Volkswagen Golf (2013-2020) Review

The VW Golf is the hatchback that's fit for any occasion - whether that occasion requires practicality, fuel economy or performance

Strengths & weaknesses

  • Solid build quality
  • Lots of choice
  • Economical engines
  • Expensive to buy used
  • Cheaper versions look bland
  • Skoda Octavia is cheaper and roomier
Volkswagen Golf prices from £9,489.
Finance from £190.40 / month.

Volkswagen Golf prices from £9,489   Finance from £190.40 per month

The familiar styling of the Volkswagen Golf is not the most exciting - even when compared against other family hatchbacks - but it does help to reinforce the Golf's classless image. Those looks can also be deceiving: they conceal the kind of performance you'd expect from a sports car in the GTI and R models; high-tech, economy-boosting technology in some petrol models; and cutting-edge electric power in the Golf GTE and e-Golf.

Its interior is another strength, making use of high-quality materials and giving off a very upmarket and satisfying feel. Like the exterior, it’s understated, but everything is clear and simple to use.

All but the entry-level S cars and BlueMotion models come with adaptive cruise control which can maintain a set distance behind the car in front, while every Golf has air-conditioning, Bluetooth for connecting your phone wirelessly and a touchscreen. Post-Spring 2017 models also have glossier and higher-definition screens.

Since that 2017 update, physical rotary controls for volume and zooming in and out of the sat-nav map were replaced by onscreen icons, which are far harder to use on the move, and can be more distracting when driving. If this is something that bothers you, it's worth checking which system is fitted to a model you're looking at or looking at pre-2017 versions.

That update also brought larger touchscreens and additional technology options, including semi-autonomous driving in traffic jams, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto software, which makes it simpler to control your phone through the car's screen. There were also some minor design tweaks and engine improvements.

Safety technology, including autonomous emergency braking, is standard across the range (except for entry-level S models built before Spring 2017) and the Golf has a pair of five-star ratings from Euro NCAP, one for the pre-update model that was tested in 2012, and another from the post-update model (sometimes called the Golf Mk7.5), tested in 2019.

Few family hatchbacks can match the smoothness and quietness of a Golf. Long-distance journeys are made more relaxing thanks to quiet engines, low levels of wind noise and smoothness over potholes and bumps, particularly when the car is fitted with the advanced suspension that Volkswagen calls Dynamic Chassis Control.

There is impressive performance to be had if you opt for the famous Golf GTI, or you can go a step further and choose the range-topping Golf R, which comes with four-wheel drive as standard for containing the substantial power on tap.

     

 

Key facts

Warranty Three years/60,000 miles
Boot size 380 litres
Width 1799mm
Length 4258mm
Height 1492mm

Best Volkswagen Golf for...

Best for Economy – Volkswagen Golf SE 1.6 TDI

Leaving aside the hybrid Golf GTE, which is extremely economical on shorter journeys, this diesel automatic version has an official fuel economy figure of 72.4mpg, but you should expect around 50mpg in normal driving.

Best for Families – Volkswagen Golf SE Navigation 1.0

For £2,500 more than the entry-level Golf when new, and a smaller premium when buying used, the Golf SE Navigation offers plenty of extra equipment, including alloy wheels, sat-nav, adaptive cruise control, as well as front and rear parking sensors. The 1.0-litre petrol engine is efficient with steady performance.

Best for Performance – Volkswagen Golf R

This is the absolute top-of-the-range Golf, offering enough performance to worry many dedicated sports cars. Guaranteed to put a smile on your face every time you drive it – as long as you don’t dwell too much on its hefty price tag. This, and the lesser-powered Golf GTI, were quite popular, so you should find plenty to choose from.

One to Avoid – Volkswagen Golf S 1.0 85hp

The least-powerful 1.0-litre engine is only offered on entry-level S cars, and this combination lacks the appeal of the rest of the range. Acceleration is slow, while the car's steel wheels and lack of parking sensors are disappointing in a car that had an official new price of more than £18,000.

Understanding Volkswagen Golf names

Trim SE Navigation

The Golf trims come with different levels of equipment. S is the entry-level, and cheapest, car, followed by SE Navigation, GT, R-Line, and then the performance and hybrid models (GTI, GTD, GTE, R).

Engine TSI 1.5 EVO 130PS

VW Golf engines include TSI petrols and TDI diesels, as well as the high-performance GTI and R; the fully electric e-Golf; and the hybrid GTE, which combines a petrol engine and electric motor for fuel economy. The size of the engine is shown in litres (here it's 1.4) and its power is labelled as PS or horsepower.

Gearbox DSG

Automatic gearboxes are labelled DSG and were very popular. There are plenty of manual choices too.

Volkswagen Golf Engines

Petrol: 1.0 TSI, 1.5 TSI, 2.0 TSI, 1.4 TSI GTE, 2.0 TSI
Diesel: 1.6 TDI, 2.0 TDI
Electric: e-Golf

The Golf offers a choice of petrol, diesel or pure electric power. All the petrol and diesel engines are turbocharged to boost power and fuel economy.

The smallest, the 1.0-litre TSI engine with 85hp, is adequate for those who simply want to get from A to B. However, the more powerful 107bhp offers a more attractive blend of power and economy.

The 1.5-litre petrol is available in 130hp and 150hp power outputs, with the latter providing almost hot-hatchback performance. Both are impressively economical.

The old 1.4 TSI engine that powered the pre-facelift version is still used in the Golf GTE hybrid. Together with the electric motor, the model’s combined power output is almost 200hp. If you’re looking to reduce your company car tax burden, it’s worth investigating. In addition, it qualified for the government’s plug-in car grant, further extending its appeal.

For true sports-car-beating pace, you need to look at the Golf GTI – 230hp standard and 245hp Performance versions – and the 300hp-310hp Golf R, all three of which use the 2.0-litre TSI petrol engine.

Diesel options kick off with the extremely frugal 1.6-litre TDI. Performance is reasonable but the better all-rounder is the 2.0-litre TDI diesel. This is very nice to drive, with plenty of power available at all engine speeds while still being very economical. If you want more performance there’s 180hp version of it in the Golf GTD, the diesel equivalent of the petrol-powered GTI.

You might be drawn to the best mpg figures from the TDI diesels but their higher price may outweigh the fuel savings unless you are doing around 12,000 miles or more each year.

Finally, there’s the pure-electric e-Golf. It’s about the same price as the hybrid GTE but qualified for the plug-in car grant. Expect a real-world range of a little over 100 miles, with later models closing in on 150 miles.

 

 

Fuel

Mpg

Bhp

0 - 62mph

Top speed

1.0 TSI

Petrol

58.9mpg

83bhp

11.9ss

112mph

1.0 TSI

Petrol

58.9mpg

107bhp   

9.9s

122mph

1.5 TSI EVO

Petrol

57.6-58.9mpg

126bhp

9.1s

130mph

1.5 TSI EVO

Petrol

55.4-56.5mpg

146bhp

8.3s

134mph

2.0 TSI

Petrol

43.5-44.8mpg

224bhp

6.4s

154 - 155mph

2.0 TSI

Petrol

43.5-44.8mpg

239bhp

6.2s

154-155mph

2.0 TSI

Petrol 35.8-404.4mpg

302bhp

4.6-5.1s 155mph

1.6TDI

Diesel 67.3-72.4mog 111bhp 10.2-10.5s 123mph

2.0TDI

Diesel 60.1-67.3mpg 111-179bhp 7.5-10.5s 123-144mph

e-Golf

Electric

186 miles of range

132bhp

9.6s

93mph 

Volkswagen Golf Trims

S, Match, GT, R-Line, GTI, GTD, GTE
(Discontinued trims: Match Edition, BlueMotion, GT Edition, R-Line Edition, SE, SE Nav)

The Golf's trim levels have changed since the car was launched in 2013, so it's best to check the full list of equipment fitted to any used model, in order to ensure that it has everything that you're looking for.

Currently, the Golf S is the entry-level car, but doesn't feel too cut-price from the inside, where an 8in high-resolution touchscreen and glossy surround, dominates the dashboard. There's air conditioning, Bluetooth, a digital radio, electric windows all-round and electrically-adjustable mirrors. A split-fold rear seat allows you to increase luggage space and put a passenger in the back, while the front seats are height-adjustable. Levels of safety are excellent, with an automatic emergency braking system that can predict if a pedestrian will walk in front of the car along with airbags that protect against front- and side-impacts.

However, S models only come with cheap-looking steel wheels. The Match trim level was added in December 2018 as a special edition ahead of the Golf's replacement in 2019. From new it starts from £20,545. Volkswagen reckons it saves customers around £300 when comparing like for like. Match takes the equipment from the discontinued SE and SE Nav trim levels (including an eight-inch touchscreen display) and adds new 16-inch alloy wheels, front fog lights, and rear privacy glass.

The Golf R-Line has extra sections underneath the doors and front grille, making the car look even lower and sportier, as well as grille inserts that give it a m ore aggressive look. A differnt alloy wheel design and trapezoid exhaust surround make the car more distinctive.

At the top of the range, there are no less than four high-performance Golfs to choose from: the traditional Volkswagen Golf GTI petrol model, the more frugal (yet still quick) GTD diesel, the advanced GTE petrol-electric hybrid and the hugely fast and powerful Golf R. All get the bigger alloy wheels and sporty bodykits that befit high-performance models, as well as their own upholstery designs.

Volkswagen Golf Reliability and warranty

The Golf hasn't always lived up tio its bullet-proof image, but the latest version of the car has won plaudits from owners. It was ranked 15 out of 75 best-selling cars in the 2018 Auto Express Driver Power satisfaction survey. Fewer than one in ten owners reported any sort of issue, although electrical problems were most common amongst drivers who experienced a fault.

Volkswagen’s three-year/60,000-mile warranty was for many years the industry standard, but these days it looks stingy next to Hyundai’s five-year/unlimited-mileage cover and Kia’s impressive seven-year/100,000-mile deal. You can at least extend the warranty once it runs out – albeit at extra cost.

Used Volkswagen Golf

There are currently 222 Volkswagen Golfs available on BuyaCar, with prices ranging from £9,489 to £30,595 for nearly-new models. Monthly finance payments start from £190.40 per month.

The Golf has always presented a bit of a conundrum to used-car buyers. It’s obviously a great car, but that reputation, plus its desirable badge, keeps second-hand prices pretty high.

Even so, you can save thousands of pounds on nearly new models, less than a year old, which sell for considerably less than brand new cars. With an up-to-date specification, plenty of warranty left and few miles on the clock, these can be almost as good as new.

The Golf is more competitive if you're taking out finance. Repayments for Personal Contract Purchase (PCP) finance are based on the value that the car is expected to lose during the agreement, As the Golf loses value slower than most rivals, you may find that monthly payments are affordable - although you'll have to pay a substantial lump sum if you want to keep the car at the end.

Some of the biggest nearly new car savings can be made on higher-specification Golf GT or R-Line models, as you’ll dodge some of the significant price premium these trims command over the more humdrum versions when new. For instance, a new GT model with the 2.0TDI engine will set you back nearly £27,000 from new. However, a nearly-new car costs will cost in the region of £17,000.

SE and SE Nav trims were ditched in December 2018. These were both big sellers, so there are plenty of these on the used market. SE specification models have 16in alloy wheels, along with plenty of useful additions, including parking sensors at the front and rear, wipers and headlights that activate automatically. A leather steering wheel is included, along with adaptive cruise control that maintains a set distance from the car in front. You can personalise your key so that the car pre-selects your favourite radio station and default sat-nav destination. Apple Car Play and Android Auto software is also fitted. SE Navigation cars add sat-nav with European mapping.

Other Editions

Golf Estate (2013 – 2020)

The VW Golf Estate is a practical and versatile estate that delivers low running costs, plenty of luggage space and a high-quality feel

Golf GTI (2013 – 2020)

It’s faster and more advanced than ever, but the Volkswagen Golf GTI hides beneath a sober design

Golf SV (2013 – 2020)

A bigger and more practical version of the Golf. It’s a sensible choice but lacks the desirability of SUV-inspired crossover rivals.

Golf R (2014 – 2020)

Few cars combine driving thrills with everyday hatchback usability and reasonable running costs in the way the VW Golf R does

Golf GTE (2015 – 2020)

The green VW Golf GTE can run on electric power, but has a petrol engine for long-distance journeys

Golf (2020)

The VW Golf is a popular medium hatchback that looks and feels like a high-quality product

Golf Estate (2020)

Like the Golf hatchback, this medium-sized estate is a high-quality car that’s available with a variety of trim levels and engine choices

Golf GTI (2020)

The Golf GTI balances performance and driving fun with practicality and running costs - find out why it's the default hot hatchback for many