New Golf in the

digital age

Volkswagen Golf, front action 2
Volkswagen Golf, side action
Volkswagen Golf, front action
Volkswagen Golf, side static
Volkswagen Golf, rear action
Volkswagen Golf, rear seats
Volkswagen Golf, dash detail
Volkswagen Golf, dashboard
Volkswagen Golf, boot

THERE can't be a harder job at Volkswagen HQ than masterminding a new version of the Golf. We're now on to the eighth edition and it's got a lot to live up to.

Approaching half a century since that first Golf arrived, it's been a bit of a success ever since, with more than 35 million pouring off production lines in Germany, Brazil, China and Mexico.

And right from the first Golf, they've been one of a vanishingly small list of cars that are such a fine fit for their role in life that they sit happily anywhere, from poshest hotel car park to suburban semi, via the school run or a lap of demanding race track.

Underneath the smart new suit - but still so obviously a Golf - sits a lot of the old car with the same - but gently tweaked - engines and suspension.

It's grown a bit in length and width and the front is so covered in horizontal lines you wonder if the stylists were wary of curves. Certainly makes the car look wide, which was probably the point.

Different story inside, where there's been nothing short of a revolution. Out goes anything that looks and feels like an old fashioned knob or button. Instead, we have a dashboard that feels as though an iPad obsessive was let loose.

It all looks clean and modern and VW has tried hard to make it easier than it might have been to change things like climate and entertainment settings. Still means you take your eyes off the road ahead for longer than using a physical control, but that argument is lost as screens take over.

The new Golf comes in three trim levels, starting at £23,900 for the Life variant. That comes with alloy wheels and adaptive cruise control, satellite navigation, six speaker sound system and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto linking; so a long way from base spec.

Moving up to a Golf 8 Style, from £25,495, we find front seats with massage function, bigger alloys, LED headlights and climate control instead of manual air conditioning. There's also a choice of 30 colours for interior ambient lighting, upgraded LED headlights and fancier trim.

Topping the current range is the Golf 8 R-Line (many more variants are inevitable as the months roll round), with a more sporty look, sportier looking front seats, leather wrapped multi-function steering wheel and rear tinted glass. Prices start at £26,165.

Powering the latest Golf are 1.5-litre petrol engines with 130 or 150 horsepower and a 2.0-litre diesel with 115 or 150hp, and all driving the front wheels via six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic gearboxes. A mild hybrid version of the 1.5-litre petrol Golf is available and comes with the auto box.

Tailpipe emissions range from 108-142g/km and average economy from 44.1-68.9mpg, with diesels taking honours in both categories; BIK bands range from 27 to 30 per cent.

Driver assistance programmes, which contribute to the Golf's maximum five star official safety rating, include adaptive cruise control, road sign display and front assist that detects an object or person in front of the car and brakes for you if you ignore its warnings.

Lane assist is also fitted and tries to nudge you to keep straight between the white road linings and will annoy drivers who like to make up their own mind about positioning. It has to be switched off each time you start the car if you want the system temporarily disabled.

Volkswagen reckons the 130hp version of the 'entry level' Golf 8 Life will be most popular with British buyers. They're unlikely to think it sluggish, with a top speed of 133mph and 0-62mph in 9.2 seconds making it feel a genuine contender in a corner of the market that sees the Ford Focus and Toyota Corolla as keen competitors.

Several hundred miles in the more potent 150hp version revealed a car that felt genuinely pacey when pressed - as a 139mph top speed and 0-62mph time of 8.5 seconds ought to indicate.

As impressive was the 49.6mpg displayed on the dash after more than 400 miles of varied use from town stop/start to brisk motorway journeys.

Ease off a little and better than 50mpg is comfortably on offer, weakening the case for the £1,000 dearer diesels.

This latest Golf feels a mite more firmly sprung than before, helping up the enthusiasm factor for drivers who like to press on but letting some of the worst of British road surfaces intrude more than expected.

But then the Golf always was a car that was more than good enough in all the right places to make it Europe's best selling car. Nothing's likely to change with the newest one.

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