THE Golf at 46 years old is a bastion of Middle Britain...dependable and tough if a bit lacking in flamboyance.
THE very thought of undermining it is almost unthinkable.
It would be like criticising the Queen's dress sense or claiming motherhood is outdated. Such is the respect and standing commanded by Volkswagen's most successful car ever - a model that has continually been a European top seller.
Now in its eighth incarnation, competition has never been tougher. Yet despite retaining its unremarkable - and immediately recognisable - shape the five-door family hatch remains a major force with which to be reckoned.
In some respects the new version bears greater differences than previous replacements. More chiselled looking, slim headlights and a greater concentration on petrol and hybrid power than diesel mark it out as a ‘now' car.
But it is the interior with its focus on digital and touchscreen controls which is likely to be most controversial.
The Golf's traditional, and conservative, fan base may well regret the passing of easy-to-grab buttons and knobs in favour of a huge screen and touch-sensitive controls. The new layout, however, is quite forgiving and reasonably intuitive so adapting isn't a difficult process.
Certainly, from a visual point of view the new fascia appears clean and elegant and definitely bang up-to-date.
We drove the 1.5 TSI 130, likely to become the best seller. Turbocharged petrol, but not a hybrid, the 1,498cc engine is sweet sounding and extremely quiet. Matched to a manual six-speed gearbox it delivers a strong performance without straying into the sports hatch sector.
Pick-up through the gears is sprightly and the mid range punch is better than you'd expect for a mid-size family hatch. The engine remains smooth throughout the rev range and sound insulation is impressive.
Most ridges and bumps are soaked up without disturbing passengers and cornering roll is within reasonable limits.
Sharper steering than Golf owners are used to makes the car feel more spirited, more young-at-heart, which matches up well to the modern cabin and fascia style.
Cleaner styling together with better aerodynamics have benefited fuel consumption which most owners will find to be in the high 40s or low 50s during the everyday cut and thrust of driving. A delicate right foot resulted in 60mpg-plus on one country run.
Unlike previous Golfs, the Mark Eight hasn't become more bloated, but better use has been made of the cabin space making it more competitive with rivals like the Focus and Toyota Corolla. In terms of passenger space and boot room - 381 litres - it measures up well to its peers.
Front and rear seats are well shaped and comfortable, although front passengers appear quite close together...maybe because so many rival manufacturers are turning out wider cars.
Entry and exit through the wide opening doors is easy and the pillars are reasonably slim allowing good all-round visibility.
The Life version gets plenty of kit as standard including sat nav, seven-inch wide alloys, black radiator grille and rear diffuser, LED self-levelling headlights, and rear spoiler.
The car tested also came with £550 winter pack which gives you heated front seats, heated windscreen and headlight washers.