Since it first tee’d off on to the motoring landscape, the Volkswagen Golf has essentially been THE benchmark of the Hatch category. Good looks, nippy handling and everyday practicality made it an instant hit and has amassed over 35 Million sales during its near 50-year existence. Now in its eighth generation, we wanted to know if the new Golf still makes the cut and Volkswagen New Zealand let us find out.
Having had a taste of the new Mk8 Golf at the NZ launch a few weeks ago, this wasn’t my first time behind the wheel but it’s only really when you bring it home to meet the family that you really get a sense of just how good this new edition is.
Just like all vehicles and new models, the looks will always be subjective and the latest look of the Golf is no different. The grille is now reduced to the point of near non-existence (bucking the trend of many automakers – one other German one in particular), which aids the new hatch’s drag coefficient but is a long way away from the looks of ‘74 – mind you, is anyone still wearing flares?
My review model was the TSI R-Line which offers up many of the R’s looks, however, it does miss out on the full-width DRL light bar (leaving just eyebrows over the LED headlights) and of course, the power. The Mk8’s bonnet sculpting has been increased with much sharper lines and it’s really quite heavy with a large amount of noise dampening added to the underside, and the front bumper and valance is closer to the road, which although more sporty looking, may cause issues with sleeping policemen and kerbs.
The new Golf’s profile features 18-inch Bergamo Alloy Wheels with GTI wide rubber that really assist in its handling (I’ll get to that soon), the mirrors pop upwards upon switch off and have a small window behind for better visibility, there’s a distinctive character line that runs from the headlights to the tail, while for the fans, the C-pillar kink remains.
The exterior may have improved but like all good things, it’s what’s on the inside that counts – and there’s way too many goodies to count, so here are some of the highlights for me.
The seats are R with headrests that are part of their bucketness (they also have pockets on the back for phones and devices), the centre console is clear and uncluttered thanks to the removal of the gearstick and ‘drive by wire’ technology. The infotainment screen has risen above the air vents and is now increased to 10-inches and the instrument cluster is digital and interactive too. Yes it’s all Apple and Android connected and there are numerous USB-C and wireless connectivity options should you so require. What’s more, the steering-wheel has gone all haptic with touch-sensitive controls all over the place.
For around a week the new Mk8 Golf adorned my driveway and I used it every which way I could – day and night with the latter showcasing the 30 colour ambient lighting options available and the day having me whipping through the multitude of infotainment screen menus like a smartphone pro – it’s really that simple.
My R-line Golf came with a 1.4L TSI engine that delivered up 110kW/250Nm with fuel-efficiencies of 5.8L/100km and if I’m honest, is actually more than plenty for a non-GTI enthusiast. The power comes on evenly and there’s lots of torque even for highway driving. On that note, the new Golf comes with a magical haptic button on the steering wheel that enables VW Travel Assist, not only does this activate features like the Adaptive Cruise Control and LKA but also pops up a live lane screen on the instrument display that shows the cars, trucks and even motorbikes that surround you. It’s so good that I feel you could drive just looking at that and not through the windscreen (although this is NOT recommended of course!)
The head up display and reversing camera (which is still hidden behind the VW logo) are clean and clear with the HUD even having a snow mode that changes the colour – but it still doesn’t work with polarised glasses.
The other impressive thing about the new Mk8 Golf is its handling. Aided I’m certain by the wider rubber, the latest generation R-Line handles the bends and curves like an older version GTI. It’s grippy and fun to drive, taking corners with aplomb at speeds that it probably shouldn’t.
With seven generations before it, the new Volkswagen NZ Golf Mk8 is everything I would have expected and then some. The handling is terrific, the tech is ultra-modern and the overall drive is both fun and involving – and I’m not even talking about the GTI or R! VW has managed to cram a lot of new stuff into this latest model and yet retain its size and silhouette, not an easy task. The new Golf is certainly a cut above.