Used test – petrol hatchbacks: Volkswagen Golf vs rivals
The prospect of pollution charges and even inner-city bans for older diesel cars means they've fallen out of favour with some buyers. So what are the petrol alternatives like?...
This Ecoboost Titanium model is the best used Focus you can buy, because it’s lavishly equipped, easy on the eye, refined and dripping with driving talent. The Golf was left for dead.
Granted, the Golf is classy and well made, with an impeccable pedigree. It’s easy to see why its the darling of new and used buyers alike, and as a petrol proposition it makes just as much sense as the diesel does, if not more so.
The problem is, in this GT trim it’s at its worst. Expensive and overly firm, it also has an engine that seems to reward neglect with poor reliability. Later or less powerful petrol Golfs, with their simpler turbo-only engines, imake a whole heap more sense.
Choosing between the Golf and the Vauxhall Astra is trickier. Yes, the Astra’s engine is comparatively dull and rather noisy. But it’s also a vastly cheaper car, has a better reliability record than the Golf, rides more comfortably and has a more pleasant interior.
The Golf fights back with its classier dashboard, thrusting performance, but in the final reckoning, it isn’t enough. The Astra takes second place by a whisker.
That said, all three of these cars represent an interesting alternative to their diesel brethren. Even used, their prices are so much cheaper that you'd have to do quite a few miles for the fuel economy savings from buying a diesel to be worth havng. What's more, these turbocharged petrol engines are smoother, quieter and every bit as gutsy. So if you're a habitual diesel buyer, think about giving petrol a second look next time.
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1st – Ford Focus
For Exceptional to drive; plenty of standard kit; smart interior finish
Against Small boot; poor turning circle
Verdict Sparkling driving dynamics. The best used Focus you can buy
Rated 5 out of 5
2nd – Vauxhall Astra
For Supple ride; smart interior; cheap to buy and run
Against Noisy, less enthusiastic engine
Verdict Good in most areas. Makes a lot of sense at these prices
Rated 4 out of 5
3rd – Volkswagen Golf
For Upmarket image; classiest interior; strong residual values
Against Unsettled ride; disappointing handling; some reliability concerns
Verdict Still a lot to like, but other Golfs are a lot better
Rated 3 out of 5
Specifications: Ford Focus 1.6 Ecoboost Titanium
Engine size 1.6-litre turbo petrol
List price when new £19,745
Price today £4500-£22,000
Torque 177lb ft
Top speed 125mph
Fuel economy 47.1mpg (Official average)
CO2 emissions 139g/km
Specifications: Vauxhall Astra 1.4 T SRi
Engine size 1.4-litre turbo petrol
List price when new £19,770
Price today £4000-£15,500
Torque 148lb ft
Top speed 124mph
Fuel economy 47.9mpg (Official average)
CO2 emissions 138g/km
Specifications: Volkswagen Golf 1.4TSI 160 GT
Engine size 1.4-litre petrol turbo
List price when new £21,540
Price today £3000-£13,000
Torque 177lb ft
Top speed 131mph
Fuel economy 44.8mpg (Official average)
CO2 emissions 145g/km