The interior layout, fit and finish
Driving position and dashboard
No matter what size or shape you are, the Golf is built with driver comfort in mind. There's seat-height adjustment, lots of steering wheel rake and reach adjustment, and the moveable front centre armrest gives you something cushioning to lean on. Adjustable lumbar support is standard on all trims, but even so, the lower-back support provided by the seats fitted to entry-level Life trim didn't suit all our testers. The sports seats fitted from Style trim are much better and offer excellent side support through corners.
Look at the dashboard closely and you’ll find that all the buttons are touch-sensitive, or have been loaded on to the infotainment touchscreen – you can read more about that in the section below. The only physical buttons are on the steering wheel, and, quite frankly, the touch-sensitive ones are needlessly more fiddly to use while you're driving than the proper buttons and knobs you’ll find in the Golf’s rivals, such as the 1 Series, A Class and Focus. The net result is that in the Golf, you’re often taking your eyes off the road momentarily just to make simple changes, like changing the interior temperature.
Visibility, parking sensors and cameras
With a big windscreen and large side windows, looking forwards or left and right at junctions is easy in the Golf. The forward position of the windscreen pillars can cause you to crane your neck for a clear view at roundabouts, though, and – as is the case with many of its rivals – the rearmost pillars are large enough to obscure what's lurking behind the car when you look 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 that are standard on Style trim and above 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, then, that the software developers have concentrated on making it look swish rather than prioritising ease of use. The menus are very confusingly arranged and, to make matters worse, there are no physical shortcut buttons to take you quickly from one feature to the next. On top of that, every version we've tried so far has been littered with software bugs, which even affect the use of Apple CarPlay, so there's no way to avoid frustration. You can add Volkswagen’s natural speech voice control system as part of an expensive upgrade – it can translate “my hands are cold”, for instance, as a request to switch on the heated steering wheel (where fitted) – but using that 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, so they're 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 smart, clean and modern, 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 has a much nicer finish inside. However, the Golf still ranks above some other mainstream family cars on quality, including the Ford Focus and Skoda Scala.
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