All-new Volkswagen Golf adopts mild-hybrid power trains, while GTI and R models are coming
This is the all-new Volkswagen Golf. As with the model it replaces, the eighth-generation version of the brand’s iconic hatch will straddle the family car line between upmarket rivals like the BMW 1 Series and the mainstream competition from the Ford Focus. Sales are due to begin in February 2020, with the first customers taking delivery in April.
Design and interior
From the outside, the biggest change comes at the front, where a low nose features a slimmer grille. It’s flanked by narrow headlights – featuring standard LED tech – whose winged edges flow into sharp creases along the side. The bumper varies according to trim level; the Style trim (which will be called SEL in the UK; S and SE models will sit below it) features three distinctive fins spanning the width of the air intake, while the R Line features a more open front vent with R badging.
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Towards the back, the distinctive C-pillar design – a Golf signature since the Mk4 – remains. The rear features more angular tail lights, and a boot lid that sports the new VW logo above Golf lettering.
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So far, so conventional. Even Volkswagen itself admits the exterior styling is little more than an evolution of the last car, but it saw no reason to tinker drastically with such a popular model.
It’s on the inside where the most interesting changes have taken place. Gone is the staid look of the Mk7, replaced by a minimalist look that’s as contemporary as anything in this class. The interior is dominated by a pair of screens. The first, a 10-inch infotainment system features a customisable display, allowing the driver to position shortcuts and widgets in the desired positions. Both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard, and the latter can now operated wirelessly.
The main screen sits in a single panel alongside the latest version of Volkswagen’s virtual cockpit. A digital driver’s display, measuring 10.25 inches, is fitted as standard across the range – a first for the segment.
Almost all traditional switches have been replaced by touch-sensitive surfaces. The temperature can be tweaked by sliding a finger across a panel at the base of the 10-inch display; likewise for the volume controls. Even the sunroof forgoes a physical switch; instead requiring a quick finger sweep along a small panel on the roof. It means that on the dashboard at least, the only physical button that remains is for the hazard lights, though there are still conventional buttons on the steering wheel and in the door panel for the window and mirror adjustment.
Engines and plug-in hybrids
As before, the Golf rides on the Volkswagen Group’s MQB platform. Give or take a few millimetres, the Golf is almost identical in size to the old car, and as a result, the interior dimensions remain much the same, too.
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While a fully electric powertrain won’t be fitted to the Golf – the zero-emission status will be reserved to the ID family – hybrid tech will feature strongly. A 48-volt electrical system recovers energy that would otherwise be wasted when slowing down, redeploying up to 16bhp and 25nm of electric boost under acceleration. In particular, VW says that this will make moving away from standstill much smoother.
The mild-hybrid system, combined with a seven-speed auto gearbox, is available with both versions of the 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol (making 128 and 148bhp respectively) and the 109bhp version of a 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo. The entry-level 89bhp 1.0 TSI and models with a manual gearbox don’t get the mild-hybrid tech, but a new six-speed unit is said to contribute to a drop in emissions.
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Two 2.0-litre diesels available with 113bhp or 148bhp can be paired with both manual and auto ‘boxes. Both are claimed to produce 17 per cent less CO2 than before, while a new AdBlue delivery system cuts nitrogen oxide emissions by 80 per cent. Mild hybrid systems will eventually find their way onto these diesel powertrains, too.
From launch, the hottest Golf will be the GTE. As before, this runs a plug-in hybrid system with a 148bhp 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine, but the electric motor is significantly more powerful, so the overall output now stands at 242bhp – the same as the outgoing Golf GTI Performance. Battery capacity is up, too: the 13kWh item allows for a 43-mile zero-emissions range, at speeds up to 87mph. The battery is more energy-dense than in the previous generation GTE, which means that despite a 50 per cent increase in capacity, it’s only fractionally larger overall.
Volkswagen has confirmed that hot models like the GTI and R will follow. While details have not yet been confirmed, Volkswagen states that top Golfs will offer more than the 296bhp figure produced by the current Golf R. Insiders tell us that mild hybrid assistance is set to feature, most likely in the form of a lag-eliminating electric turbocharger, similar to the system used by the Audi S7.
Safety and technology
And the tech fest won’t stop in the engines, either. The Golf will feature connectivity unrivalled in the class, with each model packed full of safety tech. A semi-autonomous function allows the Golf to accelerate, steer and brake on motorways at speeds – where legal -of up to 130mph.
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Perhaps most intriguing of all is the Car2X system: this allows connected cars from any manufacturer to broadcast in real-time, warning other enabled vehicles of hazards on the road ahead, or the proximity of an emergency vehicle trying to make its way through traffic.
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