FOR YEARS IT seemed Volkswagen had perfected the family hatchback recipe, as the Golf saw off rival after rival. The current model has been squeezed by the more practical Skoda Octavia and the classier Audi A3, though, so this update is timely. Exterior visual changes are limited to restyled bumpers, new LED head and tail-lights, and Audi-style ‘animated’ indicators which flow in the direction you’re turning.
However, there are bigger changes inside, where there’s now the option of a 9.2in infotainment touchscreen that dominates the dashboard; on the outgoing car the biggest option was a 6.5m screen. The new range-topping system lets you use hand gestures to control the stereo and accept or decline phone calls, a feature that’s previously only been available on BMW’s luxurious 5 Series and 7 Series saloons. You’ll also be able to specify the Golf with Volkswagen’s Active Info Display, which swaps traditional instrument dials for a screen that can be configured to show useful information, such as a sat-nav map.
Since 2012, most Golfs have come with a system that can brake automatically in town if the car in front stops and you don’t notice. Now it can detect pedestrians, too. Combined with Traffic Jam Assist, the updated Golf will follow the car in front, accelerating and braking as needed, and making steering inputs to keep itself in lane. This system works up to speeds of about 37mph.
Under the bonnet
Most of the engines from today’s Golf will be carried over, but the 2017 car will also be the first to get a new turbocharged 1.5-litre petrol. A replacement for today’s 1.4-litre unit, it gets 148bhp and can shut down half of its cylinders when they’re not needed, saving fuel. Shortly after launch, an even more frugal 129bhp Bluemotion version of the 1.5-litre unit will arrive.
There will also be a new mild hybrid powertrain, which has a 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine and is claimed to be capable of 60mpg in real-world driving. Unlike conventional hybrids, which can use petrol or electric power to drive the wheels, mild hybrids have a large starter motor and generator to temporarily assist the engine, giving the car extra pulling power when needed. This system should boost performance and economy without pushing the price up to the level of conventional hybrids.
A facelifted version of the electric e-Golf is due to go on sale at the same time as the regular car. This will get a more advanced battery, extending its range by some 68 miles to around 186 miles in total. Golf buyers who are more interested in speed will still be able to choose from too GTI models: a standard 217bhp version and the 237bhp GTI Performance model.
Price of entry
A small increase on the current entry-level price of £17,625 is expected, but the Golf should still undercut equivalent versions of the rival Audi A3 and BMW 1Series. If its fuel economy and emissions figures are also competitive, the updated Golf will have all the ingredients needed to put it among the best family hatchbacks, although it remains to be seen whether it can replace the Octavia as class leader.