Despite its age, the Volkswagen Golf remains one of the leaders in its class. In the small car segment, the Golf consistently sits in fourth position on the sales ladder behind Australia's reigning best-selling car, the Toyota Corolla, followed by the Mazda 3 and the Hyundai i30.
Competition in this class is stiff. The Golf MK7 made its debut at the Paris motor show in 2012 and in order to stay in the game in 2016, Volkswagen needed to give it an overhaul.
The substantial MY16 update saw the addition of a larger touchscreen with integrated Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink, as well as the inclusion of a rear-view camera as standard across the range for the hatchback and wagon models.
As part of the range revamp, the previous entry level 90TSI was binned and the line-up now begins with the 92TSI which is available only in hatch guise. The next step up is the 92TSI Trendline, followed by the 92TSI Comfortline, then the top-spec 110TSI Highline or diesel 110TDI Highline - all available as either a hatch or wagon. The hatch range then moves into performance territory with the GTI, GTI Performance and R variants (and only the latter go-fast model comes as a wagon and hatch).
Pricing begins at $22,490 before on-road costs, the Trendline is $23,990 (hatch) or $27,990 (wagon), the Comfortline is $27,990 (hatch) or $29,490 (wagon), the petrol Highline is $32,990 (hatch) or $34,490 (wagon) and the diesel Highline is $35,490 (hatch) or $36,990 (wagon). Read the full 2016 Volkswagen Golf pricing and specification story here.
Our test car is the Volkswagen Golf 92TSI Comfortline wagon with a 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine that produces 92kW of power, as you may have guess from its model name, and 200Nm of torque. It's teamed with a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox in our test car, but is also available with a six-speed manual transmission in the hatchback model (a manual is not available with the top-spec 110TSI and 110TDI Highline variants).
Though the hatch is by far the most popular choice for buyers, the wagon offers the same comfort and convenience with the bonus of extra space. The wagon sits 308mm longer than its smaller sibling, with an additional 5mm of height. The Golf is built on the Volkswagen Group MQB platform that's shared with a number of other cars including the Audi A3, Skoda Octavia and Volkswagen Passat.
With a cargo area of 605 litres with the rear seats in play or 1620-litres with the rear seats folded down, the wagon offers respectively 225L and 350L more luggage space than the hatch. All Golf variants have a space saving spare wheel tucked away under the boot floor.
From the outside the Golf looks a sensible but not sensational choice, with LED indicators on the side-mirrors, halogen headlights and daytime running lights, and the Comfortline rides on 16-inch alloy wheels. It also has silver coloured roof rails and chrome highlights on the radiator grille and lower air intake.
The cabin is exceptionally well put together, it's plain yet presentable with clever storage solutions and classy finishes. The large door pockets are lined, as is the glove box. While this may feel nice to the touch and contribute to the upmarket look of the cabin, simple plastic would be easier to clean in the event of a spill. On the plus side, if something small is left to roll about there are no annoying rattles.
There are two cupholders and a 12-volt outlet behind the gearshifter and a pop open storage nook at the bottom of the centre-stack that houses the USB and auxiliary jacks. There is a sunglasses case above the rear-vision mirror and both driver and passenger visors have a mirror and light.
The flat-bottomed steering wheel has built-in controls for phone, voice command, audio, information display and cruise control. Ergonomically everything is within easy reach including the controls for the dual-zone climate control. The cabin layout exudes a somber sobriety, but there are brushed silver finishes that add a little contrast to brighten its demeanour here and there.
It has auto start/stop that you can turn on or off with the touch of a button near the gearshift as well as auto headlights and rain-sensing wipers are standard for Trendline and above.
The newly added 6.5-inch Composition Media high-res touchscreen display with satellite navigation takes pride of place on the dash and facilitates access those aforementioned cutting-edge connectivity features. The old 5.0-inch display has finally been done away with - the small, old display had been casting a pall over the Golf cabin, particularly when compared to the systems offered by some of its competitors.
Parking the longer Golf is a breeze, the rear-view camera has static guide lines, the passenger-side mirror dips when reversing and it has front and rear parking sensors. However, the badge on the back of the car tilts back to unleash the camera and the sound it makes when it opens and closes isn't pleasant.
The seats, however, are pleasant, covered in a cloth fabric that has a nice feel. Leather appointed seats are reserved for the Highline, as is electric adjustment. Push-button start is likewise reserved for the top-spec.
The second-row isn't a bad place to be. Headroom is generous, as is foot room. Knee room on the other hand felt a little light on, but not constrictive.
The outboard seats are shaped nicely and the centre seat is flat. There are rear air vents, map pockets behind both driver and passenger seats, the door pockets are lined with a soft material and there's a large fold-down armrest with two cupholders that also acts as a load through space for the boot.
With a flat floor, low loading lip (around knee height), handles to flip the seats forward, cargo hooks, a 12-volt outlet and side storage bins; the utilisation of boot space has been well thought through and offers that little bit of extra convenience.
Out on the road the Golf goes about its business with a quiet confidence. When it comes to handling the larger bumps like speed humps and driveway gutters it remains steady and composed, but over smaller imperfections and at highway speeds the suspension is a little more excitable, feeling jittery and unsettled at times.
However the steering is accurate and light, the flat-bottomed steering wheel settles comfortably in your hands and manages to respond well at pace and makes low speed manoeuvring a breeze.
The DSG, though, is restless and snatchy at low speeds, struggling to find fluidity in its changes, however it settles into its groove and shifts smoothly on the move. The stop/start was turned off a number of times because it tends to lurch into action when the car gets moving again. That's all well and good, so long as you don't have to deal with it every 10 metres.
Combine that with the grabby brakes and it can feel a little tempestuous dealing with stop-start traffic.
Fuel economy is a claimed 5.4-litres per 100 kilometres and though on a previous test with the 92TSI Comfortline hatch CarAdvice recorded a figure or 9.5L/100km, this time we recorded a figure of 7.6L/100km. All Golf vehicles require a minimum 95 RON (premium unleaded) petrol, so keep in mind you'll be paying a little more at the pump.
Volkswagen offers a three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty with a six-year capped-price servicing plan. Servicing is due annually or every 15,000 kilometres and the costs work out to an average of $402 for each check-up.
Some may consider the conservative styling of the Volkswagen Golf a little insipid, and it would be fair to say that some of its newer competitors are pushing the envelope when it comes to fun, fashion and flair. Without a substantial update, it could have been left to flounder in a grey sea of bleh, but with a new touchscreen and up-to-date connectivity functions, the MY16 update has kept the Golf current but still sensible and the wagon offers an expedient alternative to the hatch with its extra space and versatility.
Click on the Photos tab for more images by Christian Barbeitos