Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
The Volkswagen Golf Estate makes most sense with the 1.5 TSI 150 petrol engine. Its healthy whack of 148bhp gives you plenty of outright performance (0-62mph take a sprightly 8.7sec) and enough mid-range get-up-and-go to pull the car along with a full boot. You might need to drop a gear to climb a steep hill or overtake a tractor – if that sounds like a chore, there’s the eTSI 150, which has a responsive seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. All the petrol engines with an auto 'box are eTSI. The ‘e’ means they have 48-volt mild-hybrid electrical assistance but it doesn’t make them noticeably quicker. The motor just adds a tiny bit of background assistance to the petrol engine (for a fairly hefty price hike, it must be said).
The 128bhp 1.5 TSI 130 petrol engine is not a bad alternative but it slows down the 0-62mph time to 9.4sec and there’s so little difference in cost (over the TSI 150) that it begs the question, “Why would you?”. Even the entry-level 109bhp 1.0 TSI 110 isn’t vastly cheaper. Despite the tiny capacity, it’s surprisingly flexible and does 0-62mph in 10.5sec, although it does struggle a bit with a fully laden car.
Suspension and ride comfort
On 17in wheels and the standard suspension, the Golf Estate rides potholes and ridges around town more adeptly than the Ford Focus Estate. It’s also very comfortable at higher speeds, making motorway jaunts a real treat. The Skoda Octavia Estate is slightly softer overall (if you really enjoy wafting gently) but the Golf is better tied down and less like being on a trampoline over big crests and dips.
At speed, you'll notice some wind and, more acutely, road noise. Of its nearest price rivals, the Focus Estate is the quietest cruiser.
The manual gearbox’s gear lever is good enough for finding a route to all six gears easily and the clutch biting point is distinct. The Golf also has a smoother automatic gearbox than the Focus, and most versions have progressive brakes that allow you to stop with grace. The eTSI 150's brakes aren't quite as good, with a bit of interference from the energy recovery system that charges the mild-hybrid system's battery under braking. You can still slow down smoothly, though.