No conversations about hatchbacks are complete without a mention of the Volkswagen Golf. No surprise, because the Golf has always been the king of this segment. Even if you didn’t own one, you probably know someone who does. It’s almost become a reference point in the world of hatchbacks.
Much like the Porsche 911, it’s evolved remarkably over time — we’re talking decades here — without losing so much as a tinge of personality, and therein lay its charm. The names Mk1, GTI, R and R32 are motoring legends, with posters lining bedroom walls all over the world. Now, seven generations later, the Volkswagen Golf is back.
A hatchback for grownups, beautifully put together and contemporarily designed, the Volkswagen Golf has always felt more expensive than it actually is, which sets it apart from its competitors. From the sound the doors make when you close them to the weightiness of the steering wheel in your hands as you glide the front-wheel drive through a sweeping bend, the experience makes you fall in love with it over and over again.
Throughout the years, the Golf has come in a number of different body shapes. There’s been three-doors, five-doors, cabriolets, wagons and an MPV. The Golf has even been called the Rabbit and the Caribe. But its only constant is that it hasn’t stopped evolving over the years. Fresh off the launch today, here’s what you can expect from Volkswagen’s latest evolution.
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Xenon headlights and taillights now make way for LED ones, which are more energy efficient and easier on the eyes. Nifty design features also include a dark red LED rear light cluster with sweeping indicators — the kind that animates to indicate the direction you’re turning, which is a nice modern touch to such an old legend.
You don’t want to be fumbling with knobs and tapping wildly on screens in frustration while you drive. Volkswagen included the Discover Pro with gesture control so you can wave your commands instead, from swapping radio stations to interior lighting intensity. A larger 9.2-inch screen will also project your map in 3D. In the GTI model, you’ll be equipped with Dynaudio Excite, an eight-speaker sound system by Danish hi-fi specialist Dynaudio. Technology clearly takes precedence as the analog gauges are ditched for a 12.3-inch high-resolution digital instrument cluster.
The Golf hops on the intelligent driver assistance systems bandwagon with a new array of features. The semi-autonomous parking assistance makes manoeuvring into or out of tight parking spaces less frustrating, and will even help put you into a parallel parking spot safely. The Blind Spot Sensor with Rear Traffic Alert system is your eye in the sky as it monitors traffic behind for a range of 20 metres with radar sensors. This is useful for when changing lanes or even reversing out of a parking space with restricted visibility.
For maximum thrill, the 286hp R model is the most powerful and fastest Golf there’s ever been, accelerating from nought to 100kph in 4.6 seconds. The GTI does the same in 6.4 seconds with a power boost to 227hp (up from 210) thanks to the 2.0-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder. In the base model, a 1-litre turbocharged 3-cylinder still provides commendable performance with 108hp.
In keeping with its promise to take you from the racetrack directly to the road, the R model gets the permanent 4Motion four-wheel drive. Wheelspin and locking are now a thing of a past, and your Golf will not lose traction on any surface — not that it varies much here. When you’re ready for your Lewis Hamilton moment, hit up the Dynamic Chassis Control for a specially developed race mode for a tauter running gear, prompt gas pedal response and faster gear changes.
The Golf experience begins even before you turn the goosebumps-inducing ignition. Get into the GTI model, and you’ll be welcomed by sporty red illumination — just a visual reminder of what this mighty hatchback is capable of. The sports seats are adjustable to the multifunction sports steering wheel, and as a treat, keep track of your car’s performance via a GTI-specific instrument panel. To complete the experience, brushed stainless steel pedal caps stand out with precise pressure points, a feature only found elsewhere in racing cars. Not bad for such a nifty little thing.