THERE'S something hugely reassuring about every Volkswagen Golf.
Even if you've never driven one before, you'll find a great driving position, good visibility all-round, a comfortable driving position, and a car that's supremely easy to enjoy and drive over short or long distances. It's one of the ultimate people's cars.
It's been with us since 1974 and is now in its eighth-generation, but what VW have been very good at is keeping it up-to-date without losing the ‘driveability' and somewhat premium ‘German' feel of that first model.
There's a range of engines - petrol, diesel, mild-hybrid and plug-in hybrid - available as well as its performance models such as the GTI, GTD, and R.
Though there are 1.0-litre engines available, the most popular in the new range is predicted to be the 1.5 TSI EVO 130ps with a six-speed manual gearbox.
However, to me, it makes more sense to step up to the 1.5 TSI 150 petrol engine featured here because of that extra punch of performance.
Again, it comes with a six-speed manual gearbox, which means you'll occasionally need to change down a gear to climb a particularly steep hill or when overtaking, but there's ample oomph for nipping around town.
More importantly, models over 148bhp get a more sophisticated rear suspension setup that makes the ride more supple, more comfortable and much less fidgety. It remains an easy and superb car to drive whether on a major road or somewhere more challenging.
Power peaks at 148bhp between 5,000rpm and 6,000rpm, and the maximum torque figure of 250Nm is available from just 1,500rpm up to 3,500rpm. Featuring Active Cylinder Technology, this version of the Golf officially returns 50.2mpg so I was pleased with the 44mpg I managed.
The ‘Golf 8' is longer, lower and narrower than before - and looks it. Even though its only 26mm longer, on first impression it looks so much bigger. However, passenger and luggage space remain largely unchanged. It's spacious enough for four tall adults to be accommodated comfortably - five at a push.
There are two new trim levels available, Life, Style - broadly comparable to the former S and SE - while the sporty R-Line continues.
There's oodles of standard equipment too. Life models come with 16-inch alloy wheels, automatic wipers and LED headlamps, front and rear parking sensors and VW's new ‘Innovision Cockpit' - a 10.25-inch digital instrument panel and 10.0-inch multimedia touchscreen - alongside Lane Assist; Front Assist with City Emergency Braking System and predictive pedestrian monitoring; plus, for the first time in a mainstream model, Car2X.
This allows all cars fitted with this very clever feature to effectively talk to each other and share information on the traffic conditions and any hazards within a radius of 800 metres, sending you an early warningof any dangers that lieahead.
Upgrading to Style adds 17-inch alloy wheels, comfortable and supportive front sports seats, three-zone climate control, 30-colour ambient lighting, door mirror puddle lights and LED ‘Plus' headlights including cornering function.
Practicality remains central to the Golf. Luggage space is a generous 381 litres, increasing to 1,237 litres when the 60:40 rear seats are folded down. There's also a handy ‘ski flap' for longer loads.
As always, the latest Golf is built withdriver comfort in mind.There's seat-height adjustment and lots of steeringwheel rake and reach adjustment. At a somewhat portly 6ft 2in, even I am snug and comfortable with good vision.
The Golf has always been a comfortable car to ride, with plenty of grip and direct steering for the more exciting roads of the UK and Europe. This new version dials that up with suspension dampers that can rapidly shift from firm to soft and XDS torque vectoring, which applies the brakes to a wheel when it starts to lose grip.
Both ensure all four tyres have as much traction as possible, and that power is sent to the wheels that can use it best. Believe me when I say it's precise into corners with very little body roll.