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The King of Nothing

The new VW Golf in the test: the best Golf so far – or the best Golf of all time?

From the outside, the new Golf looks a bit slimmer, it is slightly flatter and 2.6 cm longer. Inside it looks even tidier thanks to digital operation.

Image: Volkswagen

What makes a VW Golf: Nothing.

Nothing disturbs, nothing annoys and nothing is missing. The compact car classic from Wolfsburg has earned this reputation over 46 years and eight vehicle generations. And: The Golf has never disappointed. Each stage of evolution came a step closer to perfection – and in its time it was always the car that set the benchmark in its class. But in recent years, the Golf has come under increasing pressure. After 41 uninterrupted years at the top, in 2017 it lost its crown as the best-selling car in Switzerland to the Skoda Octavia. In the final calculation for 2019, he even slipped to third place, behind the VW Tiguan SUV. And the future for the Golf doesn’t look much rosier either: VW wants to gradually switch to e-mobility. The first e-car designed as such from the ground up, the ID.3, will roll out this year and entice buyers away from the Golf, as it will be in the same size and price league. With a purely electric drive, the ID.3 has the best cards for a future in times of ever stricter CO2 guidelines. As early as the end of 2018, VW chief strategist Michael Jost predicted an end for the classic Golf as we currently know it. The goals of the Paris climate agreement can only be achieved if there are no more cars with internal combustion engines on the roads in 2050. VW therefore expects to sell the last combustion engines around 2040. “In 2026, the last platform that cannot generate CO2-neutral vehicles will have its final production start,” he said. If you assume that the new Golf 8, like its predecessor, will be built again for around seven years, it could well be tight for a ninth Golf edition. So generation eight has to prove that the Golf is anything but a discontinued model. A lot has been done to keep the Golf up to date, which is evident at first glance. The compact car looks much more resolute thanks to sharper LED lights. The front is flatter and more closed; the air intakes have been reduced in size and better concealed. This reduces air resistance – and looks as if the Golf wants to move closer to the e-cars on the market.

The King of Nothing-king

10 images

The King of Nothing-king

The King of Nothing-king

The King of Nothing-king

The King of Nothing-king

The King of Nothing-king

The King of Nothing-king

The King of Nothing-king

The King of Nothing-king

The King of Nothing-king

Image: Volkswagen

Digital and clear

The interior has been renewed more radically than the exterior. The Golf is now completely digital, but fortunately remains a real Golf. That means: Get in and drive off. All controls are perfectly at hand, operation is logical and well thought out, there are no puzzles. This applies in particular to the new infotainment system with a touchscreen mounted comfortably high on the dashboard. The menus are logically structured, and operation is hardly any different from that of a smartphone. The only downside: The touch-sensitive volume control mounted directly under the display is easy to use unintentionally. Why is this little thing worth mentioning? Because it shows how far you have to go into detail to even find any points of criticism about the new Golf.

Solid on the road

The first impression of the cockpit matches the driving impression: the new Golf is convincing, but not surprising. Wind and road noise are not disturbing, the car keeps its course stoically, and the chassis is balanced. A car can hardly accompany you through everyday life more inconspicuously – after all, that has always been the core competence of a VW Golf. Under the hood, too, everything is largely the same as you know it from the classic: A pure combustion engine is still at work here; VW will submit two plug-in hybrid versions later this year. The test car uses a 1.5-liter petrol engine, which was trained to save fuel thanks to the mild hybrid system and cylinder deactivation. Together with the 7-speed DSG automatic, the drive does not appear overly lively, but it is confident, unobtrusive and civilized. This also applies to consumption. According to the WLTP measurement, it should be 5.6 l/100 km, in the test the Golf even slightly undercut this value with 5.4 l/100 km. Why the fuel consumption is so low is explained relatively quickly when driving. When driving constantly, two cylinders are often switched off, which the driver only notices because a small indicator on the speedometer display indicates this. If you take your foot off the gas, the engine switches itself off completely, while the mild hybrid energy storage system ensures that the air conditioning, brakes and steering continue to function. You can drive surprisingly long distances, especially across country and in towns, without having to tap the tank – assuming you drive with foresight. Of course, the assistance systems also help; the Golf shows early on when there are crossings, roundabouts, speed limits or tight bends, so that the car can roll out early. If the cruise control is active, the electronics do this automatically. However, this does not always work correctly. A flaw that VW could fix remotely with a software update. Here, too, the new Golf is contemporary.

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