Volkswagen Golf (2013-2020) Review logo

Volkswagen Golf (2013-2020) Review

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1/10

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1 / 10

heycar review

      Launch year
      2013
      Body type
      Family hatch
      Fuel type
      Petrol, Diesel, PHEV, EV
heycar editorial team

Written by

heycar editorial team

00/10
heycar rating
“The best family hatch, period”

Best bits

  • The standard by which other hatchbacks are measured
  • Plenty of choice with a wide range of engines and trims
  • Interior is a cut above the norm

Not so great

  • Costs a bit more than other hatchbacks
  • It satisfies, rather than excites
  • Choice can be a bit bewildering for the uninitiated

Read by

Volkswagen Golf Front Side View

Overall verdict

Volkswagen Golf Front Interior

On the inside

Volkswagen Golf Front Side View

Driving

Volkswagen Golf Rear Side View

How much does it cost to run

Volkswagen Golf Right Side View

Prices, versions and specification

Overall verdict

"The Volkswagen Golf is so good, it’s almost the default choice in the family hatchback class. It won’t surprise or stand out, but will satisfy for years to come. It’s a safe bet and you can never go wrong by choosing a Golf."

Volkswagen Golf Front Side View

The Volkswagen Golf is the family hatchback by which all rival cars are judged. It is the standard-setter. And so high are the standards it sets, few can measure up to its broad range of abilities. No wonder it’s consistently a European best-seller. It is the people’s car that does it all.


Volkswagen launched the core models first: TSI petrol and TDI diesel engines, with S, SE and GT trims. Performance Golf GTI and economical Bluemotion versions followed later, along with a GTD performance diesel. There was a rip-roaring Golf R too. Both three- and five-door hatchback versions were available, with the Volkswagen Golf Estate following a little later. Unlike with its predecessor, Volkswagen didn’t build a convertible version of this generation of Golf.

 

Frankly, there’s not a duffer among them. The small petrol engines are smooth and efficient, diesel versions are extremely economical and GT trim has just enough extra sportiness to make it feel a bit different to the norm. Volkswagen enhanced this in 2015 with a new R-Line model, which mimicked the style of the Golf R range-topper (but not its engine power).

 

Space and practicality are excellent. Front-seat passengers will have no cause for complaint, there’s plenty of room in the rear and the boot is extremely flexible. It has a good amount of space, but it’s also well shaped to help owners maximise this.

 

To drive, the Golf is a class act. No, it doesn’t slice through corners with quite the verve of a Ford Focus, but it still handles confidently and with precision, while the ride is quiet and supple. There’s plenty of refinement and the Golf is a flawless long-distance cruiser. It’s comfortable as well, with great seats and stable suspension.

 

The Golf still manages to feel that bit more premium than most rivals. Interior plastics are nice to the touch, all the controls and buttons have a precise feel and it really does seem built to last. You’ll sense this from the first time you close the door and hear that reassuring ‘thunk’. You’ll also notice how, on the move, there are no rattles or rumbles.

 

Unusually for a popular model, the mid-life facelift in 2017 was extremely comprehensive, with many nicknaming it the ‘Golf 7.5’. There was a new front end design, overhauled interior and some excellent new engines. This only added to the Golf’s popularity and pushed it further ahead of its rivals. It’s the version you really want, if you’re able – a car so perfectly honed, it sold strongly right up until its replacement in 2020.


If you're looking for the newer version, you need our Volkswagen Golf (2020-) review.


Is the Volkswagen Golf right for you?

There aren’t many people the Golf isn’t right for. The range of engines and model variants is enormous for starters, from 88mpg diesels to 300PS hyper-hatchbacks in the shape of the Volkswagen Golf R. There’s something for everyone, with each one demonstrating the core qualities that help make the Golf so popular. Plus don't forget the Volkswagen Golf GTI.

 

They all feel a cut above the norm, a little more special than the alternatives. Even the most basic Golf will seem right, with fewer of the little irritations you may find in other cars. Volkswagen engineers have spent years ironing out the flaws to make sure there should be few faults with their global best-seller.

 

Yes, the Golf may cost a little bit more than some of the alternatives, but it’s not hard to see why when you get up close. This is why, for many, the Golf is the only family hatch they ever consider.

What’s the best Volkswagen Golf model/engine to choose?

The range of TSI petrol engines are all pretty good. Even the 1.2 TSI is fine, while the 1.4 TSI ACT and 1.5 TSI Evo found in the facelifted Golf (from 2017) are particularly excellent. You’ll be surprised at how much pulling power they have, given their strong real-world fuel economy.

 

The diesel models are, of course, much more fuel efficient, particularly the 1.6 TDI. This isn’t the fastest model against the clock, but performs surprisingly well when cruising, and is perhaps a bit smoother and quieter than the more powerful 2.0 TDI options. Even so, we’d still pick the 2.0 TDI 150 as our best overall choice, thanks to its combination of performance, emissions and economy.

 

As for model trims, we like the later R-Line versions, with their hot hatch-inspired trims, and also suggest looking out for the value-packed Match versions as a step up from the core SE. The base S is rare and, for all the Golf’s inbuilt quality, does seem a little too plain and spartan.

What other cars are similar to the Volkswagen Golf?

There’s plenty of choice in the family hatchback sector. The Ford Focus, for example, is another popular choice, as is the Vauxhall Astra. French alternatives come from the Renault Megane and Peugeot 308, or there’s the Mazda 3, Honda Civic and Toyota Auris from Japan.

 

Some of the most competitive challengers come from the Volkswagen Group itself. The SEAT Leon is basically a Golf underneath, with sportier styling and lower prices. The Skoda Octavia shares underpinnings with the Golf as well, offering even more space and practicality, while the Audi A3 is a premium-priced alternative to the Golf. The BMW 1 Series and Mercedes A-Class are other upmarket alternatives.

Learn more

Volkswagen Golf Front Interior

On the inside

Volkswagen Golf Front Side View

Driving

Volkswagen Golf Rear Side View

How much does it cost to run

Volkswagen Golf Right Side View

Prices, versions and specification