The Golf is trying on some freshly ironed tailoring in this eighth-generation form. From bonnet to flanks to bootlid can be found sharper creases and a greater number of feature lines than the traditionally simple hatchback has used in previous versions.
It’s the kind of styling that many German brands default to when looking to engender an outward manifestation of technical precision of build quality. And even if it does look a little fussy, most testers didn’t go so far as to say that they found the Golf’s new look objectionable. One tester did remark on the irony that while it’s clearly an attempt to make the car stand out in a class now full of ‘edgy’ offerings, it may achieve the opposite effect.
Underneath the Golf Mk8, which has grown by one solitary inch in overall length but is otherwise almost exactly the same dimensions as the Mk7, is an updated version of the same all-steel MQB platform chassis. Like its predecessor, the Mk8 can be had with either all-independent suspension or torsion beam rear suspension, the latter of which is combined with any engine producing less than 148bhp.
As with the Mk7, it comes with coil springs and fixed-rate gas dampers as standard. Upper-end specifications get a variable-rate steering rack that quickens as you add lock, just as the Mk7 got; but this time, the lower-end Golf’s steering has been quickened, too, while suspension rates have increased all round on both versions and the car’s subframes, links and bushings have been relocated and redesigned. DCC adaptive dampers feature as an option on higher-end cars and, allegedly, now work harder.
Automatically softening or stiffening either to rein in body movement or improve ride comfort, the new dampers can also stiffen asymmetrically as you turn to improve handling response. They’re effectively networked with the XDS electronic torque vectoring system so as to work more harmoniously alongside it. Beyond all that, the dampers have a new specially selectable extra-soft ‘decoupled’ mode to make for even better ride comfort in very particular situations.
VW’s engine range starts with a 108bhp 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol, rising to include several 1.5-litre TSI Evo turbo four-pots – one of which comes with a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox and 48V mild-hybrid assistance. It also takes in 113bhp and 148bhp 2.0-litre TDI diesels, and for the moment – until the familiar GTI, GTD, GTE and R versions are added – that’s where the choice ends. We elected to test a 148bhp 1.5-litre eTSI mild hybrid, but (not by choice) without those adaptive dampers.