By Mike Torpey on 2020-09-27 - Driving Force news editor and responsible for organising our daily output. He was staff motoring editor of the Liverpool Echo for 20 years.
Volkswagen Golf 1.5
AS the generations gradually advance, so the Volkswagen Golf continues to evolve - though you wouldn't really know at first glance.
But then that's one of the compelling features of a model that's been around for 45 years, with more than 35 million examples built - buyers largely know what to expect, in terms of looks at least.
That's the case with this latest Golf, now into its eighth generation and offering new mild hybrid and plug-in hybrids as well as the familiar petrol and diesel engines.
Spot the Golf out on the road or in a car park and you would be pushed to tell it from the previous version, though there are a few subtle alterations like a more sloping bonnet, smarter rear end and LED lights all round.
Inside is where the more dramatic changes have taken place, most prominently via something VW calls the ‘Innovision' cockpit. Fitted across all models, it is dominated by a pair of 10-inch screens - one an active info display, the other for the infotainment system.
As a complete dash it looks clean, modern, minimalist and clutter-free, which is a plus in anyone's book. On the downside it doesn't work as well in reality as perhaps you would like - or it may just be me being wary about distraction.
If you take something simple for instance like the radio, there's an over-sensitive slider rather than a volume knob while small buttons directing you to other functions like climate aren't particularly accessible.
That said, much can be controlled by voice recognition, so by telling the car that your hands are cold will automatically activate the heated steering wheel.
And, admittedly looking more to the future, every model also gets the new Car2X set-up, enabling the Golf to exchange information with other vehicles from different brands regarding hazards on the road ahead or traffic jams. At the moment though, not many vehicles have it.
Otherwise the Golf's cabin is pretty much as before - in other words comfortable, reasonably spacious with an optimum driving position and ample legroom, with durable upholstery too.
There's even a little splash of luxury in the form of carpeted door bins and upper door panels.
Of the various engines on offer our tested model featured the lower powered of the two 1.5-litre four cylinder turbocharged petrol units in Life spec, entry point for the three trim grades.
Capable of developing 130ps, it is also fitted with Active Cylinder Technology (ACT) which means two of the cylinders can be shut down to save fuel when the engine isn't under heavy load.
The upshot is diesel-like economy from a petrol car - in our case averaging just over 50 miles per gallon over the course of 200 miles of mixed motoring.
This variant, priced at £23,900 with six-speed manual transmission, is also the one predicted to prove the most popular.
As for the actual driving experience, the Golf is similar to its predecessors in the smooth, precise and agile manner in which it performs on all types of road surface.
Volkswagen Golf 1.5 TSI Life
Mechanical: 130ps, 1,498cc, 4cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox
Max Speed: 133mph
0-62mph: 9.2 seconds
Combined MPG: 52.6
Insurance Group: 17
C02 emissions: 122g/km
Bik rating: 29%
Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles
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