The interior layout, fit and finish
Driving position and dashboard
No matter what size or shape you are, the Golf will cater for you well as a driver. There's seat-height adjustment, steering wheel rake and reach adjustment, and the moveable front centre armrest gives you something cushioned to lean on. The driver's seat offers good side support through corners, but the adjustable lumbar support, which is standard on all trims, doesn't deliver quite the degree of lower back support that all of our testers wished for.
Look at the dashboard and you’ll notice that nearly all the controls are either touch-sensitive buttons or have been loaded on to the infotainment touchscreen – and you'll find more about this system below. There are barely any of the physical buttons and knobs that you’ll find in the Golf’s rivals, such as the 1 Series, A Class and Focus, and that's a pity: proper buttons are far easier to locate and press while driving. Instead, in the Golf, you’re often forced to take your eyes off the road momentarily just to make a simple change, such as to increase the temperature.
Visibility, parking sensors and cameras
With large side windows and relatively thin windscreen pillars, looking forwards or left and right at junctions, is easy in the Golf. But, as is the case with many of its rivals, there are a couple of large pillars that tend to obscure what's lurking behind the car when you look back over your shoulder.
Still, the view out isn’t as restricted as it is in, say, a Mazda 3, and front and rear parking sensors are standard on all trims. A rear-view camera is optional.
Powerful LED headlights are also standard, and you can upgrade them (for a fee) to LED 'Plus' headlights or IQ Matrix LED headlights: the former can direct their light around corners, and the latter are the bee's knees because you can leave them on main beam without blinding other road users. They're not cheap, though.
Sat nav and infotainment
The Golf comes with a 10.0in touchscreen infotainment system. It's mounted high up, so you don’t have to look too far from the road to use it, its screen is sharp and there are lots of helpful standard features, including wireless phone charging, in-built sat nav, Bluetooth, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration.
It’s a shame though, that the software developers seem to have concentrated on making its menus look swish rather than prioritising ease of use. They’re arranged quite confusingly and, to make matters worse, there are no physical shortcut buttons to take you quickly from one feature to the next, just a few touch-sensitive controls that are tricky to hit with any confidence while you're driving. You can add Volkswagen’s natural speech voice control system as part of an expensive upgrade. This can translate “my hands are cold”, for instance, as a request to switch on the heated steering wheel (where fitted) – but it doesn't always work, especially if there are screaming kids in the car.
The A Class has a more user-friendly infotainment system, while the 1 Series' iDrive system knocks the Golf's setup for six. Both have more logical menus and supplement their touchscreens with a physical controller between the front seats, making them much easier to use while driving. The Golf's standard six-speaker stereo sounds decent, though.
The Golf has historically been a paragon of build quality, but this is less true of the current model. At first glance, everything looks swish, clean and modern inside and there are some soft-touch surfaces on the upper parts of the dashboard and the tops of the front doors. There are other nice elements, too, such as the metal trims and carpeted door bins, which prevent loose items from rattling around.
However, the Golf is neither as opulent inside as the A Class nor as uniformly well-bolted together and smartly finished as the BMW 1 Series; it uses lots of harder and scratchier plastics, especially in the rear. It's not only premium-badged rivals that outshine the Golf, either; the Mazda 3 is more smartly finished inside. However, the Golf still ranks a cut above many other mainstream family cars, including the Ford Focus and Skoda Scala, in this regard.
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