Arguably the most iconic of all mass market cars, the Volkswagen Golf has been with us for 39 years, through seven design generations, and in its latest, soon to be launched GTi iteration is still the hot hatch benchmark setter.
As the advertising slogan puts it: “More aerodynamic more athletic and more elegant but still unmistakably a Golf, the new car also offers improved performance, enhanced safety and a higher level specification than any of its predecessors.”
For my week-long road test, I got my hands on an SE 1.4 TSI 122PS version that immediately won me as a fan. It’s definitely the slickest looking Golf to date – and has a classy interior too, with neat instrumentation, slick switchgear and discrete use of chrome and brushed aluminium.
Everything just seemed perfectly thought out and within seconds of slipping behind the wheel for the first time I had a big smile on my face.
In March, Europe’s best selling car won the ‘World Car of the Year’ award, voted on by a jury of 66 leading motoring journalists from 23 countries. It’s an accolade also captured by the previous Golf, in 2009, by the VW Polo in 2010 and by the German company’s smallest car, the up!, in 2012.
The new Golf is longer than the old one, with a bigger boot that also benefits from a lower sill for easier loading. At the same time, it is lighter and 23 per cent more fuel-efficient.
With all of them incorporating stop/start and regeneration systems, there’s a range of petrol and diesel engines, including a 1.4-litre petrol version featuring active cylinder technology, which can deactivate two of the cylinders under low loads, allowing it to achieve 60.1-mpg, and a 1.6-litre diesel that can get 74.3-mpg. Even the potent 2.0-litre diesel can return 68.9-mpg. Hybrid and all-electric versions are reportedly on the way, as is the eagerly awaited GTi.
Among the innovative technologies available is a new park assist system that allows the Golf to park itself parallel to the kerb in a space as tight as just 80cm longer than the vehicle, and cope automatically with end-on bay parking.
Available for the first time is a driver profile selection facility, allowing the driver to choose from eco, sport, normal and individual driving modes. Where adaptive chassis control is fitted, a fifth option – comfort – is also available.
At present, the new Golf is offered in three trim levels – S, SE and GT, with three and five-door versions of each available.
Since the first Golf took to the road, back in 1974, some 29 million of them have been sold worldwide, 1.6-million of them finding homes here.
Golf prices start at £16,285 for the entry-level S 1.2-litre 85 PS, rising to £24,880 for the GT 2.0-litre 150PS DSG five-door.