New Volkswagen Golf Mk8 ride review

Shortly before the VW Golf Mk8’s world premiere, we joined development chief for an exclusive ride in the next-generation hatchbackVerdictThe new Volkswagen Golf has several surprising features; it offers top-class technology for the masses and yet still feels familiar. It remains easy to operate and feels like it’ll drive very well indeed. Could this be the car to sway you away from that new SUV? On this evidence, it’s entirely possible.

The new Volkswagen Golf has just been revealed, but Auto Express has already been for an exclusive ride in the eighth-generation hatch – alongside Head of Development, Frank Welsch.

Welsch is the most senior head of development in the VW Group, and could be described as the most influential engineer in the world. Whatever he does and whatever he decides, will change the entire automotive landscape.

• New Volkswagen Golf Mk8 revealed in full

For Welsch, the Golf Mk8 represents the largest leap yet in the history of the compact car. But it must feel familiar – and be instantly recognisable – even from a distance.

VW’s development chief ushers us into the car, as he settles into the driver’s seat. You immediately notice the impressive all-round visibility, despite the low driving position. The car embraces you; you feel beautifully integrated in the whole experience. 

“A Golf also has to be able to give you that unique ‘welcome home’ feeling,” says Welsch. Though it’s at this point that current customers may look around with some irritation, because here the dashboard is dominated by a huge central touchscreen. 

Welsch assures us this is not tech for tech’s sake, however: “We have not simply digitalised the Golf,” he says. “It must also be easy to operate”.

He immediately shows us what he means. Even in heavy stop-start traffic, Welsch is able to easily swipe around the menus and use the myriad voice commands by calling out “Hello, Volkswagen”. In fact, even things like the head-up display are simple to adjust because the setting option is not nestled somewhere deep within the infotainment system. Instead, it’s very easy to find. 

VW has done its homework with the new Golf’s overhauled interior – zooming from the middle range, right to the top of the class. But it’s not only in this class; there is no other car on the market with such a high number of intuitive technical features which can be operated so easily. Anyone who can master a smartphone will feel right at home, thanks to its similar operating logic.

But even if this new tech doesn’t interest you, the Golf has improved in other areas, too. Although it’s based on the same platform as the current model, the hatchback has been refined and improved. The TDI diesel engine of our test car – now with a more complex AdBlue set-up that claims to reduce NOx by about 80 per cent to single digit values – seems better insulated and more refined than before.

The car’s coasting function is always active, dropping the diesel engine to idling speed as often as possible. It appears to work, too; VW engineers are returning as much as 63mpg in normal driving – even in pre-production test cars. 

Welsch and his team have really turned the screw as regards to fuel consumption, in fact. The petrol engines are being given a 48-volt mild-hybrid system, and over the entire range, consumption has been reduced by approximately 10 per cent.

In the future, two versions of the Golf GTE plug-in hybrid will be made available. Only one model falls by the wayside: the e-Golf. While the nameplate has gone, the concept hasn’t been forgotten; the imminent arrival of the ID.3 will see to that – another car Welsch can add to his CV.

For an alternative review of the latest Volkswagen Golf Hatchback visit our sister site carbuyer.co.uk

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