The range kicks off with an 84bhp 1.0-litre three-cylinder (TSI) petrol engine. We haven’t tried it yet, but judging by the lethargic official 0-62mph time of 11.9sec – with hardly any improvement in fuel economy over the more powerful 109bhp version of the same engine – it doesn't seem the best choice.
By contrast, the 109bhp 1.0 is actually one of our favourites. Thanks to a turbocharger, acceleration is more urgent than you might imagine for such a small engine. True, it's better suited to town driving and rural roads, but it'll hold its own on fast A-roads and motorways – you just need to work it a bit harder than some of the more powerful alternatives.
For more effortless performance, step up to the four-cylinder petrols, starting with the 128bhp 1.5-litre. This delivers a bit more mid-range oomph and revs more freely than the 1.0-litre engines. It comes with a choice of either a slick-shifting, six-speed manual gearbox or an optional seven-speed (DSG) auto.
Step up to GT or R-Line Trim and you can have a 148bhp version of the same 1.5-litre petrol motor. When filled to the brim with friends and family, you’ll be grateful for the extra shove in overtaking situations. It also feels perfectly suited to the optional seven-speed dual shift DSG unit. However, it is significantly more expensive than the less powerful 128bhp 1.5 and is fractionally less economical.
The 113bhp 1.6 TDI diesel is a good option if you're a company car driver, but if you can stretch to the 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel, it’s worth the extra cost for its much stronger performance. A more powerful and decidedly brisk 182bhp version is also available that makes overtaking a breeze, although it’s only in the sporty (and rather pricey) GTD model.
Two GTI editions – one with 227bhp and a Performance pack model with 242bhp - and the range-topping R model cater for hot hatch fans. Both have 2.0-litre turbo engines, although the R has more power (306bhp) and four-wheel drive, so can out-accelerate many proper performance cars.
The all-electric e-Golf and plug-in hybrid Golf GTE are both surprisingly nippy at low speeds, so are perfect for nipping around town.