Review: Volkswagen Golf

One of the best all-round motors on the market

19 May 16 Tim Barnes-Clay

Pros

  • Good cabin and boot space

  • Quiet on the road

  • Holds value really well

Cons

  • Firm ride

  • Pricier than other rivals

  • Blandy styling

Our expert rating

The Volkswagen Golf is a small family car, produced in Germany since 1974 in many body styles. The model has gone through seven different incarnations and it competes with, pretty much, all family hatchbacks – such as the Vauxhall Astra, Peugeot 308 and Ford Focus.

Performance

The VW Golf has always been a good performer and most models are entertaining and economical to drive. This makes the car one of the best all-round motors on the market. If you’re a really keen driver, the celebrated Volkswagen Golf GTI delivers the best blend of power, value and excitement.

volkswagen golf side

Ride and handling

The Volkswagen Golf has constantly delivered high levels of comfort and finesse. The VW is effortless to drive, with well weighted steering, a straightforward gearshift and hard-wearing brakes. It's also sharp and unwavering at speed.

It could be considered a tad too firm over poorly patched roads, but there is a lot of grip on bends. The Golf is also pretty quiet, with barely any road or wind noise.

volkswagen golf back

Interior space

Inside, there is room for four adults. Rear passengers get a lot of head and legroom, while the broad, flat bench seat should take three occupants without too much of a squash. The boot is a good size and shape too.

What to know before you buy

Dependability has been good on most generations of the VW Golf. On the Mk V Golf, (2004-2009) the timing belts have failed on the 1.4 and 1.6-litre petrol cars. Whatever the recommended mileage is in the owner's manual, check with the car’s vendor that the timing belt has been replaced when it should have been.

Unfortunately there are virtually no signs or symptoms indicating that a belt failure is looming.

Another area to pay attention to on all VW Golf models is the paintwork. It is prone to scratches and scuffs, especially the darker shades. What’s more, regardless of the car feeling rock-solid, cabin trim squeaks can emerge over time. The dashboard and centre console are especially susceptible.

volkswagen golf engine

Also, despite the wheels being correctly aligned, tyres can wear quickly on Golfs. You can check the depth of the tread and the condition of tyres yourself, but don’t rely on guesswork - take an easy-to-use tread depth gauge along when you view the VW. Measuring tread depth is not complex with this simple device and requires only a few minutes of time.

The legal minimum tread depth in Europe is 1.6 mm across the central three-quarters of the tread width and round its entire circumference. Check the depth of the main tread grooves in several places across and around the tyre, using the gauge as instructed by its manufacturer.

Tyres also have tread wear indicators moulded into the base of the main grooves. When the tread surface is worn to the same level as these indicators, the tyre is at the legal limit and should be replaced. If you have any doubts, get the tyres checked professionally by a specialist.

vokswagen golf alternatives

Alternative cars

On the whole, a used VW Golf is a notch above competitors such as the aforementioned Vauxhall Astra, Ford Focus and Peugeot 308. None can quite equal the Golf’s blend of aptitude, high quality interior, sophisticated driving experience and high-class image.

Due to all that, it will cost more to purchase, but it will hold its value better.

Overall verdict

The Volkswagen Golf has won many awards throughout its history, including the World Car of the Year in 2009 with the Volkswagen Golf Mk6 and in 2013 with the Volkswagen Golf Mk7.

Indeed, every generation of Golf has been a runner-up in the European Car of the Year awards. That gives you a clue about just how good a used VW Golf will be.

Expert rating

Performance

Reliability

Space & comfort

Running costs

Value for money

Overall