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New Volkswagen Golf vs used Volkswagen Golf: driving

The new Volkswagen Golf might be stuffed with all the latest technology, but is it a better buy than its used forebear, which is available for less money?...

Volkswagen Golf

New Volkswagen Golf vs used Volkswagen Golf – driving

Performance, ride, handling, refinement

You would expect both Golfs to perform similarly because each uses the same turbocharged 1.5-litre petrol engine and both are equipped with manual gearboxes. The latest Golf offers mild-hybrid technology, but because it's only available on cars with the DSG automatic gearbox, it won't affect us here.

However, our Golf 7 has the more powerful 148bhp, while the Golf 8 has the 128bhp version, and this explains the near one-second advantage the former has in 0-62mph acceleration times. However, though you might find the 128bhp version feeling a little flatter in terms of mid-range acceleration if you drove them back-to-back, driven in insolation in the real world, most wouldn't notice the difference. 

New Volkswagen Golf vs used Volkswagen Golf - side

What you would notice, though, is a difference in refinement, sadly, and it's to do with the clever cylinder deactivation technology fitted to both cars that shuts down half the cylinders of the engine to conserve fuel at a cruise. In the Golf 7, you'd barely notice it working. Not so in the latest Golf 8. One tester even described the noise to be like that of a Chinook helicopter hovering somewhere in front of you. That's a shame, because road and wind noise are equally well suppressed in each car. It just seems that cut-backs have been made with the new car, and that ultimately means it can't quite match the exceedingly high standards of the one that went before.

Same goes for the ride, which, again, in isolation, would appear to be fine in either generation of Golf to most people. But after jumping from one to the other, you'll note that the new Golf 8 isn't as accomplished as the older Golf 7 at ironing out lumps and bumps in the road. Each displays a similar amount of body lean in corners, and both grip the road tenaciously, even if you enter a bend a little too quickly.

The steering is pretty much unchanged: it is nice and light at parking speeds to aid manoeuvrability, but builds in weight in a progressive manner as you turn the wheel at speed.

New Volkswagen Golf vs used Volkswagen Golf - rear corner

New Volkswagen Golf vs used Volkswagen Golf – costs

Fuel economy, car tax, reliability

Thankfully the new Golf 8 does have better fuel economy, with a combined WLTP figure of 53.3mpg versus 49.7mpg (also WLTP) for the Golf 7. You’ll need to pay £175 to tax the Golf 8 in the first year, and then both cars will cost you £150 per year thereafter.

The other benefit with buying the new car is that you'll have the full three-year manufacturer’s warranty, whereas a 2019 Golf 7 will have some of its three-year cover used up. You can extend it for a fee, depending upon the level of protection you want, with prices starting at £136. When you consider that a Golf 7 bought from a franchised dealer with minimal mileage is a few grand cheaper at around £20,000, compared with the £22,460 target price of a new Golf 8, you would be financially better off going for the previous generation car. 

New Volkswagen Golf vs used Volkswagen Golf - infotainment

Of course, there isn't any data in the current What Car? Reliability survey to tell us how dependable the current Golf 8 is. The recently superseded Golf 7 did okay as a petrol car, its 12th place finish being slap-bang in the middle of a class of 24 family cars. It got a strong score of 95.4%, so there's hope for the latest example to be equally reliable - especially since it uses the same engine. Volkswagen as a brand doesn't have the best reputation for reliability, though, and only managed a 20th place result out of 31 manufacturers.

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