The styling of the dashboard continues to appear a little demure next to some more contemporary hatchback rivals, but there is a premium feel to the interior of the Golf that remains unchallenged in its class. Like its predecessor, the new 2017 model is superbly easy and uncomplicated to drive, whether tooling around town or punching along the motorway. It is this undemanding and straightforward nature that endeared it to almost one million buyers worldwide in 2016. So to answer our question, there was really no need for any major changes in the first place.
The new 1.5-litre engine is extremely flexible with a very linear delivery and real underlying determination from around 1500rpm onwards, providing the facelifted Golf with relatively strong and appealing on-throttle properties.
It also provides sufficient resolve and verve to execute B-road overtaking manoeuvres with a good deal of confidence and conviction when conditions permit. It needs at least 3000rpm before delivering its best, but with a smooth delivery and a noticeable but never overbearing timbre from the engine itself, it’s no hardship to run the four-cylinder around the dial in the search for greater performance.
The ratios of the Golf 1.5 TSI’s standard six-speed manual gearbox are perfectly suited to the characteristics of its engine, and its action is crisp and defined with weighty springing and a positive feel to the way it engages in each gate. Buyers can choose an optional seven-speed dual shift DSG unit, which brings automatic shift properties, although not significant improvement in accelerative ability or economy.
With the DSG, buyers get a new Traffic Jam Assist function. It uses a camera mounted within the windscreen and the lane keeping properties bundled in the earlier Lane Assist function to allow you to drive hands free semi-autonomously up to 37mph while providing automatic braking to allow you to stop and start off again.
Volkswagen claims 0-62mph in 8.3sec, which is actually 0.1sec slower than with the old 1.4 TSI. However, its engineers say in-gear acceleration has been improved thanks to the longer stroke and what they describe as more flexible nature of the new engine. Top speed, like that of its predecessor, is put at 134mph.
As with the older 1.4-litre unit it replaces, Volkswagen's new 1.5-litre engine receives Active Cylinder Management. On part throttle loads between 1000 and 4000rpm, and at speeds up to 80mph it shuts down the middle two cylinders by switching off the operation of fuel injectors and employing actuators to lift the camshaft lobes and close the valves, thus cutting combustion to save fuel.