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.
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.