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First report: Volkswagen Golf long-term test

Date: 07 April 2021   |   Author: Richard Bush

We've adopted a Volkswagen Golf for a few months to see if the celebrated German hatchback still has what it takes.
Volkswagen Golf 1.5 TSI 130 Life
P11D price: £23,725
As tested: £26,330
Official consumption: 52.3 mpg
Our average consumption: 37.1 mpg
Mileage: 1,254

You don't need us to tell you how popular the Volkswagen Golf is. It's one of those rare things that manages to be ubiquitous and yet cult at the same time. It used to be the only go-to family hatchback that offered brand prestige, solid reliability and Germanic-style luxury at an affordable price. That isn't the case anymore, with everyone from Peugeot to Kia fighting for the same piece of the pie. So, in the modern day adapt or die hatchback market, is the Golf still relevant? 

Having recently become a dad, I was excited at the prospect of running the staple family car for an extended period of time. And as our test car came specced in the entry-level Life trim, I was curious to see what a 'cheap' Golf actually has to offer.

The Storm Grey upholstery was a shock - but a welcome one. In my mind's eye, every hatchback has a dark interior with varying amounts of chrome and scratchy plastics. The grey interior of this Golf makes for a much warmer, cosier cabin and it's a wonder why lighter interiors aren't the norm. It works for Volvo.

Volkswagen hasn't pulled any punches on the tech front with the eight-generation Golf. Every example gets an almost buttonless dashboard, with a centrally-mounted 10in touchscreen and a 10in display behind the steering wheel. Between these two screens, the average driver won't want for anything - with a 3D map satnav system, DAB radio, Apple Carplay and Android Auto, parking sensors and adaptive cruise control all included. You even get luxury features like keyless start and 10-colour ambient lighting. Five years ago, you'd have assumed we were talking about an Audi with those specs. 

While we do have the Life version of the Golf, there's also a few optional extras fitted, which mostly add to the function rather than the fit of the car. The main attractions are the winter pack and driver's assistance pack. These give the likes of heated seats (and steering wheel) as well as lane keep assist and lane departure warning.

So the Golf has lots of kit to offer, even without the optional extras. Navigating the screen's menus and options, however, is another story. It's far too early to deliver a verdict on the functionality of the touchscreen, but let's just say it's a learning curve, even for a fairly well-versed techy like me.

Those looking for a foot in the door of Golf ownership can choose between either a 1.0-litre TSI or 1.5-litre TSI petrol - each offering six-speed manual and DSG automatic options, as well as mild-hybrid eTSI variants. Our car comes fitted with the 130hp 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol mated to a six-speed manual gearbox. This 1.5 feels a lot like the good ol' 1.2 turbo of yesteryear, with just enough power and smooth, effortless acceleration - although it does require you to rev it if you want to do anything but mosey along.

The mild-mannered 1.5 suits the Golf's persona well though. Like many other small VW-Group cars, the Golf very much feels like it drives itself, which when you're nipping to the shops or checking on the baby in the back seat, isn't such a bad thing at all.

I'm looking forward to seeing how it handles family life in the coming months, especially considering that my son is edging towards the end of his grab-everything, multiple car-seat-requiring first year. But, so far, so Golf.

Standard equipment:

Discover Navigation system with 10in touchscreen, Active Info Display, 10in high-res TFT dash display, ACC Adaptive Cruise Control, climate control, keyless start, ambient lighting, front and rear parking sensors, LED self-levelling headlights, Car-Net 'App-Connect' 


Carpet mats £100

Winter pack including heated steering wheel £550

Driver's assistance pack £785

Lounge pack £400

High beam assist £145

Atlantic Blue metallic paint £625