A Golf. Short of needing seven seats or some genuine off-road ability, those two words can answer just about any car requirement you care to throw our way.
Stratospheric mpg from an unashamedly prosaic hatchback? Buy the diesel BlueMotion. Tech-heavy hybrid to coo over and feel environmentally cocksure about? Try the GTE. Serious track-day toy that will genuinely thrill? The GTI Clubsport S (a real 2016 highlight) has got that covered.
And among all of those, there’s a crossovery estate, a high-rise mini-MPV and a 4WD hyper-hatch that quite a lot of us would have over a Ford Focus RS.
The one we’re focusing on here, though, the one car that’s the answer to any sensible question you care to ask, is probably the least glamorous: the 1.0-litre TSI petrol. Its engine possesses just 999cc and three cylinders, but as is so often the way with these little turbocharged triples, it’s the pick of the range if you don’t cover 20,000 miles a year or frequently buy multi-lap passes for the Nürburgring.
Not that it would entirely shame itself there: the engine makes 113bhp and 148lb ft, ample to move a 1.2-tonne hatchback. A 9.7-second 0-62mph time should suit most people. The uneven cylinder count means it produces a charismatic noise, too, if not one as aurally appealing as a Clubsport S at full pelt. Perhaps more key is that it’s serenely quiet at a cruise and doesn’t groan like a strained, underused bicep when worked hard. Combined 65mpg fuel economy and 99g/km of C02 emissions are also uncommonly good for a car powered by petrol. If VW’s recent past has you rolling your eyes, then even our lead feet had the trip meter reading mpg in the 50s. And that C02 figure exempts you from road tax.
Still need convincing a reasonably sized car can survive with such a weeny-sized engine? Trust us, it’s the best of all worlds option. The turbocharger ensures adequate speed, the small cylinder count brings diesel economy without the smelly refuelling or agricultural cold starts, and the three-cans-of-Coke size means a nice, light blob of mechanicals up front. Which in turn means the sharpest steering Golf without a GTI or R badge.