Volkswagen Golf 2020 110 tsi comfortline, Volkswagen Golf 2022 110 tsi comfortline

Spec shootout: 2021 Volkswagen Golf Mk8 v 2020 Volkswagen Golf Mk7.5

Volkswagen v Volkswagen: the new Golf faces its predecessor.

If there's one car that has come to define its segment, it's the Volkswagen Golf.

Volkswagen's small-car staple has entered its eighth generation for 2021, with an evolutionary LED-laden exterior and a revised (but largely carryover) platform clothing an all-new cabin with twin digital displays and touch-based interfaces for climate control, headlights and most vehicle functions.

But for existing owners of previous Mk7.5, Mk7 or earlier Golf models – what exactly is new, and is the eighth-generation model worth the upgrade?

Here we'll look at the mid-spec models in each respective range, the 'Mk8' 2021 Volkswagen Golf 110TSI Life and the 'Mk7.5' 2020 Volkswagen Golf 110TSI Comfortline, to see how they compare – on paper, at least.

Note: European-market Volkswagen Golf Mk8 pictured, as local imagery is not yet available. Final Australian specification and wheel designs may vary. The Tumeric Yellow 7.5 is shown in flagship Highline guise, with the R-Line not available on the Comfortline.


Price and specification

Priced from $29,790 before on-road costs (and options), the outgoing 'Mk7.5' Golf 110TSI Comfortline automatic slotted in above the entry-level 110TSI Trendline that, with a manual gearbox fitted, was priced from $25,790 before on-roads.

Standard equipment on the mid-spec grade includes an 8.0-inch central infotainment touchscreen with wired Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and satellite navigation, cloth seats, an analog-based instrument cluster, front and rear parking sensors, keyless entry, push-button start and dual-zone climate control.

On the outside it features 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic halogen headlights, LED tail-lights and the 'standard' exterior design package, with milder bumpers versus those included in the high-spec, sport-themed R-Line package.

Meanwhile, prices for the Mk8 Golf 110TSI Life kick off from $34,250 before on-road costs – up $4460 over the outgoing Comfortline. The Golf range now starts from $29,350 for an entry-level manual model simply dubbed 'Golf'.

However, there's a whole host of additional equipment to justify the extra spend. For starters, the infotainment screen now measures 10 inches corner to corner, and gains wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (in addition to sat-nav).

The 17-inch wheels, cloth seats, keyless entry and push-button start are all retained; however, the Mk8 Life features a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster as standard – rather than as part of an option pack – plus 10-colour ambient LED lighting, tri-zone climate control, wireless smartphone charging and LED headlights.

Even the entry-level $31,950 Golf (with an auto) outguns the Mk7.5 Comfortline on equipment, losing the Comfortline's 17-inch wheels and satellite navigation, but featuring (non-configurable) digital instruments, an 8.25-inch touchscreen, LED headlights and a full safety suite as standard.

2021 Volkswagen Golf 110TSI Life (Mk8)2020 Volkswagen Golf 110TSI Comfortline (Mk7.5)
Price (MSRP)$34,250$29,790
Premium paint cost$600 to $900$500
Warranty5 years / unlimited kilometres5 years / unlimited kilometres
Cost of servicing plans (3 years / 5 years)$1100 / $1900$1100 / $1900
ANCAP safety rating5-star (2019)5-star (2013)

On the options front, despite greater levels of equipment as standard, two option packs are still available with the new Golf.

The $1500 Sound and Vision Package adds a 480-watt Harman Kardon sound system and a head-up display, while the $2000 Comfort and Style Package includes 'comfort' sports seats, Microfleece trim, 30-colour ambient interior lighting and a panoramic sunroof.

The Golf Mk7.5's $2500 Sound and Vision Package added a 9.2-inch infotainment screen, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and a 400-watt Dynaudio sound system, while a Driver Assistance Package was also available (more on safety later).

However, even with all option packs fitted, the Mk7.5 Comfortline was not available with LED headlights, ambient interior lighting, wireless smartphone charging, or a sunroof – the former trio standard on the Mk8 Life, while the lattermost is optional.

While the Mk8 Golf Life's $4460 price jump over its Mk7.5 equivalent might seem significant, the equipment additions on offer manage to stack up to make it the better value proposition of the pair.


Engine and drivetrain

If there's one area where the new and old models differ the least, it's under the bonnet, where both generations share the same 1.4-litre turbo petrol engine.

However, whereas the Mk7.5 employs Volkswagen's seven-speed dual-clutch 'DSG' automatic transmission, the new Mk8 features a conventional eight-speed torque-converter auto developed by Japan's Aisin.

For full details on the reasoning behind the switch – spoiler, it's due to Australia's lagging emissions regulations – read our full story from June 2020 here.

Given outputs are shared between both generations, differences in on-paper performance and economy claims are linked to the new gearbox.

The combined fuel economy claim jumps from 5.4L/100km in the Mk7.5 to 5.8L/100km in the Mk8. Both models feature 50L fuel tanks, with the new model matching its predecessor's 95RON minimum octane requirement.

2021 Volkswagen Golf 110TSI Life (Mk8)2020 Volkswagen Golf 110TSI Comfortline (Mk7.5)
Engine format1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Displacement1395cc1395cc
Power110kW @ 6000rpm110kW @ 6000rpm
Torque250Nm @ 1500–4000rpm250Nm @ 1500–3500rpm
Drive typeFront-wheel driveFront-wheel drive
TransmissionEight-speed automaticSeven-speed dual-clutch automatic
Weight (tare)1304kg1261kg
Power to weight ratio84.4kW/t87.2kW/t
Fuel consumption (combined)5.8L/100km5.4L/100km
Fuel tank size50L50L
CO2 emission132g/km128g/km

The improved fuel economy and lower CO2 emissions afforded by the outgoing Golf's dual-clutch gearbox give it an edge over its successor, though the Mk8's conventional torque-converter design is free from the low-speed and off-the-line niggles often associated with DSG transmissions.

We'll give the win here to the Mk7.5 Golf – albeit just.


Space and comfort

While the Mk8 Golf's exterior might be evolutionary, it's the changes inside the cabin that represent the biggest step forward (or backward, depending on your viewpoint) over the outgoing Mk7.5.

Whereas the 2020 model features analog instruments and an 8.0-inch touchscreen mounted low and out of the driver's line of sight, the 2021 Golf gains a fully digital, configurable instrument cluster and a 10-inch touchscreen integrated into a wide panel situated high up on the dashboard.

However, the Mk8 loses points for its touch-based controls for climate and infotainment functions – rather than conventional dials and switches, providing physical feedback – which have been found to be harder to operate accurately and safely while on the move.

Cloth seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and multi-zone automatic climate control (tri-zone in the Mk8, dual-zone in the Mk7.5) are shared across both generations, though the new Golf has been noted to feature a few more hard plastic surfaces than its predecessor.

2021 Volkswagen Golf 110TSI Life (Mk8)2020 Volkswagen Golf 110TSI Comfortline (Mk7.5)
Length4284mm4258mm
Width1789mm1799mm
Height1456mm1452mm
Wheelbase2636mm2620mm
Turning circle10.9m10.9m
Weight (tare)1304kg1261kg
Boot space381L380L

In the rear, both models are available with rear centre armrests with cupholders, rear air vents and grab handles, while just one litre splits the boot volumes of each car.

The Mk8's slight wheelbase increase and width decrease mean space for rear-seat passengers shouldn't be vastly different.

How this category is judged is up to you: fans of conventional physical controls and (slightly) more premium touchpoints will prefer the outgoing Mk7.5 model, while tech-loving buyers will enjoy the Mk8 Golf's twin-screen cabin.

We'll call it a draw, leaving the score between the pair one-all.


Safety and technology

The biggest spec upgrades have come in the safety department, where standard safety tech on the Life includes autonomous emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian and cyclist detection, rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring, parking sensors, multi-collision braking and more.

Adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist and lane-centring assist are all standard, and combine to form Volkswagen's Travel Assist semi-autonomous driving system capable of accelerating, braking and centring the Golf within its lane on freeways.

Previously, nearly all of those safety features were included as part of a $1500 Driver Assistance package, though AEB with pedestrian detection, multi-collision braking, as well as driver-attention monitoring were standard-fit.

Some features are also unique to the Mk8, including Exit Assist.

Both vehicles have earned five-star ANCAP safety ratings, though the Golf 8 was tested in 2019 to stricter criteria, versus the 2013 standards the 7.5 was rated against (as it carried its safety rating over from the 'original' Mk7 Golf launched in 2012–13).

As for interior technology, the 2021 Golf Life features a 10-inch touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay, wireless Android Auto and satellite navigation, while the 2020 Golf Comfortline scores an 8.0-inch screen with wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus satellite navigation.

The Mk8 model offers a 10.25-inch configurable instrument cluster and a seven-speaker sound system, while the Mk7.5 makes do with analog instrumentation.

This category is a clear win for the new Mk8 Golf 110TSI Life.


Ownership

Both cars hail from the same manufacturer and market segment, and are just one model year apart – so you'd expect more than a few similarities in the ownership experience.

Both Mk8 and Mk7.5 Golfs offer five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranties, require servicing every 12 months or 15,000km, and are available with the choice of two servicing packs: $1100 for three years, and $1900 for five years.

This one's a draw.


Verdict

Both new and outgoing Volkswagen Golf models fulfil the brief laid out by their lineage of predecessors. They offer buyers a modern, efficient and solid small hatchback, with additional technology and a more upmarket feel to justify higher price tags versus their competitors.

While it might have taken a small backwards step mechanically, the new Mk8 model offers far more technology inside the cabin, a wider active-safety suite and, before option boxes are ticked, better value for money.

However, its higher asking price won't please buyers on more of a budget – though the entry-level Golf fills that void, while providing a similarly expansive equipment list – and its touch-based cabin controls will be harder to use while on the road.

Despite that, the Mk8 would still be my pick of the pair.


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