First drive of the new, seventh-generation VW Golf in several trim levels and with four different engine types. The greatest Golf ever is priced from £15,824

New 2013 VW Golf petrol and diesel first drive review

Friday, 11 January 2013 12:32 PM

2013 VW Golf

The new VW Golf is probably the very best Golf they've ever made. An excellent all-rounder


The all-new, seventh-generation Volkswagen Golf has just gone on sale and is in dealers now. And it’s fair to say that VW has had plenty of time to refine their most famous product – next to the Beetle – and while there were six generations of Golf before this one, there’s probably more significant design and manufacturing advances – and cunning – in this model than any before it. Apart from the defining MK1, of course.

So, have VW just launched the greatest Golf ever? I think – after driving several models with the significant engines – that, especially when viewed in the light of the modern era of high-satisfaction mass market hatchbacks, the VW engineers are knocking on the door of auto-perfection.

Firstly, regarding a row of shiny new Golfs in not particularly vibrant colours on this test drive day and the cars simply line up with what feels like a good dash of self-certainty, but without any hit of smugness. Sure, you could say that the design has very gently progressed from the last car, but this bigger, lighter, more efficient and more spacious Golf nicely refines what I think customers now expect from this VW hatch. Solid, designed, classless but classy, and entirely gender neutral. A tough car-design-nut to crack, but consider this one well and truly cracked and ready to enjoy!

The design and quality we can expect, but the lighter weight from a bigger, more spacious car – around 100kg lighter on average – is more eye-opening, as are the new (or a couple at least heavily tweaked) range of engines, that offer more grunt for less emissions; around 23 per cent better fuel efficiency.

There’s been some decent trickling down of safety technology too, with every new Golf model getting a pre-crash driver alert system that shuts the windows and prepares the airbags, and then applies the brakes to gather up the crashing car so the driver doesn’t have to, to reduce subsequent incident or damage. Extra safety means lower insurance premiums, so the cheaper-than-previous-model new Golf costs less to run. And at the basic entry-level, a Golf S driver will enjoy a 5.8-inch colour touch screen (with finger-finding proximity sensors!), Bluetooth connection and stop/start with battery regeneration. We can see now how the new Golf is starting to add up to the greatest new Golf.

VW have made savings with their new car production system – called MQB, to avoid the big, long German word for it – and they say they’ve passed these savings on to the customer. The MQB platform is basically a cunning ‘purification’ of the production process that sees every type of engine bolt to the same engine mounts in the engine bay, every exhaust system exit from the rear of the engine, and every structural component analysed to save weight yet still making sure the new car is stiffer than ever.   

Inside, in every Golf trim I tried today; S, SE and GT – GTi coming later this year with more turbo power than before – I found what I was expecting, almost without noticing it. Rather than the new Golf’s interior jumping out at you with bells and whistles; it is, like the exterior design evolution, a gentle step forward from what VW have been doing with all of their interiors of late. Just a little more quiet style, some extra kit from the as-standard-list, and an impressive notch up in the all-round-engineered feel of things. A pleasant place to be then and I think it’ll stand the test of the car’s model lifetime, and appeal to both boys and girls. And at a good dash over 6-feet tall, I found driving position comfort through multi-adjustability.

So, a very Golf-esque experience in the look, (soft) touch and feel of things with the seventh-generation car, and here’s what I thought of some of the petrol and diesel powertrains on offer…

Click for: VW Golf S 1.6-litre TDI 105 PS 5-speed manual test drive (£19,565)