From £15,8279
We test Volkswagen's affordable petrol Golf. Does it maintain the high standards of the brand?

Our Verdict

Volkswagen Golf

Just how good is the mighty Volkswagen Golf? The seventh generation of Europe's best selling car has been facelifted to keep its nose ahead of its rivals

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

Join the debate

Comments
43

R32

27 May 2013

I'm very surprised that in 2013 Volkswagen have the neck to charge £20k for a Golf and then ask more for an alarm system.  Surely a twenty grand Golf should have it as standard?  It's even more surprising that the insurance group is just 11 - it would surely be lower with a standard fit alarm.

27 May 2013

Firstly, it is not an eight-valve engine but 16; eight-valve served the Golf VI.

And there is not a single word about the effect of the main difference of between the 1.2 version and the 1.4 and the previous generation: the absence of independent rear suspension.

27 May 2013

rony wrote:

Firstly, it is not an eight-valve engine but 16; eight-valve served the Golf VI.

And there is not a single word about the effect of the main difference of between the 1.2 version and the 1.4 and the previous generation: the absence of independent rear suspension.

According to the Golf brochure it is still an eight valve engine. I was surprised when I read this in the Polo spec, but anyway it it seems to be rated as one of the VW groups best engines.

Most of the reviews I read in the motoring press pay little reference to the suspension differences, basically saying that for normal everyday driving the differences are very small. Maybe thats just because they're all so enthusiastic about the Golf though....

27 May 2013

Yes it is indeed one of VWs best petrol engines in recent years, but I too am of the understanding its a slightly different unit in the Mk7. Didn't know it had changed from 8v to 16v, I was under the impression the change was moving from chain drive to a cambelt. Still most journalists won't write about that kind of thing and it will only be of concern in 3/ 4 years time when problems start emerging. 

27 May 2013

I'm more surprised at the absence of electric rear windows; they aren't on my wife's 57 plate Polo S and I thought that was odd but six years later on a 'prestige' brand? It doesn't enhance the VW brand in the eyes of its detractors. 

The comments section needs a makeover... how about a forum??

27 May 2013

Rich_uk wrote:

I'm more surprised at the absence of electric rear windows; they aren't on my wife's 57 plate Polo S and I thought that was odd but six years later on a 'prestige' brand? It doesn't enhance the VW brand in the eyes of its detractors. 

You think that's bad, my mate's old 116i ES had wind-down windows in the back. The '02/'03 5-Series saloon he had before that didn't even have a CD player!

And as for the review, four-and-a-half stars for a £20k Golf 1.2 with poor spec? 

27 May 2013

Almost every VW tested these days comes with a DSG. At this end of the range surely most will opt to have a manual and save cash. Not to mention, not everyone loves autos. 

With any car that is in danger of being underpowered couldnt Autocar find a few well fed staff to test the car with 5 adults on board? I suspect a 1.2 is OK for a few who live in the fens, but if you live in the Yorkshire hills, and have a family it would be nice to know it will go up.

I have to say i remain unconvinced about these small petrol turbos for long term reliability (and DSGs) but i guess they are fine if you buy a new car every 3 years.

 

27 May 2013

When expounding the Golf's "chief qualities", for some reason you forgot to mention reliability. I'm sure it's just an oversight on your part Autocar. But it's a puzzling oversight, given how central reliability is to the "ownership experience" of any car.

27 May 2013

Racotau wrote:

When expounding the Golf's "chief qualities", for some reason you forgot to mention reliability. I'm sure it's just an oversight on your part Autocar. But it's a puzzling oversight, given how central reliability is to the "ownership experience" of any car.

 

I agree, there are more and more reports of new Golf owners being left by the roadside. Also, if this is the commoner garden veriaty that everyone will buy, what happened to the version at 16,495? Surely this is the version to try or wouldn't VW's press team allow Autocar to drive it? This version for all of its fancy gearbox and engine trickery doesn't have very modern suspension and omits quite a few items. You can also only get it in coal pit black on cheap feeling cloth. I have to say I was deeply unimpressed when I sat in an S spec car (at £17k), and at £20k, I would expect even more. 

28 May 2013

Perhaps, having seen all the surveys (like JD Power etc), they didn't want to mention the one fly in VW's ointment. Reliablity wise they are really nothing special.

Racotau wrote:

When expounding the Golf's "chief qualities", for some reason you forgot to mention reliability. I'm sure it's just an oversight on your part Autocar. But it's a puzzling oversight, given how central reliability is to the "ownership experience" of any car.

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