2017 Volkswagen Golf Review (Golf 7.5)

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2017 Volkswagen Golf Review (Golf 7.5)

Overall Rating

0

4.5 out of 5 stars

Rating breakdown
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Safety, value & features

5 out of 5 stars

Comfort & space

4 out of 5 stars

Engine & gearbox

4 out of 5 stars

Ride & handling

5 out of 5 stars

Technology

5 out of 5 stars

Pros & Cons

  1. ProQuality for the price; sharp dynamics; top tech.

  2. ConThe best-equipped Golfs are auto-only.

  3. The Pick: 2017 Volkswagen Golf 110 TSI 5D Hatchback

What stands out?

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Recently facelifted, the Volkswagen Golf is an all-round convincing small hatchback and wagon, combining comfort with rewarding steering and handling. Petrol and diesel Golfs perform strongly, and their turbocharged engines use very little fuel. Options extend to a customisable digital instrument panel. Broadly effective auto braking is standard.

You can also read our review of the very similar Golf 7 that this Golf 7.5 replaced in July 2017.

What might bug me?

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Driving at less than 80km/h on the space-saver spare, until you can fix your full-size flat tyre.

Driving auto Golfs in stop-start traffic. The dual-clutch transmissions fitted to Golf automatics do not provide the fluid, elastic take-up from rest that you get from a traditional automatic gearbox or a CVT.

That Golf owners experienced months of uncertainty after Volkswagen admitted, in September 2015, that it had fitted millions of its diesel cars with devices that could cheat tests for harmful exhaust emissions. The company says all new Golfs comply fully with anti-pollution laws.

What body styles are there?

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Five-door hatchback, and five-door wagon.

The wagon body is about 300mm longer than the hatchback body. Most of the extra length is in the boot, but you get a wee bit more space in the cabin too – and there is an extra 15mm between the front and rear axles.

All Golfs are front-wheel drive. (The Golf GTI is also front-wheel drive, and the Golf R is all-wheel drive. These cars were updated in August 2017, and will be covered in a separate review. There is also a higher-riding Golf Alltrack wagon with all-wheel drive.)

Golfs are classed as small cars, lower priced.

What features do all Volkswagen Golfs have?

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A sound system with an AM/FM radio, a CD player, inputs via Aux, USB and SD card, Bluetooth connectivity for phone calls and audio streaming, and eight speakers, controllable from an 8.0-inch colour touchscreen.

Support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which work with Apple and Android phones. If you plug your phone in through the USB socket, many of its apps – including mapping and music – are mirrored on the touchscreen display and can be controlled from there.

Cruise control, with a speed limiter (you can set an upper limit, to help avoid speeding fines).

Height and reach adjustment for the leather-wrapped steering wheel, from which you can operate the audio system, your phone, a driver-information display on the instrument panel, and the cruise control. Height adjustment for both front seats.

A reversing camera, with guidelines.

Wheels made from aluminium alloy (which are lighter than steel wheels, and look good without plastic trim discs). Anti-theft wheel bolts, and a space-saver spare wheel with speed and distance restrictions.

Tyre pressure sensors. These tell you when a tyre has lost pressure, so that you can stop driving on it and have it repaired before it goes flat.

Daytime running lights that are illuminated by very long-lasting LEDs, and LED tail-lights.

Heated and power-adjustable external mirrors.

Autonomous emergency braking, and a driver fatigue alert.

Seven airbags. Electronic stability control, which can help you recover from a skid. (For the placement of airbags, and more on Golf safety features, please open the Safety section below.)

All Golfs are warrantied for three years, with no limit on kilometres travelled over that period.

Which engine uses least fuel, and why wouldn't I choose it?

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Two engines are available in a Golf, a 1.4-litre turbo petrol and a 2.0-litre turbo diesel, and neither uses much fuel.

On the official test the diesel drinks 10 per cent less fuel than the petrol, consuming about 5.0 litres/100km (city and country combined).

The diesel is a fine engine, and responds to pressure from your right foot with more urgency than the petrol.

One reason not to choose it is that it comes only with the most expensive Golfs, the 110TDI Highline hatchback and wagon. Another might be that it traps exhaust soot in a particulate filter, which will clog if used only for short, low-speed trips about town.

However, the main reason you would not choose the diesel is that the petrol alternative, supplied with 110TSI Golfs, is also a great little engine. It is available in all Golf hatches and wagons, and it returns about 5.5 litres/100km on the test.

The petrol does not feel quite as strong as the diesel when you first press the accelerator, but it develops just as much power if you hold your foot down. There is plenty of thrust for comfortable overtaking and climbs on the highway.

In a petrol Golf you can have a six-speed manual gearbox or a seven-speed DSG automatic. Diesel Golfs are available only with the DSG auto.

The DSG automatic transmission offered with Golfs operates more like a computer-controlled manual gearbox than like a traditional automatic. That fluid, elastic feeling with which a traditional auto moves off from a standstill is missing, replaced by a power take-up that can feel more abrupt - especially if you need to lift off and then reapply power at low speeds.

Once on the move however, DSG shifting is exceptionally smooth and fast – and the design is very fuel-efficient.

(Power outputs and all other Golf specifications are available from the Cars Covered menu, under the main image on this page.)

What key features do I get if I spend more?

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The least costly Golf, the 110TSI, has cloth-covered seats, manually controlled air-conditioning, 16-inch alloy wheels, the petrol engine, and the equipment in every Golf. A manual gearbox is standard, with the auto an extra-cost option. You can get this car only as a hatch.

Spend some more for the 110TSI Trendline and you can have a hatch or a wagon. Headlights switch on by themselves when it’s getting dark, and the windscreen wipers operate automatically when it rains. Front seats can be adjusted for lower-back (lumbar) support. Front and rear parking sensors help you judge your distance from obstacles, and the rear seat has a fold-down centre armrest with cupholders.

Spend more again on a 110TSI Comfortline and you get more appealing cloth trim on the seats, and various cosmetic touches inside that lift the feel of the cabin. There is satellite navigation, which responds to voice commands. Dual-zone climate control maintains independent ventilation temperatures for the driver and front passenger. The wheel diameter rises to 17 inches, and tyres are lower in profile and wider (for marginally more direct steering, and extra grip). Auto transmission is standard (and the only option).

If you want more luxury, you can pay still more for a Golf 110TSI Highline, which gets you leather trim in the cabin, heated and power-adjustable front seats, and a memory for the driver’s seat and exterior mirrors (which makes it easy to restore your adjustments after a companion has driven the car). You can unlock your Golf Highline and drive away without removing its proximity key from your pocket or bag. Headlights use very bright and long-lasting LEDs, and a powered glass sunroof can help you enjoy the car on fine days.

At extra cost, you can have a similarly equipped Golf 110TDI Highline, which brings you the stronger and more frugal diesel engine.

Optional on all Trendline, Comfortline and Highline Golfs is a $1500 Driver Assistance Package that brings several active driver aids. Perhaps chief among these is Adaptive cruise control, which will slow you automatically to match the speed of a car ahead on the highway – resuming your pre-set speed when the way is clear. You also get lane-keeping assistance, a blind-spot monitor, and a rear cross-traffic alert, among other features.

An Infotainment Package available on Comfortline and Highline Golfs expands the central touchscreen to 9.2 inches (with control by gesture available), and supplies a more powerful sound system with bass-boosting sub-woofer. It also substitutes a digital display for the conventional dials in the instrument binnacle behind the steering wheel – which permits you to emphasise the information you need most, and customise its presentation.

An R-Line Package available only to Golf Highline customers gets you 18-inch wheels, firmer suspension, progressive speed-sensitive steering, tinted windows, and sportier aesthetics inside and out.

Does any upgrade have a down side?

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The 18-inch wheels that come with the extra-cost R-Line package look great, but their lower profile tyres give a rougher ride and they may cost more to replace.

The only standard colour is white. All others are extra-cost options.

How comfortable is the Volkswagen Golf?

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In many areas the Golf is the best small hatch for the money, and those areas include interior quality and equipment. Even the least costly version makes a good impression, with an ergonomically excellent steering wheel, wrapped in leather, and classy cabin design.

The Golf driving position does not follow the typical small hatch pattern of favouring those with short legs and long arms, and the front compartment offers a comfortable place for driver and passenger alike. Second-row comfort and space, while not quite as generous as in some other small cars, are enough to keep most adults happy.

About town, the Golf is a breeze to drive with smooth, light steering and a good view of surroundings from the driver’s seat. The auto-braking that now comes with all Golfs cuts the risk of nose-to-tail collisions – which your insurer may thank you for in a reduced premium.

Opt for the Infotainment Package and the bigger 9.2-inch touchscreen looks luxurious and is easier to use than the standard 8.0-inch unit. It is complemented by a 12-inch digital instrument cluster, the Active Info Display, which can also show navigation instructions – so that you don’t have to look across to the touchscreen.

Cabin noise levels are about the same as in many other small cars – although they are higher on coarse surfaces if you option R-Line trim with its bigger wheels. Engine noise is low, which helps you relax in the cabin when cruising.

There is enough power for making decent progress in most driving situations – all petrol Golfs now have the stronger engine that had been available only in the more expensive of the superseded Golf 7s.

While the dual-clutch transmission lends itself well to enthusiastic driving, it may seem a little aggressive when you are manoeuvring at low speeds.

What about safety in a Golf?

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Every Golf comes with anti-lock brakes, stability control, seven airbags, tyre pressure monitors, a reversing camera, LED daytime running lights, auto emergency braking, and a driver fatigue monitor.

That is a first-class package for a popular small car, enhancing safety on many fronts.

The airbags are in the usual places: two directly in front of the driver and passenger; a third protecting the driver’s knees; an airbag outside each front occupant at chest level to protect from side impacts; and a curtain airbag extending down each side of the car at head level, protecting front and rear occupants from side impacts.

The standard auto-braking on a Golf operates at city and highway speeds, Volkswagen says. The radar-based system scans the road ahead for obstacles, warns you of potential collisions, and can apply the brakes automatically if it concludes a collision is imminent.

Called Front Assist and City Emergency Brake, the auto-braking works in two stages. At speeds under 30km/h, it will initiate a full emergency stop should you ignore its collision warning. At higher speeds it will follow audible and visible warnings with a jolt from the brakes – implying it is time you started braking yourself. Should you ignore that, it will brake automatically with the aim of quickly reducing your speed.

The standard fatigue alert assesses your work on the steering wheel, warning you if you show signs of falling asleep.

To most Golfs you can add at extra cost a Driver Assistance Package that gets you Adaptive cruise control and three more sensor-based driver aids: lane-keeping assistance, a blind-spot monitor, and a rear cross-traffic alert.

Lane Assist uses a camera-type sensor to check your position on the highway in relation to road markings. If it concludes you are about to drift into an adjacent lane, it will attempt to gently steer you out of trouble – also vibrating the steering wheel to wake you up if required. The point is to help you keep your mind on the job of driving, reducing the risk from distraction or fatigue.

The blind-spot monitor and rear cross-traffic alert look rearward. The former effectively extends the range of your mirrors, helping you keep track of traffic near your rear corners. The latter is helpful when you are attempting to reverse blindly from a car-park: it warns you if another vehicle is heading your way from the side.

The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) has awarded the Golf its maximum safety score of five stars, most recently in July 2017.

I like driving - will I enjoy this car?

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For the enthusiastic driver, the Golf offers one of the most rewarding chassis and suspension set ups available in a popular small car. Steering is precise and communicative, and roadholding inspires confidence – thanks largely to a well-designed, independent, rear suspension. Body-roll is minimal.

Even though the ride is on the firm side for a car of this type, the Golf remains forgiving on bumpy roads.

Both engines are very drivable, with the diesel having the edge for response. Even petrol Golfs feel quicker than their performance figures suggest, however, thanks to the engine’s turbocharged swell of power at first asking.

The Golf’s good if not outstanding ability to gather speed is balanced by its lively dynamics. There are more powerful small cars available, but if that’s what you want then Volkswagen would suggest the Golf’s more expensive and sporty GTI sibling.

When you’re not out hunting for twisty country roads, the Golf is also a satisfying car to live with day to day. You can appreciate the fine styling and general quality even when it is parked on the driveway.

How is life in the rear seats?

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Some other small hatchbacks and wagons offer more room in the back, but the Golf here remains pleasant and practical and has enough headroom and leg room for adults.

Wide-opening doors make life easier for loading kids and cargo.

Isofix child seat anchors are provided, as well as conventional seatbelts for up to three rear passengers.

Some hatchbacks inhibit vision out for children with a rising window-line. The Golf in contrast offers a decent side-view, which will keep kids happier on long drives, without compromising the generally appealing exterior look.

How is it for carrying stuff?

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Golf hatchbacks offer 380 litres of cargo space behind the rear seats, which is quite a lot for a car of this type – more than the Mazda3 and Subaru Impreza hatches, for example, and about the same as a Toyota Corolla. Fold the 60-40 split seats and quoted capacity rises to 1270 litres.

The longer wagon lets you squeeze in a lot more, with a 605-litre boot that expands to 1620 litres.

There are hooks in the boot for tying down your load. The boot floor height can be adjusted: the taller setting eases unloading, while the lower lets you get more stuff in.

Petrol Golfs can legally tow a braked trailer weighing up to 1500kg, and diesels 1600kg. All Golf wagons also come with factory-fitted roof bars, which make it easy to add roof racks or storage pods.

Where does Volkswagen make the Golf?

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All Golf 7.5s sold in Australia are made in Germany.

What might I miss that similar cars have?

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Not much. The Golf is well specified for a car at its price level.

While you might not miss it, you can have more power in a small car for about the same money. Examples include the Hyundai i30 SR, the Ford Focus and the Holden Astra.

If you would like more power in a Volkswagen Golf (for more money), you might consider the Golf GTI or Golf R.

If instead you would like your Golf to do better on gravel roads, there is the Golf Alltrack – which rides higher and drives all four wheels.

The Subaru Impreza also drives all four wheels (as does its taller twin the Subaru XV) .

Among many other small cars you might consider are the Mazda3, Honda Civic, Skoda Octavia, and Kia Cerato.

I like this car, but I can't choose which version. Can you help?

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Often if you fix upon the least costly car in a model range, you come up short on basic equipment – equipment which then tempts you from the options list.

That’s not so likely with this car: the Golf 110TSI is a tidy package off the shelf. Power is the same as any other petrol Golf. And you can have a manual gearbox or (at extra cost) auto.

That said, at the other end of the price range a Golf Highline is also very appealing. And even if you add to it the R-Line and Infotainment packs, you’ll pay about as much as you would spend for the cheapest Audi A3.

So it is hard to go wrong with a Golf – at either end of the price range, or in the middle.

Are there plans to update the Golf soon?

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No – it has just been updated. The current Golf, which Volkswagen calls the Golf 7.5, arrived in July 2017. It is a facelifted Golf 7 with a revised (and reduced) range of engines, bigger touchscreens, and extended options and driver aids.

Its predecessor, the Golf 7 (denoting the seventh generation), went on sale in 2013. An update that arrived in the third quarter of 2015 brought slightly more power to the 1.4-litre petrol engines, with matching changes to the model names: the 90TSI gained 2kW and became the 92TSI, while the 103TSI gained 7kW and was renamed the 110TSI. That update also equipped the Golfs with new touchscreens, better multimedia features (including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto), and more equipment on some models.

Updates for the Golf GTI and Golf R arrived about the middle of August 2017.

Expect a new-generation Golf 8 about 2020