The interior layout, fit and finish
Driving position and dashboard
No matter what shape or size you are, the Golf offers nearly all the steering wheel and seat position permutations you could ask for in order to bring about a comfy driving position. There's height adjustment, steering wheel rake and reach adjustment and a front centre armrest for something to lean on. The only issue we’ve discovered is that the adjustable lumbar support, which comes when you order the optional Ergocomfort seat, doesn't offer quite the degree of lower back support variation to keep everyone happy. The seats have reasonable side support, though.
Look over the dashboard and you’ll notice that nearly all the controls are either touch-sensitive buttons or have been loaded on to the touchscreen in the centre of the dashboard. Gone are the well-placed physical buttons and knobs that you’ll find in rivals such as the 1 Series, A-Class and Focus, which is a pity; they’re far easier to locate and hit while driving. In the Golf, you’re taking your eyes off the road momentarily to change simple things like the interior temperature. It might look futuristic but in reality it’s a step backward.
Visibility, parking sensors and cameras
With large side windows and relatively thin windscreen pillars, looking forward or left and right is easy enough. But like many rivals in the class, it’s when you look over your shoulder and notice a couple of larger rear pillars that you can begin to fear the reverse park. Thankfully, the Golf’s rear pillars aren’t the thickest, so the view isn’t as restricted as it is in say, a Mazda 3. Naturally, LED headlights, front and rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera will be available, but we’re yet to find out which trim levels gets what.
Sat nav and infotainment
The Golf comes with an 8.3in touchscreen infotainment system, but it’s a shame that, rather than ensuring that it’s simple and clear to use, it feels like the software developers’ main priority was making the menus look stylish. That’s all well and good, but they’re quite confusingly arranged and, to make matters worse, there are no physical shortcut buttons – just a few touch-sensitive controls.
For our money, the A-Class's infotainment is more user-friendly, while the 1 Series' system knocks the Golf's for six — both cars have more logical menus and supplement their touchscreen with a controller on the centre console to make selections more easily while driving. We also found the system prone to crashing, but these were early cars and we’re told a software patch is coming.
At least the Golf’s touchscreen is mounted nice and high up, so you don’t have to look too far from the road to use it. It’s also full of features, such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, plus Volkswagen’s natural speech voice control system. This can translate, for instance, “my hands are cold” as a request to switch on the heated steering wheel (if fitted).
The Golf has historically been a paragon of fine build quality. Inside the current model everything looks swish, clean and modern, and there are soft-touch surfaces on the upper parts of the dashboard and the tops of the front doors, along with nice touches, such as carpeted door bins to prevent your keys from jangling.
However, it’s not as opulent as the A-Class inside and not as uniformly well-bolted together or smartly finished as the BMW 1 Series — in the rear, for example, all the plastics are hard and scratchy. Even a Mazda 3 outshines the Golf in places, but it’s still a cut above other mainstream rivals, including the Skoda Scala and Ford Focus.