While the dashboard represents a major departure on past models, the driving position and overall interior packaging is familiar. The front seats provide a good amount of lateral support, and the driver benefits from a wide range of steering wheel and seat adjustment.
The most powerful of the new Golf’s mild hybrid drivetrains, the 1.5 eTSI driven here, distinguishes itself with inherently effective properties that should ensure it finds favour among traditional petrol engine car buyers and diesel stalwarts.
With 148bhp at 5000rpm, the turbocharged 1.5-litre four-cylinder unit isn’t exactly brimming with energy. However, it is remarkably smooth and revs freely to the 6400rpm cut-out, endowing the new Golf with a moderately sporting performance when you dial up the sport mode. In everyday driving, though, there’s no need to work it hard, because with 184lb ft of torque available from 1500rpm it delivers a good amount of mid-range urge.
The seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox boasts improved step off qualities, while the latest petrol-electric powerplant propels the new Golf from 0-62mph in a claimed 8.5sec, with a top speed of 139mph. By comparison, the non-electrified 1.5 TSI model it replaces boasted figures of 8.7sec and 135mph. The 48-volt belt-driven starter motor brings additional functions, including brake energy recuperation, a coasting function and a more immediate stop/start system.
There’s a persuasive maturity to the on-road characteristics of the latest Golf, whose handling is distinguished by its progressiveness, balance and accuracy. The new model is noticeably more direct in its actions than before. This might surprise those coming from the comparatively relaxed confines of the seventh-generation model, but for enthusiast drivers it makes for a more compelling car – one with the dynamic ability to firmly challenge the likes of the Ford Focus, Seat Leon and Mazda 3 in the driving stakes.
Wolfsburg would have you believe it is all-new underneath. However, the latest Golf is based around a carry-over platform and chassis. Lower end models continue to receive a MacPherson strut (front) and torsion beam (rear) suspension, while upper-end models, including this 1.5 eTSI, run a more sophisticated combination of MacPherson struts (front) and multi-links (rear).
All models receive passive dampers as standard, though as with its predecessor the new Golf works best with the optional continuously variable dampers, which come as part of the Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC). That also features a driver profile system with four modes: Eco, Comfort, Sport and Individual.
We’re yet to sample the standard fixed-ratio steering, but progressive steering system fitted our test car proved nicely weighted, wonderfully precise and quite predictable in its actions. The new Golf communicates with greater feel and boasts faster reactions than before, especially in the initial degrees of lock.
It might not deliver the overall feedback of some key competitors but it is meticulously accurate and always dependable, allowing you to confidently place it at the entry to corners. Turn-in on a trailing throttle and you discover excellent body control with progressive movement as lateral forces build before the fast-acting steering allows you to feed off the lock at the exit. On the right road, it is never anything less than entertaining.
When fitted with the optional continuously variable dampers, the ride is brilliantly controlled. Quick reactions and excellent absorption properties help to moderate bump shock and quell vertical movement before it has a chance to build on more challenging road surfaces. There is genuine compliance and subtlety to the way the suspension soaks up bumps and maintains its ride height, leading to a relaxed and settled feel in Comfort mode.