The Volkswagen Golf Estate is now bigger than ever, with a boot measuring 605 litres (up from 380 in the hatchback), and a loadbay that stretches to just over 1.8 metres with the rear seats folded.
The core engines are available with a choice of three trim levels – S, SE and GT. There is also a hot diesel GTD, a rampantly fast R, and a semi off-road appropriate, four-wheel drive Alltrack model that are standalone models with no trim ranges
Petrol engines range from an 84- or 104bhp 1.2-litre, and a 120- or 138bhp 1.4-litre, while the 296bhp, four-wheel drive R model is a bonafide sports car with a big boot.
Diesel choices include a 1.6-litre with 89, 104 or 109bhp, the latter being a six-speed manual Bluemotion with the best emissions of the whole Golf Estate range, while the other two are cheaper to buy and fractionally less efficient, and come with five-speed manuals. There’s also 2.0-litre with 148bhp or 182bhp, the more powerful of which is only available in the sporty-feeling GTD model, or the high-rise, four-wheel drive Alltrack. You can, however, have the Alltrack with the 1.6 109bhp or 2.0 148bhp diesels.
What’s the 2015**Volkswagen Golf**Estate like inside?
The Golf Estate’s boot is almost as big as that in the Skoda Octavia Estate, which has the biggest claimed load-carrying capacity in the class. The Golf offers 605 litres of space with the rear seats in place, and the load bay is a squared-off shape with a low, flat entry lip that makes it easy to lug heavy items in. A standard height-adjustable floor allows you to create a hidden storage area, and means there's no step in the floor when the rear seats are folded.
Folding the rear seats is a complete doddle – just pull one of the levers in the boot and the respective side of the 60/40 split rear seats drops flat to boost overall space to 1620 litres.
A folding front seat is also available on most models as a £110 option, making it possible to carry seriously long items.
The rest of the car is much the same as the hatchback version, so there's room for two six-foot adults in the back with a decent amount of head and shoulder room.
Drivers of all shapes and sizes should be able to get comfortable; there's plenty of adjustment in the seat and steering wheel, while all-round visibility is also good.
The dashboard is angled towards the driver and is easy to use, thanks to the chunky and clearly labelled rotary controls and user-friendly infotainment system. There are also plenty of soft touch, high-quality materials throughout the cabin, giving this classiest feeling cabin in the class short of more expensive ‘premium’ estates like the BMW 3 series.
What's the 2015 Volkswagen Golf Estate like to drive?
Despite the extra carrying capacity, the standard Golf estate models drive much like the Golf hatchback, which means you get the same well-weighted steering and supple ride. True, you do notice a bit of body roll on winding roads, but it's still well controlled by estate standards.
Of the diesels, the 2.0-litre 148bhp version makes the most sense as a balance of performance and affordability; it’s got gutsy mid-range accleration, is relaxing to drive around town and makes for a brilliant long-range cruiser. The 1.6 versions need working harder for good progress, although they are, if anything, a touch smoother-revving. The GTD is great if you want a hot-hatch like drive without the running costs, but the ride is a touch firmer than some might want and the purchase costs are still pretty high next to the 148bhp diesel, which is no slouch, either.
The four-wheel drive Alltrack is similarly stable and easy to drive in any situation, and has the best diesels on offer so you can choose which best suits your requirements. Mind you, there is more body movement thanks to the 20mm raised ride height it has over the standard Golf estates, and quite a bit more tyre noise, so if you’re going to do big miles then think carefully about whether you really need the active four-wheel drive element over the already composed and grippy, and much cheaper, front-wheel drive alternatives. Given that it does have hill-descent control and a dedicated off-road mode as standard, though, it does offer genuinely useful off-road ability.
The Golf R is a complete riot to drive; the active four-wheel drive system gives it fantastic traction but also makes it feel playful and engaging. You can’t get a manual gearbox, though (as you can with the hatchback version); it’s only available with a dual-clutch six-speed automatic gearbox, which does a really good job most of the time. If you’re after the best possible sports estate, and are willing to pay a lot for it, the Golf R estate is just about as fun as it gets yet is still really easy to live with – particularly if you add the optional £815 adaptive dampers, which will soften the ride comfort.
Should I buy one?
In hatchback form, the Octavia has a massive practicality advantage over the Golf, and that’s one of the main reasons we think the Skoda is the better buy.
As estates, though, the two cars offer virtually identical amounts of space, and in some ways the VW is actually the more practical car – even the cheapest versions get a height-adjustable boot floor and handles in the boot that allow you to drop the rear seats remotely. You have to trade up to more expensive versions of the Octavia Estate to get these useful features.
True, the Skoda is cheaper (by between £1500 and £2000), and its slightly lower CO2 emissions make it the more appealing car to company car drivers. However, if you're a private buyer, the Golf's stonger resale values mean you get more of your money back when you come to sell. Opt for a 2.0 TDI 150 SE and you’ve got a rapid, enjoyable and easy-going big estate at a decent price and with great running costs.
Given the high price, increased emissions and slightly compromised dynamics we'd recommend you avoid the Alltrack unless you are absolutely set on a four-wheel drive estate. Even then, make sure that one of the similarly practial four-wheel drive SUVs, including a Nissan Qashqai or Mazda CX-5, wouldn't be a better buy given their lower prices.
The Golf R is a different prospect altogether to any other Golf estate, and has no direct rival, being more powerful and four-wheel drive, rather than front-wheel drive like the Seat Leon Cupra ST and Skoda Octavia VRS. It’s expensive, though, and oddly the GTD and R versions of the Golf estate don’t get sat-nav, which might leave some buyers feeling a bit cheated given the hefty purchase prices. Even so, the rude-sounding exhaust and rambunctious handling make the R outrageously fun to drive – on track or road - and if you must have the best hot estate going, this is it.
What Car? says...
VW Golf Estate 1.6 TDI S
Engine size 1.6-litre diesel
Price from £21,150
Torque 129lb ft
0-62mph 11.9 sec
Top speed 115mph
Fuel economy 72.4mpg
CO2 g/km 102g/km
VW Golf Estate 2.0 TDI 150 SE
Engine size 2.0-litre diesel
Price from £23,600
Torque 236lb ft
0-62mph 8.9 sec
Top speed 135mph
Fuel economy 67.5mpg
CO2 g/km 108g/km
VW Golf Estate Alltrack 2.0 TDI 150 4Motion
Engine size 2.0-litre diesel
Price from £28,155
Torque 250lb ft
0-62mph 8.9 sec
Top speed 128mph
Fuel economy 57.6mpg
CO2 g/km 127g/km
VW Golf R Estate
Engine size 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol
Price from £33,585
Torque 280lb ft
0-62mph 5.1 sec
Top speed 155mph
Fuel economy 40.4mpg
CO2 g/km 164g/km