First drive review: VW Golf
Volkswagen has created an all-new version of its iconic Golf. But does it succeed?

What is it?

After nearly 40 years of producing the Golf, you might have expected Volkswagen to have got it right by now. Well, that's indeed the case. The new, seventh-generation version of their celebrated small family car is VERY impressive. It's longer, wider, lower and more spacious, yet lighter and more efficient than ever. Available to order in the UK from October 18, the first models will be arriving in Britain in January 2013.

What's new?

It's all new – but VW say the car is all about evolution not revolution. So while instantly recognisable as a Golf (although the design of the body around the C pillar has been sharpened up), there are plenty of innovations beneath the surface. As we've said, it's slightly larger, but new production techniques contribute to Golf Mk7 being up to 100kg lighter than its predecessor, and a whopping 23 per cent more fuel efficient.


What's under the bonnet?

At launch, a choice of four petrol engines and two diesel. Two of the petrol engines are 1.2-litre TSI units (producing 83bhp and 103bhp) while the other two are 1.4 TSI units producing either 120bhp or 138bhp. The latter has 'active cylinder technology' which deactivates part of the engine under certain loads, improving fuel economy and reducing emissions. The oil-burners are 1.6 and 2.0-litre units. Our pick was the 2.0-litre diesel, refined and nimble with plenty of mid-range torque, quick out of the blocks and light on its feet.

What's the kit like?

Pretty good and there are plenty of add-ons. The S trim level (which starts at £16,330) includes body-coloured door handles, bumpers and mirrors, driver's knee airbag and electronic tyre pressure monitoring system. SE starts at £18,935 and adds brushed stainless steel inserts in dash and door panels and a leather-trimmed multi-function steering wheel. GT starts at £21,451 includes gloss black decorative inserts in the dash and sports suspension, lowered by about 10mm.

Any rivals?

The Ford Focus, Volvo V40, Vauxhall Astra are among the Golf's opponents in the long-running battle to dominate the small family hatchback sector, as is the Audi A3, which, being a member of the mighty VW manufacturing family, uses the same "MQB" platform. What's that? Well, it underpins the construction of both cars and basically helps VW gain economies of scale within its component companies, although it did cost a reported £50bn to develop.

New Golf MkVII

Is it any good?

Yes. Minor niggles? Perhaps a couple of cheap-feeling plasticky bits in the interior of the 1.4-litre petrol car we drove, and it was foot-to-the-floor time to get the acceleration needed for one particular overtaking manoeuvre, but overall the new Golf is hugely impressive and represents a big step forward for VW's best-seller. As a couple of hacks on the press launch in Sardinia were heard to comment: "I'd spend my own money on that." Praise doesn't come any higher.

The Autoblog verdict

The magnificent seventh generation Golf delivers on all fronts. Space here hasn't permitted us to explain all the benefits but it's high-tech, super-safe and greener than any Golf has been before. We like.

The knowledge
Model: Volkswagen Golf
Price: £21,960 (as tested)
Engine: 2.0-litre, diesel.
Power: 148bhp
Max speed: 134mph
0-80kph: 6.2 secs
MPG (comb'd): 68mpg
Emissions: 106g/km