What's the used Volkswagen Golf hatchback like?
Very few sensibly priced cars are true icons – instantly recognisable to even the most casual observer, and as welcome in Biarritz as on the school run. The Volkswagen Golf, though, is one of them.
Since 1974, this exceptional all-rounder has been a high-quality family car that has succeeded by being thoroughly competent at whatever it sets out to achieve without ever going to extremes.
As far as trims go, entry-level Life comes with standard kit such as 16in alloy wheels, automatic LED headlights, front and rear parking sensors, ambient lighting and keyless start, as well as a 10.25in digital instrument display and 10.0in touchscreen infotainment system with sat-nav.
Wireless phone charging, a wi-fi hotspot and a three-year subscription to VW’s We Connect Plus services are also thrown in from new, as is ‘Car-to-X’ technology, which will eventually allow the Golf to 'communicate' with road infrastructure and other cars around it. A comprehensive suite of standard active safety technology completes the tally.
Active trim essentially adds a Winter Pack to entry-level Life because you get heated front seats and steering wheel, along with three-zone climate control, multi-coloured ambient interior lighting and rear privacy glass.
Style has 17in alloys, adaptive LED 'Plus' headlights, upgraded seats and upholstery, additional ambient lighting, decorative wood inserts and three-zone climate control.
R-Line adds a few more toys and sharper styling, while there are separate GTE, GTD, GTI and GTI Clubsport trims for the plug-in hybrid, sporty diesel and petrol-powered super-sports versions.
On the road, the 1.5 TSI 130 is sweet, as is the more muscular 1.5 eTSI 150. The more powerful engine is noticeably swifter getting up to motorway speeds, though (0-62mph comes in a sprightly 8.5sec).
The 1.0 eTSI 110 hybrid is good in town thanks to plenty of low-down punch. It uses the same mild-hybrid tech as the 1.5 eTSI. The engine is assisted by a small electric motor that helps it pull even more strongly from low revs than the non-hybrid equivalent. Both cars feel quite brisk when you work them hard, and the automatic gearbox is responsive when you ask for a quick burst of pace.
The standard Golf has three main suspension settings: Comfort, Normal and Sport. In Comfort, it's one of the smoothest-riding cars in the class, dealing with craggy roads exceedingly well.
Whatever your size or shape, the Volkswagen Golf has plenty of adjustments in seat height and steering wheel rake and reach, so you should be able to find a driving position to suit you.
Every Golf comes with a 10.0in touchscreen infotainment system that’s mounted high up so you don't have to look too far from the road to use it. The graphics are sharp and there are lots of helpful standard features, including wireless phone charging, built-in sat-nav, Bluetooth and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration.
It’s a shame ease of use wasn’t prioritised over making the infotainment look swish, though. Some of the menus are confusingly arranged, and to make matters worse, there are no physical shortcut buttons to take you quickly from one menu to the next. The result is that you’re often taking your eyes off the road momentarily just to perform basic actions, such as changing the interior temperature.