AFTER 45 years and with a staggering 35 million sales, the Volkswagen Golf success story marches on with the all-new eighth generation model raising the bar even further.
It's the most intelligent and connected model to date with a choice of powertrains and generously-equipped trim levels.
New from the ground up the new five-door Golf looks as dynamic as ever maintaining its instantly-recognisable profile.
Our entry-level Life model featured a black radiator grille and rear diffuser, body-coloured bumpers, door handles and mirrors, LED self-levelling headlights, a rear roof spoiler and 16-inch alloy wheels.
Move inside and the modernised cabin is clutter-free and packed with kit. There is a new digital ‘Innovision' cockpit featuring two 10-inch screens - one for the infotainment and the other for driving data.
Creature comforts are plentiful and include a gesture-control system, full smartphone connectivity thanks to Apple CarPlay (wireless) and Android Auto (via USB), sat nav, a DAB digital radio and plenty more besides.
There are far fewer buttons and switches than on its predecessor and thankfully quick keys allow you to access functions such as the climate control on the fly without too much difficulty.
This car, priced at £23,900, increased to £26,775 with options, was powered by a 1.5-litre 130ps petrol engine mated to a six-speed manual gearbox.
It could sprint to 62mph from a standstill in 9.2 seconds, topped out at 133mph and, according to official WLTP figures, could deliver combined fuel economy of 52.6mpg with carbon emissions of 122g/km.
The Golf has always been a great car to drive with engaging handling and this latest version maintains that hatchback appeal.
It fizzes through the country lanes with impressive acceleration through the six-speed manual gearbox and the front-wheel drive car feels beautifully balanced with ample grip to really attack corners.
It cruises effortlessly at the national speed limit on motorways with barely a sound filtering through into the cabin, and the Golf is agile and easy to manoeuvre through busier town centres with the driver benefitting from good all-round visibility.
The car is fitted with Active Cylinder Technology meaning that two cylinders can be shut down automatically when the car is cruising, which helps to maximise fuel economy.
This clever technology goes on completely unnoticed in the background with just a message on the TFT screen letting you know the car is operating in two-cylinder mode. And it certainly has its benefits as I was regularly seeing average fuel efficiency in the low to mid-60s which is notable.
Comfort levels are good and there is ample space for a couple of adults to sit in the back, provided the front seats are not pushed back too far. The boot can swallow 381 litres of kit and there are numerous handy storage compartments scattered throughout the vehicle.
As one would expect from VW, the Golf maintains its well respected reputation for being safe and reliable with a range of features to protect occupants and help prevent accidents from happening in the first place.
Safety specifications include adaptive cruise control with front assist, city emergency braking, driver alert, automatic post-collision braking, traction control, Isofix child seat preparation for the rear outer seats and a full suite of airbags.
All in all, the Mk 8 Golf picks up where the old Golf left off and moves forward at pace.