Review: Volkswagen Golf 2020
With an emphasis on digital, we're happy to report the all-new Volkswagen Golf continues the tradition of being the ultimate family hatchback, with faults so few and far between that you’d barely register they exist.
This is peak family hatchback. The five-word review
I’m sure the top brass at Wolfsburg know what they’re doing, but as I sit in the new Volkswagen Golf I can’t help but wonder where the GTI is, or the e-Golf. Still, it’s going to the be ‘normal’ models that people actually buy or lease, which explains why I’m behind the wheel of 150hp, diesel-powered, Style model.
Impressively, the immediate assumption is that Style will be a top-of-the-range model, as there’s a lot of tech in the cabin. It’s not, but Volkswagen is promising that every single model will get the new digital interior. Gone are traditional dials and rows of switches, replaced by an almost entirely touch-based interface. The 10.25-inch screen in front of the driver shows everything you’d expect, from replicating speedo and rev counter dials to full-screen navigation, while the centre-console mounted 10-inch screen allows access to virtually every function in the car.
For those wanting to embrace next-generation technology, there’s now a voice assistant included with the Golf.
Sitting beneath the centre screen is a panel of touch-sensitive buttons, although it’s irritatingly easy to catch one of them with the palm of your hand as you aim for something on the screen. It’s also tricky at times to work out exactly where you need to be to change a function, switch something on, or alter a setting. Despite that, the main bulk of options are easy to get to and use, making the system as a whole intuitive enough.
For those wanting to embrace next-generation technology, there’s now a voice assistant included with the Golf. Simply call out ‘Hello Volkswagen’ and a Siri-like voice will respond, asking what it can help you with. The system uses natural language, and is surprisingly sophisticated; simply suggest that you’re a bit hot and it’ll respond by turning the temperature down, but only for the person who’s asked as the system can tell which of the passengers are making the request. Of course, like Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant, it’s far from foolproof and can leave you shouting in frustration while it responds with irrelevant information, but it’s still one of the finest systems of its kind.
Continuing on that digital theme, there’s new connectivity that enables owners to pair the Golf with their smartphone, allowing for remote locking and unlocking, climate control activation, and other such features, not that anybody will ever use any of them. There’s also navigation updates and a wifi hotspot included for three years, but you’ll need to pay to keep them after that time. Of course, if you’re leasing on a 36-month contract that’s of no concern.
It is bigger, but only just [...] Space inside remains much the same too, as a consequence of it not growing up too much.
Despite being an all-new model, that’s about as much difference as you’ll find between this eight-generation Golf and the previous 7.5 model. It looks broadly similar, sharing the same proportions as previously.
It holds its own in the corners, too, with the multi-link suspension at the rear adding a bit of a sporting feel to proceedings.
It is bigger, but only just; the new car has been stretched by less than 3cm, has a wheelbase marginally longer than before, and is immeasurably narrower and a tad lower. Space inside remains much the same too, as a consequence of it not growing up too much. Even the boot accommodates exactly the same amount of cargo, a healthy 380-litres. If the old Golf suited your lifestyle and squeezed into your garage, then this one will too.
There’s little to choose between engines, with a 1.5-litre petrol model providing either 120 or 150hp, or this 2.0-litre diesel that gives out 115hp or a more useable 150hp. Confusingly, there’s also another 1.5-litre petrol engine, and that also produces 150hp. This final engine uses a mild-hybrid 48-volt system to improve economy, and does so without making any sacrifices to performance at all, despite coming fitted with the seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox. Frustratingly, we don’t know how much fuel it saves, as we’re still awaiting official economy figures.
That’s also true of this diesel model that we’re testing, but a variety of roads, from motorways to urban runs, via a few mountain passes, resulted in an economy figure of 47mpg. That could easily be improved by removing my lead foot and driving in a more reserved fashion, which bodes well for long-distance drivers. It’s a pleasingly potent model, too, the 360Nm of torque helping to despatch the 0-62mph dash in just 8.8 seconds.
It’s so good, with faults so few and far between that you’d barely register they exist
It holds its own in the corners, too, with the multi-link suspension at the rear adding a bit of a sporting feel to proceedings. Those with less than 150hp have to make do with a cheaper, less sophisticated torsion beam setup, but there’s not a huge deal of difference between them. Only when you start fitting the optional adjustable suspension does the character of the car change, and not always for the better. The standard setup rewards with a neutral balance, sufficient grip and confidence-inspiring turn in, while retaining decent ride quality.
There’s a little bit of a rattle to the ride at low speeds, but it improves with pace and by the time you’re at motorway speeds it’s as smooth as melted butter.
I was worried that the lack of a high-performance model, a race-ready version, or an eco-warrior EV variant would be an issue, but the Golf doesn’t need any of that. It’s at its best when it’s just a Golf, the kind you can lease for less than £200 a month, drive all day, and forget about. But you’ll only forget about it because it’s so good, with faults so few and far between that you’d barely register they exist. This is peak family hatchback.
Quick stats: Volkswagen Golf Style 2.0 TDI 150 DSG
Lease price: TBC
Top speed: 139 mph
0-62 mph: 8.8 seconds
Official economy: TBC
CO2 emissions: TBC
Car tax: £145
Torque: 360 Nm