Volkswagen Golf long-term test: report 5

The Volkswagen Golf has been a family favourite for generations, and now has more clever tech than ever. We're living with one to see if it still deserves its tight grip on the market...

2021 Volkswagen Golf long termer amusement arcade

The car Volkswagen Golf 1.5 TSI 150 Life Run by Chris Haining, digital reviews editor

Why it’s here To see if the Golf remains true to its "all things to all drivers" pedigree, and prove that cutting-edge technology need not be reserved for electric cars.

Needs to Use petrol sparingly, provide day-to-day comfort, make life easy on long trips.

List price £24,560 Target Price £22,690 Price as tested £28,700 Mileage 1626 Official economy 50.5 mpg Test economy 44.1mpg

13 May 2021 – Cracking a smile

You know the kind of person who seems aloof and stand-offish when you first meet them at work, but who turns out to be a good laugh when you catch them out of hours? That’s my Volkswagen Golf all over. It just really needs to be persuaded to let its hair down. 

My previous car, a Seat Ibiza, couldn’t be more different in terms of temperament. It only had 94bhp from a 1.0-litre engine, but it was delivered in a big, thick lump that made the car feel lively and willing. By contrast, when you put your foot down in the Golf, it meters out its 148bhp hesitantly, as if it’s trying to decide whether to trust you. In fact, initial pick-up is gentle enough to be a little alarming – when entering a busy roundabout, for example. The 0-60mph time is a reasonable 8.5 seconds, but because the power takes a while to arrive in bulk, the car doesn’t feel terribly enthusiastic about moving that quickly.

2021 Volkswagen Golf long termer driving shot

You get the sense that it’s being artificially strangled so it's not quite what it could be. The same thing happens when you up the pace on a challenging road. It’s the steering’s fault, really; at no point does it come alive with feel or feedback, plus there’s the added complication of grabbiness when the lane-keeping assist cuts in with its own take on the trajectory you should be following. If you push past the steering’s anti-fun agenda, the rest of the car is definitely up for partying.

It’s clear that the Golf’s handling is fundamentally excellent. We're big fans of the range-topping 306bhp Golf R hot hatch and we recently put the Golf GTI Clubsport through its paces, pronouncing it the best current Golf to bear those initials. Although that DNA seems deeply buried in my lesser variant, it’s definitely there – I can feel it in the seat of my pants. 

Volkswagen Golf 2021 long termer rainy shot

No, really. At “hustling” speeds, I can feel how the suspension responds to cornering forces and road surface changes, and it’s never anything but poised and reassuring. I feel it more from how the rear end of the Golf moves than I can through the steering wheel, though, and that’s a real shame. Why, if a car is this capable, make its driver work so hard to find out?

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