The interior layout, fit and finish
Driving position and dashboard
No matter what your shape or size, you should be able to find a comfortable driving position because the driver’s seat slides back far enough to accommodate long legs, plus you get seat height and steering wheel in-and-out adjustment on all trims.
All models get a front centre armrest, while only entry-level S trim misses out on manual lumbar adjustment (although it’s cheap to add as an option). The fact that the pedals are in line with the steering wheel also helps to provide a natural seating position, plus the driver’s seat is firm and supportive.
Once you are sitting comfortably, you’ll notice that all the buttons and switches on the dashboard are well placed, including the simple rotary air-con controls that make it easy to tweak the temperature on the move.
Visibility, parking sensors and cameras
Few cars in any class offer better all-round visibility than the Golf. The windows are large and deep, and the pillars relatively slim. Even the small front quarter light windows, which bring a small extra pillar between the side windows and the windscreen, don’t obstruct your vision too badly. Being an estate with a relatively boxy back end means it’s pretty easy to judge where the rear bumper is as you back into parking spaces.
For anyone with an acute case of ‘parkaphobia’, front and rear parking sensors are standard on SE models and above, and optional on the cheapest S trim. You can add a reversing camera to make parking even easier, while the optional Park Assist system can practically do the job for you, steering into a space automatically while you simply control the car’s speed.
Sat nav and infotainment
Every version, including the entry-level S trim, gets at least an 8.0in, high-definition, glass-fronted colour touchscreen. Either side of the screen are touch-sensitive shortcut buttons, so you can flit between the main menus, plus two rotary switches: one for volume control and the other for scrolling through lists or zooming in and out of maps (with sat-nav fitted) if you don’t want to do this via the touchscreen.
The logical menus are easy to figure out without resorting to the handbook to connect your phone or set up radio station presets. The one annoying feature is the screen automatically brings up extra icons when it senses an approaching finger – this is rather distracting. The good news is that you can disable this and leave said icons displayed constantly.
Overall, we’d still prefer a rotary-controlled arrangement like BMW’s iDrive or Audi’s MMI system, because they’re less distracting to use on the move. But at least the Golf’s set-up is responsive, with well-sized icons that make it one of the best of its ilk. You can also accept an incoming phone call simply by pressing a clearly marked button on the steering wheel, or dial a number using voice control.
Every version gets a DAB radio, Bluetooth and Aux and USB sockets, while the standard eight-speaker stereo produces crisp sounds and resists distortion well. SE adds Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink, which display selected smartphone apps and let you control them from the touchscreen – including sat-nav. Only SE Nav models and above come with in-built sat-nav and this upgrade also includes speed-limit display and online features.
An optional system, called Discover Navigation Pro, has a bigger 9.2in screen and includes gesture control. The latter is a bit of a gimmick, really; it's fine for showing off to your friends, but it’s so much easier to change radio station or music track conventionally, rather than by hit-and-miss, mid-air hand movements.
The Golf’s interior is a cut above those of many estate rivals, including the Seat Leon ST and Ford Focus Estate. Yes, there are plusher, more premium offerings, such as an Audi A4, but the Golf is cheaper. Still, all the materials in your eyeline look and feel expensive, with lots of tactile, soft-touch plastics and nicely damped switches. It’s also bolted together sturdily.