade of red. Disappointing? Definitely not, as you might be able to tell from where I’m sitting...

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Mileage: 3821

Life with a VW Golf: Month 5

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Afraid to get wet? - 21 July 2021

21 Volkswagen golf 2021 long term review static shadow

Professor Attwood (aka my mum) has enjoyed being chauffeured in the Golf, but a recent trip in wet weather clouded her mood. Apparently, the windscreen wipers on the Golf splash water onto the passenger side of the front windscreen, due to the arc they take cleaning the driver’s side. This, said Mum, spoils her view. I did note it was better the driver’s side was clear. She didn’t seem convinced.

Mileage: 3619

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No need for more space here - 7 July 2021

While Rachel Burgess’s Octavia 
vRS is exceptionally cavernous, my Golf’s boot seems unexceptionally adequate. I rarely need the space of an estate, so this is fine for virtually all my needs, and access and loading are easy. With some careful packing, it has been well suited for trips to the garden centre, the recycling centre and the supermarket.

Mileage: 3127

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If the Golf is the past and the ID 3 is the future, which is the VW hatch of the present? - 23 June 2021

Vw golf 8 long term review 23 june 2

Recently, my driveway hosted the Volkswagen equivalent of a Doctor Who crossover special. You know, one of those episodes where multiple past and present versions of The Doctor team up to save the future from some mildly scary rubber-suited alien creation.

Instead of two Timelords, though, I had assembled two Volkswagen hatchbacks, with our long-term Golf joined by an ID 3, its electric equivalent.

Broadly, the two represent the past (Golf) and future (ID 3) of Volkswagen hatches – although, since the timeline of the car industry’s electrification is as muddled as anything you would encounter in a Tardis, you can buy both cars today. This had me intrigued: which is the best Volkswagen-badged family hatch for right now?

While several rivals have opted to offer one car with different powertrains (such as the ICE and EV versions of the Peugeot 208), Wolfsburg has put a heavy focus on developing the bespoke electric MEB platform for its brands’ various EV ranges, arguing that this allowed them to more effectively exploit the benefits of the technology.

With the Golf and ID 3 side by side, you can certainly see the differences resulting from this approach: the ID 3 sits lower to account for its underf loor batteries, the wheels are pushed further to the corners, the bonnet is dramatically shorter and the glasshouse is bigger.

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Much like each new Doctor gets their own slightly wacky outfit, when you look beyond that there are clear similarities in terms of external size, presence and that clean, slightly reserved and oh-so-Volkswagen styling.

The interior of the ID 3 is a touch Tardis-like in that it is bigger than you expect – a clear demonstration of the layout benefits enabled by the lack of a bulky combustion engine up front.

Vw golf 8 long term review 23 june 1

As with the Golf, the ID 3’s dashboard is pared back and built around the digital display screens, although work has clearly gone into adding a bit of emotion and drama. That said, nothing feels forced (well, with the exception of the play and pause graphics on the pedals – a design detail as cheesy as an umbrella with a question-mark handle).

What’s most notable when you switch from Golf to ID 3 is how similar they feel to drive. Clearly, there are differences: the ID 3 is quieter, for starters, although such is the refinement of the Golf’s eTSI petrol engine that there isn’t as much in it as you would expect at cruising speed. The ID 3 is slightly smoother and more responsive, thanks to the instant torque offered by its electric motor. But aside from the ability to play with the ID 3’s regenerative braking, the two cars are remarkably alike in drive, handling, feel and performance. In fact, until it comes to refuelling, the Golf and ID 3 share far more similarities than differences.

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I’ve read criticism of the ID 3 for not feeling like the ‘game-changing’ technology leap you would expect of Volkswagen’s first ground-up EV. But that might also be a major strength. Every time a new Doctor is cast, the regenerated Timelord gets a new look, outfit, mannerisms and catchphrases. But when you strip back that frippery, the basics of the character remain unchanged. The ID 3 is a Volkswagen hatch with a new look, platform and powertrain: but it still retains the basic character of a Volkswagen hatch.

That also reflects well on the Golf. Switching back into it after the ID 3 left my timeline didn’t feel like a step back into the past. If pushed, I slightly prefer the ID 3’s refinement and extra space. But, ultimately, choosing between them depends on which powertrain better fits your circumstances.

Love it:

Calm and quiet The Golf is no EV, but its eTSI engine really is very refined.

Loathe it:

Candid camera The lack of rear-view camera on our Life-spec car isn’t a deal- breaker, but having one on the ID 3 reminded me how useful it is.

Mileage: 2691

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Life with a VW Golf: Month 4

A bugs’ life - 16 June 2021

Vw golf 8 long term review 16 june

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The warmer weather has brought out the bugs, and it appears that a disproportionate amount of them have taken to camping out on our Golf. We’ve noticed similar things in the past when running bright-yellow cars. Are bugs attracted to such colours or are they just more visible on them? Either way, it seems it’s not only passers-by drawn to our VW.

Mileage: 2438

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Paradoxically, it can be easy to knock a car as good as this - 9 June 2021

Vw golf 8 long term review 9 june

One of the challenges of running a Volkswagen Golf long-termer is that there are certain traits you simply take for granted; things you just assume and accept that a Golf does well.

That can cause two problems: it’s more noticeable when it falls in anyway short of those standards (see the Mk8’s touchscreen) and it’s easy to overlook the things it’s very good at. So a few recent work trips have given me the chance to offer praise where it’s due and highlight just how pleasing the Golf’s drive and handling are.

Now, don’t mistake that for it being a hyper-handling hot hatch. Although the Mk8 is sharper than its predecessors in many ways, you wouldn’t mistake our machine for its GTI or R siblings. But it’s pleasingly direct, responsive and refined, capable of offering enough engagement to raise a smile on the right sort of road, without requiring much compromise to practicality and comfort elsewhere. Which, for an everyday family hatchback, is a balance that I will happily accept.

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There’s another benefit, too: with our eTSI engine now well run in and some adjustment to my driving style, the average fuel economy is creeping up nicely. I’ve got it to around 47mpg – a decent effort for this sort of car.

Mileage: 2129

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Life of grime - 19 May 2021

Vw golf 8 long term review 19 may

Murky weather has resulted in the Golf getting mucky, which is really highlighted by its Lime Metallic Yellow paint. Still, I guess spotting where grime builds up – in particular the outside edge of the rear doors – gives an interesting lesson on the aerodynamics of all those creases. Or, in reality, it just means I need to get out my mop and bucket.

Mileage: 1782

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Life with a VW Golf: Month 3

Our car is proving to be a wood, iron and putter rolled into one - 5 May 2021

Vw golf 8 long term review 5 may

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Lately, I've mostly been using the Volkswagen Golf to do Volkswagen Golf things. Which is to say the sort of all-round everyday things that you’d want to do in a car designed as an everyday all-rounder.

It’s easy to overlook just how efficiently good the Golf is at so many things. For short journeys around town, the car is hard to fault: it’s easy to handle, visibility is good and the mild-hybrid powertrain is quiet and smooth. It rides really well, too, which is a bonus, given the state of many local roads these days.

Regular supermarket trips and several jaunts to the garden centre have given me an opportunity to test out the boot thoroughly. The Golf’s isn’t the biggest in the class and pales in comparison with that of its Skoda Octavia cousin, but for everyday use, it’s hard to fault. Access is easy, the space is easily usable and it will eat up three big bags of compost and other assorted plant-related paraphernalia.

When not lugging compost, the Golf has also been put to far more important use: chauffeuring my mum to her second vaccine shot at a clinic run with amazing efficiency by the staff of Clevedon Medical Centre. As with the Golf, when things run smoothly, they’re easy to overlook, but we should take the time to appreciate how excellent they are.

Mileage: 1417

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ADAS settings are delightfully visual - 28 April 2021

A Golf-owning reader sent me some tips on the active safety settings, so I delved into the system to adjust them. It took me a while to realise the graphic that appeared wasn’t a loading screen but a menu, with the various systems selected as you touch the relevant image. Pleasingly slick, once I had realised and figured out what these systems were.

Mileage: 1204

Vw golf adas system

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Life with a VW Golf: Month 2

Attention to detail air vents - 7 April 2021

It seems that not everything on a modern car can be controlled by a touchscreen, after all: the air vents in the Golf are still directed by sliding a little plastic toggle. Hurrah. And with the slimline vents making it impossible to tell if they’re open or closed, Volkswagen has helpfully put instructions on the toggles. How brilliantly old-school.

Mileage: 792

Vw golf air vents

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It has more in common with its distant Porsche 911 relation than you might think - 24 March 2021

The cars pictured below are the twin titans of the Volkswagen Group, two machines that are both foundation and figurehead of their respective brands. And the Porsche 911 and Volkswagen Golf face the same challenge of staying true to their rich heritage while remaining relevant in the modern world.

I staged a brief reunion of these two extended family members recently when I drove my Golf long-termer to Porsche GB headquarters to collect a 911 Targa 4S for a review. No, this won’t be an impromptu comparison: you really can’t compare the two.

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Suffice to say that, while obeying speed limits, you won’t reach your destination any faster in the 911, but you’ll do so in a bit comfort while using more fuel, making more noise and – especially in limited-run Heritage Edition trim – turning a lot more heads.

Still, some motorway mileage in both cars did make me appreciate the subtle, modern refinement the Golf offers. The 911 balances heritage and modernity by mixing classic design traits with modern elements, such as the combination of its analogue rev counter and clock with a digital infotainment and driver info display.

Styling aside, the Golf’s heritage isn’t rooted in retro-themed features but in how it harnesses modern tech to deliver a reassuringly confident, comforting and very Golf drive. That’s reflected particularly by our Golf’s eTSI powertrain, whose mild-hybrid set-up adds a layer of refinement and efficiency to the combustion engine. The electric power from the 48V ISG is used to boost torque at lower speeds, while the system offers engine-off coasting or can automatically deactivate two of the 1.5-litre engine’s four cylinders to improve fuel economy.

In practice, the system is barely noticeable, making an already quiet unit even calmer. It’s hard to tell when the car is using two cylinders or EV power, so to see what was happening I delved through the myriad options on the digital dashboard and found the fuel economy display, which helpfully notes when the Golf is in two-cylinder or coasting mode.

Regardless, the result was a quiet, efficient powertrain capable of cruising at motorway speed without ever feeling really stressed. In other words, it’s modern tech applied to classic Golf elements to deliver a reassuringly familiar yet contemporary drive.

The Golf might not turn quite as many heads as this retro 911, but in its own way, it’s just as successful a blend of classic and modern.

Love it:

Hold steady The auto handbrake and engine stop/start both function superbly. Sounds simple, but it’s rare to find them working so well in practice.

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Loathe it:

Lane keeping warning Overly cautious lane alert has been a bugbear on our Skoda Octavia, and the closely related Golf has similar spatial-awareness issues.

Mileage: 687

Vw golf meets porsche targa

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Life with a VW Golf: Month 1

New VW group gearstick is very minimal - 3 March 2021

The minimalism of the Golf’s interior extends beyond the paring back of buttons: even by modern standards, its gear selector is on the stubby side. But it’s well designed and has a satisfying feel, making it easy to flick from drive to reverse – most of the time. It’s so low that a few times I’ve missed it and pulled the electronic handbrake on instead.

Mileage: 520

Vw golf centre console

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Welcoming the Golf to the fleet - 10 February 2021

As the switch to electrification accelerates, the car world is changing at a dizzying pace – and at every level.

The Fiat 500 and the Mini have gone Mini Electric. There’s a Mustang badge on an electric SUV. The Renault 5 is returning with battery power. Bentley is going electric. Even Hummer – Hummer! – has become an EV-only brand. But in this chaotic flux, some automotive totems remain resistant to change and continue to follow a path of evolution, not revolution.

One such vehicle is the Volkswagen Golf. Through 48 years and eight generations, it has been the reassuring, steadying constant at the heart of Volkswagen – and, by extension, the whole VW Group. The Golf has changed during that time, clearly, but it’s always in carefully judged, cautious steps rather than bold leaps.

The Golf’s success has been down to a perfect blend of ingredients. It is the realisation of a treacherously difficult balancing act. There are class rivals that are faster or drive better. There are rivals that offer more space and visibility. Some rivals offer more comfort, or arguably more desirable badges. And some rivals are cheaper to buy and run. But the Golf’s success has always been in how VW has expertly and delicately blended an unbeatable all-round package – one you change at your peril.

But times change, and even VW recognises that. So while the eighthgeneration Golf continues to evolve carefully, Wolfsburg has tried to push it into the future in some key areas while also committing fully to the revolution with the ID 3. You know, the electric hatch VW has called the successor to the Golf. Even though the Golf is still here. Bit awkward, eh?

All of which makes it a perfect time to add a Golf to our long-term fleet: it’s only over the course of an extended test that we’ll truly gauge whether VW has maintained the Golf’s perfect balance – or whether it’s changed too much or not enough.

3 Volkswagen golf 2021 long term review hero rear

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Sure enough, the Mk8 Golf looks very much like a Golf. Which isn’t a bad thing. You’ll have your own views on the design changes made for this latest version (the somewhat extended, ‘drooping’ front has divided opinion), but it remains instantly, reassuringly recognisable. Inside, things have changed quite a bit. It doesn’t take long to literally put your finger on why: as is the trend, most of the buttons and switches have gone, with controls shifted to the touchscreen, a handful of haptic panels and even some sliders. Not even the Golf can truly stand firm in the face of revolution, it seems.

We’ve plumped for the 1.5-litre 148bhp eTSI turbocharged petrol engine, which features a typically steady approach to electrification: a mild-hybrid 48V belt starter generator system. It’s classic Golf: a refinement of long-running tech, with a minor nod towards the future – and the promise of 50.6mpg. With the mild-hybrid engine, the only gearbox is a seven-speed DSG auto.

To sample the Golf at its purest, we have opted for the basic Life trim. That comes with most of the kit you really need, including LED headlights, a range of safety systems, 16in wheels, air conditioning, a 10in infotainment touchscreen and internal ambient lighting.

We did tick some option boxes, though, in part to see how VW has tried to change the Golf for the digital age. Therefore, among the extras is the £1600 Discover Navigation Pro infotainment set-up, which offers features such as voice and gesture control – even though I remain reluctant to talk to or wave at my car. We also couldn’t resist the £950 Dynamic Chassis Control system: we may not be sampling the Golf GTI or Golf R, but we still want to experience the most dynamic handling possible.

A further £625 went on the distinctive Lime Yellow metallic paint – or Luminous Bogey, as my nephew has christened it. You can decide if that’s money well spent, although it certainly makes the Golf easier to spot in a dark car park.

The early impressions are good. As our reviews and road tests of the Golf 8 have shown, it remains a refined, hugely competent and comfortable all-rounder. It may not feel like you’re experiencing the future of motoring when you’re driving it, but it definitely feels like an ideal family car for the present.

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That said, so far I’m less convinced by the interior controls. Without trying to sound too much like a luddite, the haptic controls and sliders don’t feel as intuitive or well-judged as ‘proper’ buttons. But I’ll persist with them: the industry is moving that way, apparently in part because of customer demand. Perhaps once I’ve grown familiar with them they’ll become second nature and intuitive, in the way that a Golf should.

11 Volkswagen golf 2021 long term review cabin

Another area of focus: that infotainment system and the car’s software, given there have been reports of customers experiencing software issues (with both the infotainment and the car’s systems).

So far I’ve experienced a few issues when my iPhone has been connected via wireless Apple CarPlay, but that could be down to wonky Bluetooth on my phone.

Still, those will be things to watch in the weeks ahead. And if they seem like quite minor aspects for a longterm test car, it’s because they are: but when the success of a model has been built on how well balanced it is, issues with minor aspects can easily throw that balance off.

Our expectations are high, in other words. But they should be: this is a Golf, after all. Its success isn’t built on bold promises or grand revolutions – but on being a Golf.

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Second Opinion

I’ll have to echo James’s comments on the use of touch sliders and controls in the new Golf – the climate functions are hugely awkward to operate without faffing with voice control. You get used to them but, frankly, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. It’s a shame, because the Mk7 Golf was a paragon of ergonomic excellence.

Lawrence Allan

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Volkswagen Golf GTI specification

Prices: List price new £33,525 List price now £34,185 Price as tested £37,230

Options:Rear-view camera £300, head-up display £625, Dynamic Chassis Control £785, Winter Pack (heated seats, heated windscreen washer, low washer fluid light) £470, digital key £215, GPS tracker £540, Kings Red metallic paint £770

Fuel consumption and range: Claimed economy 44.1mpg Fuel tank 50 litres Test average 42.6mpg Test best 43.9mpg Test worst 39.5mpg Real-world range 459 miles

Tech highlights: 0-62mph 6.4sec Top speed 155mph Engine 4 cyls, 1998cc, turbocharged, petrol Max power 242bhp at 5000-6500rpm Max torque 273lb ft at 1600-4300rpm Transmission 6-speed manual Boot capacity 374 litres Wheels 18in, alloy Tyres 225/40 R18 Kerb weight 1429kg

Service and running costs: Contract hire rate £205 CO2 169g/km Service costs None Other costs None Fuel costs £584.70 Running costs inc fuel £584.70 Cost per mile 16 pence Faults none

Vw golf gti depreciation graph 2021

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Volkswagen Golf 1.5 TSI Life DSG specification

Specs: Price New £26,455 Price as tested £33,830 OptionsDynamic Chassis Control £950, carpet mats £100, Discover Navigation Pro infotainment £1600, IQ Lights LED headlights £1750, panoramic sunroof £1000, keyless entry £400, curtain airbag £335, Harman Kardon audio system £625, Lime Yellow metallic paint £625

Test Data: Engine 4 cyls in line, 1498cc, turbocharged, petrol, plus 48V BISG Power 148bhp at 5000-6000rpm Torque 184lb ft at 1500-3500rpm Kerb weight 1291kg Top speed 139mph 0-62mph 8.4sec Fuel economy 48.2mpg CO2 133g/km Faults None Expenses None

19 Volkswagen golf 2021 long term review tunnel

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James Attwood

James Attwood, digital editor
Title: Acting magazine editor

James is Autocar's acting magazine editor. Having served in that role since June 2023, he is in charge of the day-to-day running of the world's oldest car magazine, and regularly interviews some of the biggest names in the industry to secure news and features, such as his world exclusive look into production of Volkswagen currywurst. Really.

Before first joining Autocar in 2017, James spent more than a decade in motorsport journalist, working on Autosport, autosport.com, F1 Racing and Motorsport News, covering everything from club rallying to top-level international events. He also spent 18 months running Move Electric, Haymarket's e-mobility title, where he developed knowledge of the e-bike and e-scooter markets. 

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catnip 22 October 2021

"VW hasn’t entirely eliminated physical controls, of course, and most key functions were operational through a number of steering-wheel buttons."

The earlier reports complain about how easy it is to accidentally operate the haptic touch controls on the steering wheel. Which is it to be?

XLR8 22 October 2021

I have three colleagues who have all progressed from mk7.5 to mk8 GTIs. All are experiencing ongoing "digital" issues; all wish they could go back to a mk7.5. There's also noticeable cost-reduction measures such as the chequered seat trim, which now feels really cheap.

Don't go thinking the iD.3 is reliable, either - we have several that are also plagued with issues such as unneccessary (and frightening) deployment of the city braking, cruise control that works randomly, same with electric mirror controls etc.

It appears VW customers are becoming the brand's R&D function.

TS7 20 October 2021

Test drove a Mk8 GTi. Wouldn't buy it because of the horrific user interface. So user unfriendly it could've been designed by someone who'd been given a week's notice by VW before moving to a rival brand.