I bought this car as a first car that'd get me to footy training, uni and little errands whilst still keeping my passion for automobiles alive and not boring me to death - as do many mid-size hatchbacks. After a pool of many cars, I'd ultimately narrowed it down to a used BMW 1 Series, a new Ford Focus and this demo Golf,. After much deliberating and weighing up their respective pros and cons, it eventuated in me walking out of the Volkswagen dealership with a near-as-new Golf (72km on it).
After clocking up 7100km on it in four months, which is frighteningly high for a car of this nature, I've learned the quirks of this car as well as the pros and cons.The differences between the Mk7 and Mk7.5 are subtle yet effective; a new front end and rear end including all LED taillights and DRL help to modernise this new Golf into fitting in with this crowd today. Although, admittedly, I found the previous Mk7 a tad more handsome than this one.
However, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It's certainly not the prettiest or most interesting looking car in its class, much like its other German counterparts e.g Porsche 911 - it's rather an evolution and not a revolution when it comes to styling, as the same basic body shape and form has been retained since the Mk5. However, it is a car with clean and elegant lines that somewhat connect with each other immaculately to form this simple shape that exudes class and simplicity in a low-key Germanic way.
Furthermore, its boxy shape does wonders for interior space, as its useful boot has a square shape, a low lip, adjustable floor and various hooks and tie-down points to ensure nothing goes flying. This Mk7.5 model also gets a revised infotainment system that is bigger and better than the 7. Although, as VW have decided to back it with a piano black surround, it just attracts fingerprints and gets annoying as you can never really get it clean enough to satisfy your OCD.
The rest of the interior, much like the exterior, is clean, efficient and ergonomically sound, if a bit dull in terms of design. Everything is where you'd expect it to be and all the vital touch points are made with high-class soft touch materials. Furthermore, every button and knob from the indicator stalk to the climate control buttons are exceptionally damped and reek of class and thoughtfulness from the engineers. Everything is 98% well put together with touches, such as the felt-lined door bins and thick carpets, helping to reiterate this touch of class. Dials are clear and well-lit at night and although I'd still rather a knob for controlling the infotainment, the touchscreen works well and is quick and efficient and is handily equipped with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
All seats are well bolstered and the cloth is of a premium feel. The space is quite good for a hatchback, providing more than adequate legroom for two in the back, however three is a stretch. The lack of width paired with an enormous transmission tunnel hump means the passenger in the middle can only be comfortable for around 3 seconds. Storage is aplently as ubiquitous cupholders and massive door bins to help provide spaces for your various belongings. The presence of rear air vents are pleasing, but conversely, only one USB charging port is annoying.
Technology is aplenty, designed to both make your life more luxurious, and to also stop you from having a crash. The optional Driver Assistance Pack fitted to my Golf has myriad features that you'll either probably use once or actually find quite useful. Personally I could do without the Pack but it's equipped nonetheless. The Pack gets you features such as the blind-spot monitoring system, Lane Assist, Driver Mode, Park Assist, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Traffic Jam Assist, and City Emergency Braking. Out of all the ones equipped, the blind-spot monitoring is probably the most useful, if a bit unreliable it has to be said. Sometimes I'd have no one in my blind spot and it would still light up. Furthermore, there is no audible sound when there is someone in your blind spot and you try to change lanes, which is a tad annoying.
Like I stated before, lots of these features you won't really notice, and to be perfectly frank, you don't really need. For example, the Park Assist is a cool system that will automatically steer you into a parking spot parallel or backwards. It's quite impressive for the first two times and is accurate, but after that, you realise it's quicker to park under your own control and is more gimmick than anything else. Also, to be perfectly honest, if you can't park a Golf then that itself is a problem.
The multimedia system with navigation is simple, efficient and everything works well without being outstanding. The 8-speaker stereo also delivers a good package of sound for a standard factory-installed unit.
The base (and only) engine choice now comprises of a 1.4-litre direct-injected turbo 4-cylinder developing 110kW and a meaty 250Nm from only 1500rpm. It's mated to VW 7-speed DSG Auto, although I wanted to get a proper manual, and you can only get a manual in the base Trendline model, which is disappointing. The DSG has plenty of zip and the presence of that torque really low in the rev range really makes it pull when you're going for overtakes or just need that burst of acceleration. Sometimes though, there is a small hint of lag when you put your foot down, as the turbos spool up. It can be a bit annoying, especially when trying to overtake, but it's nothing to lose sleep over.
The transmission is a pearler with shifts being quick, precise and buttery smooth all the way up to the 7th gear. Likewise for the manual mode, with shifts being plenty swift enough for the average driver. However when perched up on a hill, the nature of the double clutch transmission means that sometimes if you're not quick enough moving from brake to accelerator, it can roll back much like a manual. It can be a bit unnerving, however once familiar with it, it doesn't really pose a problem.
The ride and overall refinement is really what I believe sets it out from other competitors. The unbelievable acoustics really make the interior immune to a lot of the engine noise and the ride is exceptionally smooth for a car of this price bracket. This can be attributed to the independent multi-link suspension out the back, whereas some of its competitors uses a simpler, cheaper but less effective torsion bar.
The handling is tight with minimal body roll. The electrically-assisted rack and the progressive steering feel means it weighs up as you're going faster, and although it's ultimately an artificial feel, it provides a good sense of what the tyres are doing. It should be good enough for the day-to-day commutes with the odd journey on a country back-road. The individual driving modes just change the profile of the car, where Eco dulls the throttle response right down and the steering is numb, whereas in Sport it obviously sharpens the steering rack and throttle response.
I've heard many dark stories about how European cars start to disintegrate earlier than their Japanese counterparts and also cost you half your bank account to repair. So far, the infotainment just flat out stopped working one time, needing an engine restart to get it back going, and the rear air vent slats and the little slit to control the airflow didn't break but it did disconnect from each other. Both of these were a nuisance, although the infotainment was more admittedly more worrying than the air vent slats.
In terms of practicality, it's done everything, and fitted everything I've asked of it, except for a set of golf clubs - however folding the rear sets rectified that problem.
I can only hope that the Mk8 Golf can be a bit more adventurous with the styling, however judging by the spy pics, that's highly unlikely. In addition, I hope they don't get rid of the manual transmission out of their range and maybe they could add a diesel engine.
Bar the infotainment electrical gremlin and the rear air vent mishap, the Golf's been a dream to own and a dream to drive, although not the most interesting purchase. Its charm to do everything very well and efficiently is endearing and much appreciated for car-nuts like myself. Overall, there are probably more reliable cars, there are better-looking cars and there are cheaper cars, however they have none of the class and the combination of the Golf.