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First drive: Volkswagen Golf Mk8. Image by Volkswagen AG.

First drive: Volkswagen Golf Mk8
Itís a VW Golf. So itís quietly classy, feels almost-premium, has a digi-dash and mild hybrid options, and is just about the ideal family-sized hatchback.


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Volkswagen Golf 1.5 eTSI Mk8

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

The Volkswagen Golf has long been the Acme of the family hatchback and, on the basis of this first drive of the eighth-generation version, that's not going to change any time soon. It's a seriously accomplished family car and good enough to put the frighteners on premium-brand models.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Volkswagen Golf 1.5 eTSI Style
Pricing: tbc
Engine: 1.5-litre turbo four-cylinder petrol with 48-volt mild-hybrid assistance
Transmission: seven-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
Body style: five-door hatchback
CO2 emissions: tbc
Combined economy: tbc
Top speed: 138mph
0-62mph: 8.5 seconds
Power: 150hp at 5,000-6,000rpm
Torque: 250Nm at 1,500-3,500rpm
Boot space: 380-1,237 litres

What's this?

It's a Golf, but then you knew that the second you set eyes upon it. Way back in 1974, Giorgetto Giugiaro (all hail) set down the template for the modern, front-drive, family hatchback with the Mk1 Golf and the rest is modern history. Since then, VW has sold 35 million of them (roughly one every 41 seconds) and the Golf has become the default choice for families in search of an all-rounder five-door hatch.

For this, the eighth generation, there was never likely to be any major messing around with the basic recipe, and so what we have here is a Golf, but slightly better. Oh sure, the headlights might be a touch more stylised, and the radiator grille a little slimmer (practically non-existent) than before, but stick a Golf 8 next to a Golf 7 and the two are close to indistinguishable. That's fine - Golf fans, and they are legion, like to know what they're getting, so a dramatic styling revolution would have been entirely inappropriate.

Underneath, the Golf 8 carries over the same MQB chassis as before, with some mild updates, and dimensionally it's identical to the Golf 7. That means you get decent cabin space and a reasonable 380-litre boot. The cabin is quite different, though. The dials are now all-digital, all across the range, and the central touchscreen (eight inches as standard, ten if you spend) is now mounted up high and effectively conjoined with the instrument panel. The effect is supposed to remind you of the joined-up giant screens of the Volkswagen Touareg SUV, but sadly VW has lumped the Golf's screens with a cheap-looking black plastic surround that rather spoils the effect.

Still, perhaps it's churlish to complain when you now get always-on internet connectivity, live services for traffic, parking, fuel prices etc, and some impressively slick-looking graphics and displays. There are fiddly bits, though - the touch-sensitive sliders for cabin heat and stereo volume are occasionally awkward to use, and don't get us started on the useless 'gesture control' system. The voice-controlled 'Hey Volkswagen' digital assistant is a little better, but still prone to asking you to repeat yourself, as do all such systems (cue memories of Ozzie Osbourne and his BMW 7 Series - ask your grandad). On the upside, the optional Harman/Kardon stereo is absolutely banging. All Golfs will be better equipped as standard, with even basic versions getting keyless ignition, lane-departure warning and LED headlights.

Comfort is very high on the agenda, with terrific front seats, and aside from that plastic screen surround quality is excellent throughout. So good that the Golf could easily put a spanner in the works when it comes to Audi launching the next-gen A3 hatchback. After all, why would you pay the extra? For what?

We do have on reservation and that's to do with the new DSG gearbox shifter. While the new, small, toggle-switch selector looks great and is wonderfully tactile to use, VW's promise of it opening up more space on the centre console seems wide of the mark. Much of the extra real estate is then taken up by large buttons for engine stop/start, parking brake, and the P function of the gearbox, leaving only a small, shallow, rhomboid-shaped storage tray as your extra space. Why go to all the bother, one is forced to ask?

VW hasn't announced prices as yet, but don't expect too much deviation from the current stickers. The old S, SE, SE-L etc trims are being binned in favour of a Europe-wide new line-up of Golf, Life, Style, and R-Line.

How does it drive?

Brilliantly, but that comes with a major caveat - as is so often the case now, VW divides the Golf range into two. Higher power models, those with more than 150hp, get a sophisticated and expensive multilink rear-suspension set-up (the front is suspended by McPherson struts, regardless of price). Cheaper, lower-power versions get plebeian torsion bars. We don't yet know how a torsion-bar Golf will drive, because VW hasn't yet provided us with one, but the multilink version is little short of excellent.

It rides very comfortably for a start, with even washboard surfaces failing to intrude much on your serenity. Yet it also corners sharply, tucking into an apex with virtually no understeer. In standard form, the steering is slightly light and slightly numb. Get a version with Sport mode and the weight improves markedly, but the numbness never quite goes away, although there is some road-feel if you concentrate. Overall, it's a classy performance - majoring on refinement, but with enough agility and responsiveness to please a keen driver when pushed hard.

Engine-wise, there's going to be a broad spread, but you'll have to wait a little bit yet. The Golf 8 will kick off sales with the 1.5 TSI petrol turbo and the new 2.0-litre TDI diesel (with either 115- or 150hp, and there's no 1.6 diesel anymore). Those will be joined shortly after the spring 2020 launch by the 1.0-litre TSI three-cylinder turbo petrol with either 90- or 100hp, and then a trio of mild-hybrids, which combine a 48-volt electrical system with the 1.5-litre petrol turbo engine in power outputs ranging from 110hp to the top-spec 150hp version we've tested here.

But wait, there's more. GTI, GTD and R versions will arrive in the summer of 2020, as will a pair of GTE-badged plugin-hybrids with a choice of 204- or 245hp power outputs, and around 30 miles of electric-only range. There will be no all-electric e-Golf this time around, as that stage will be vacated in favour of the new all-battery ID.3 which goes on sale next summer, too.

What's this eTSI 150hp engine like? Well, we can't quite give you a complete picture yet, as VW is keeping mum on its official fuel economy and emissions figures. It has exactly the same power and torque (250Nm) figures as the standard 1.5 TSI, but theoretically should be a little more economical, as it can use a longer stop-start cycle around town and can coast for short bursts, engine-off, on the motorway. It also has cylinder shut-off to help save more fuel under light throttle openings.

It's also impressively smooth and revvy on the open road, has plenty of punch and even makes a nice noise when you run it out to the redline. Sadly, we can't report diesel-bashing fuel economy. Our best of the day was a 41.5mpg average.

To put that in context, a quick spin in the 150hp 2.0-litre TDI diesel (which now gets two-stage AdBlue exhaust after-treatment, which VW claims reduces nasty NOx emissions by 80 per cent) returned average fuel economy of 50.4mpg, and that delivered alongside a 360Nm torque figure that makes mincemeat of motorway inclines or short straights on country roads. It's also impressively refined, net of a touch of low-speed rumble.


If we just say 'it's a Golf', would you hold that against us? You could accuse VW of being unadventurous with its eighth-generation Golf, but then again you could accuse Delia Smith of being unadventurous when she makes apple crumble time after time - even so, you'd want to eat it and it would be delicious. So it is with the Golf. A familiar recipe, with a few small twists, proves as tasty as ever.

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Exterior Design

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Interior Ambience

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Comfort

4 4 4 4 4 Driving Dynamics

4 4 4 4 4 Powertrain

Neil Briscoe - 12 Dec 2019    - Volkswagen road tests
- Volkswagen news
- Golf images

2020 Volkswagen Golf 1.5 eTSI Style. Image by Volkswagen AG.2020 Volkswagen Golf 1.5 eTSI Style. Image by Volkswagen AG.2020 Volkswagen Golf 1.5 eTSI Style. Image by Volkswagen AG.2020 Volkswagen Golf 1.5 eTSI Style. Image by Volkswagen AG.2020 Volkswagen Golf 1.5 eTSI Style. Image by Volkswagen AG.

2020 Volkswagen Golf 1.5 eTSI Style. Image by Volkswagen AG.2020 Volkswagen Golf 1.5 eTSI Style. Image by Volkswagen AG.2020 Volkswagen Golf 1.5 eTSI Style. Image by Volkswagen AG.2020 Volkswagen Golf 1.5 eTSI Style. Image by Volkswagen AG.2020 Volkswagen Golf 1.5 eTSI Style. Image by Volkswagen AG.


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