First Drive

2017 Volkswagen Golf 1.5 TSI Evo review

Volkswagen's evergreen family hatchback is now available with a turbocharged 1.5-litre petrol engine. Is it the new pick of the range?

Words BySteve Huntingford

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Volkswagen Golf 1.5 TSI Evo front

Price from Β£23,445 Release date On sale now

It’s a day of the week with a β€˜Y’ in it, so diesels are in the news again, and not for their impressive fuel economy. Only some of the criticism is justified, but the fact remains that this ongoing bad press combined with the likelihood of increasingly stringent emissions rules is having an impact on sales and residual values. So, what are the alternatives?

Well, this Volkswagen Golf 1.5 TSI Evo looks pretty tempting on paper. A replacement for the old 148bhp 1.4, it has the same power output and promises more than 55mpg.

It also gets the subtle styling tweaks that were introduced across the Golf range earlier this year, including more aggressive looking bumpers, a redesigned front grille and LED front and rear lights. Plus, it’s available with an R Line trim (pictured) which makes the car easy to mistake for Volkswagen’s flagship hot hatch, the Golf R.

Volkswagen Golf 1.5 TSI Evo on the road

Volkswagen claims a 0-62mph time of 8.3sec, which is actually 0.1sec slower than the old 148bhp 1.4 managed. However, the new engine pulls harder from low revs and builds speed in a very progressive way, so in most everyday situations it feels stronger.

The 1.5-litre engine remains near-silent at cruising speeds, too, and helped by its ability to shut down cylinders when they’re not needed, we managed to achieve an impressive 52mpg on our mixed-roads route, just short of the official 55.4mpg.

Otherwise, it’s a case of as you were, and that’s a good thing. The Golf remains composed and comfortable even over scruffy road surfaces, and yet body sway is kept neatly in check through bends, so you always feel confident the car is going to respond exactly how you want it to.

It doesn’t feel quite as eager to change direction as as an Audi A3, but the steering is still nicely weighted and accurate.

Volkswagen Golf 1.5 TSI Evo interior

The driving position is also unchanged, which means there’s a huge range of adjustment to help you get comfortable, and all-round visibility is excellent.

What is new is the interior aesthetic. While the Golf has historically felt a cut above its rivals, in recent years it has been left behind by prestige-badged models such as the A3 and BMW 1 Series.

To address this, Volkswagen is now offering a giant 9.2in touchscreen infotainment system which dominates the dashboard (on the outgoing car the biggest screen was 6.5in). Unfortunately, while this arrangement looks great, it’s actually rather distracting to use on the move because there are no hard buttons to let you switch between menus without looking away from the road.

Far more impressive is the Active Info Display (a Β£495 option). This replaces the traditional instruments with a configurable digital screen that can display a vast amount of information very clearly.

The Golf also remains as practical as ever, with generous space for four adults, just about enough for a fifth, and a good-sized boot, although the Skoda Octavia is even more spacious.

Verdict and specs >

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