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    Volkswagen Golf 2022 review: 110TSI

    Sleeker lines improve aerodynamics, but dimensionally the latest VW Golf is identical to before (image: Byron Mathioudakis).

    Daily driver score

    3.5/5

    Urban score

    3.5/5
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    If you think about new cars that transcend wealth, status, class and other human societal constructs of debatable merit, then the Volkswagen Golf is now the most affordable. Certainly, since the short-sighted, tragic axing of the Honda Jazz in Australia.

    Young or old, rich or poor, left or right… new or used, it fits in.

    But will the Golf survive the exodus to crossovers and SUVs? Some pundits say the latest Mk8 may even be the final iteration as we know it, surpassed by the related Tiguan as VW’s global bestseller and squeezed out by increasingly popular electric vehicles in Europe like Peugeot’s e-208.

    That’s progress: The Golf usurped that mainstay of mid-20th Century streetscapes, the Beetle nearly 50 years ago. That’s why we have the cheapest version currently available in Australia to see how it copes in the urban environment that it has come to help define and prosper in on and off since then.

    Does the latest Golf meet expectations? Is it still the standard in which all small cars should be based on? And is it even relevant anymore? The results may surprise and even shock you.

    Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

    Let’s say you bought a new base Golf 110TSI DSG three years ago, from $26,490 before on-road costs. Warranty’s almost up, best to replace it, time for the new version.

    But the world's changed markedly even since just 2018.

    The reality is, priced from $31,950 before on-road costs, the least-expensive 2021 Golf automatic is no longer the Toyota Corolla, Hyundai i30 and Mazda3 competitor it’s been since the latter 2000s. The cheapest Mk8 – simply referred to as ‘Golf’ – illustrates this perfectly.

    The 2021 Golf automatic is priced from $31,950 before on-road costs (image: Byron Mathioudakis). The 2021 Golf automatic is priced from $31,950 before on-road costs (image: Byron Mathioudakis).

    Here are some items that its nearest-priced and fiercest rival in Australia, the Mazda3 in mid-grade G20 Touring auto from $30,790, offers… and for $1160 less to boot: auto high beams, head-up display, traffic sign recognition, satellite navigation, digital radio, leather upholstery, powered driver’s seat with lumbar support, keyless entry, rear centre armrest, rear cupholders, power-folding mirrors and 18-inch alloys. For most of this stuff you’ll need to stretch to the $34,250 Golf Life. In fact, the first five items are in the base Mazda3 G20 Pure auto from $26,590.

    And while the Golf strikes back with higher torque figures (from a carryover 110TSI 1.4-litre turbo petrol engine but all-new auto transmission), multi-link rather than torsion beam rear suspension, automatic parking assist, front parking sensors, traffic assist (that works with the adaptive cruise control for smoother progress in slow-moving congested conditions), driver fatigue monitor and front cross-traffic alert, the last four items are part of a $1500 option pack in the Mazda3 that also includes a 360-degree view camera.

    Standard features include LED headlights (image: Byron Mathioudakis). Standard features include LED headlights (image: Byron Mathioudakis).

    Plus, if extra grunt’s your thing, the latter’s bigger-engined G25 Evolve from $31,190 also fits the bill.

    Mid-grade versions of other popular small hatchbacks, including the i30, Corolla, Kia Cerato, Ford Focus and Subaru Impreza, also shade the comparatively bare Golf for standard features.

    So, what does the base Golf bring to the table? On the safety front, lots, like eight airbags (dual front, front side, rear side and curtain), Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) with pedestrian and cyclist monitoring, adaptive cruise control with stop/go functionality, lane assist, oncoming-vehicle braking when turning, driver fatigue detection, front/rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitor, driver-fatigue detection, rear view camera, front/rear sensors and tyre-pressure alert, along with anti-lock brakes, emergency brake assist, electronic stability control, traction control, hill-start assist and multi-collision braking. Top marks there, VW.

    The Golf has an 8.2-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (image: Byron Mathioudakis). The Golf has an 8.2-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (image: Byron Mathioudakis).

    Standard features include LED headlights, three-zone climate control air-conditioning, digital instrumentation, paddle shifters, an 8.2-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity, Bluetooth audio and telephone, four USB-C ports (not USB-A), dusk-sensing headlights, rain-sensing wipers, electric mirrors with reverse tilt-down function, automatic parking, push-button start, remote-capable power windows and 16-inch alloys.

    Metallic paint costs between $600 and $900 depending on type.

    On this evidence, then, the base Golf is strong on safety but weaker on some convenience and comfort items that you’d expect in a European car costing around $35K driveaway. Maybe the VW can claw back lost ground in other areas.

    Is there anything interesting about its design?

    VW’s conservatism is certainly interesting. After eight distinct iterations since 1974, is this the zenith of evolutionary automotive design? No other model in history has had more reinventions, not even the Porsche 911.

    The droopy headlights and underbite front bumper lack the elegance of some preceding efforts (image: Byron Mathioudakis). The droopy headlights and underbite front bumper lack the elegance of some preceding efforts (image: Byron Mathioudakis).

    Finished in fetching Dolphin Grey and sitting on attractive Norfolk 16-inch alloys, the eighth-generation version of the famous German small car presents clean, classy and contemporary lines that are, of course, unmistakably Golf.

    Is it as timelessly handsome as the Mk7 Golf unveiled in late 2012? Only in 2030 can we say for sure, but for now, the droopy headlights, underbite front bumper and heavy-handed rear-end treatments lack the elegance of some preceding efforts.

    Fear not, though, because those classic Golf proportions pay dividends inside.

    How practical is the space inside?

    Very.

    Transmission apart, the most dramatic departure for the Australian-bound base Golf is the electrification of the dashboard.

    Gone is the conservative yet dignified look of the older version, for a modish, layered, screen-heavy design that is both inspiring and a little underwhelming also, raising a question that shouldn’t be ignored: is there too much digitisation for the Golf’s own good?

    The most dramatic departure for the Australian-bound base Golf is the electrification of the dashboard (image: Byron Mathioudakis). The most dramatic departure for the Australian-bound base Golf is the electrification of the dashboard (image: Byron Mathioudakis).

    Positives first. Entry and egress are easy, into a big, bright and airy interior for a hatch of this size. In this regard nothing’s different. The 2636mm wheelbase is more or less the same as before. Deep windows and commanding seating equal lots of airy lightness and atmosphere – it’s especially inviting after the high-waisted claustrophobic cabins of rivals, not least the latest Mazda3.

    The front seats are aesthetically nothing special – and indeed, for a $32K car, we expect lumbar adjustment for the driver’s side – though, for grip and location, they do their job just fine. For more bolstered and supportive ‘comfort’ buckets, you’ll need to get a Life.

    However, backed by confidence-building good all-round vision, the driving position is exceptional, aided by a reach/height-adjustable flat-bottomed and leather-wrapped steering wheel that certainly plays up to the Golf’s premium aspirations. VW has judged the size and placement of the instrument panel, multimedia display, air vents, major controls, cupholders and storage choices extremely thoughtfully. It’s all fresh and exciting to behold, from the nuggety little shifter to the silken feel of the stalks and switchgear. What’s left of them, that is.

    The front seats are aesthetically nothing special but they do their job just fine (image: Byron Mathioudakis). The front seats are aesthetically nothing special but they do their job just fine (image: Byron Mathioudakis).

    We also like the look and layout of the centre console bisecting the front seats, the fabric, materials and textures on the dash, doors and ceiling, and the overall quality ambience permeating the whole cabin. Storage is well catered for, with a big glovebox, flocked door bins and a small but deep central bin-cum-adjustable-armrest. Typical Golf.  

    That said, there are some surprising lapses of judgment in the interior detailing.

    Instrumentation first: the old-fashioned analogue speedo/tacho dials flanking a central digital display are out, replaced by a big display that promises endless exciting layout permutations as per the related Audi Virtual Cockpit presentation.

    Storage is well catered for and there's a quality ambience permeating the whole cabin (image: Byron Mathioudakis). Storage is well catered for and there's a quality ambience permeating the whole cabin (image: Byron Mathioudakis).

    Don’t get too excited in this entry-level grade, though, because what you get instead is a big digital speedo, centrally located, with a choice of digitised dials to surround it – analogue-like speedo or tacho (but not both at the same time), while on either side of that there are screens to display important data. These include consumption, driving time/distance, average speed, fuel gauge (despite there being a permanent strip item below), assist systems, operating temps (in numbered values that only serve to alarm as you don’t know whether ‘90ºC is high or low), audio, telephone, time, settings or ‘off’ info. It’s all there, but the effect looks too basic for the price.

    Other gripes include some scattered climate control switchgear, the fact that you need to press a touchscreen menu button to change some of the ventilation controls, occasional lag between screens, and the fact that things that were once there are hidden. Just try finding the trip meter quickly. Fiddly and distracting – not a safe outcome.

    Plus, there are no USB-A outlets whatsoever (a pair of USB-C live under the front console) and, most disappointingly, we experienced wearisome road and tyre noise (the latter being eco-focused Goodyear Efficient Grip 205/55R16). Why is this afflicting the Golf now, after generations of lording it over all others for refinement? Have cost/quality corners been cut? In the base car, the evidence suggests so.

    The fixed rear seats are tailored for their use as a smaller family car (image: Byron Mathioudakis). The fixed rear seats are tailored for their use as a smaller family car (image: Byron Mathioudakis).

    Much the same applies out back. Rear-seat access is OK, with that sense of airy spaciousness continuing, but – again – the net effect is patchy.

    We like the sense of space, with plenty of it for heads, knees, legs, big feet under the front seats and shoulders, except if you’re a larger person stuck in the centre.

    The fixed rear seats, meanwhile, are tailored for their use as a smaller family car. The backrests are reclined at a perfect angle, the cushions are raised but also well padded, and the bases keep you snug and supported – well, the outboard ones do at least. The middle position is never ideal, but in this case it benefits from the lack of fold-down centre armrest.

    There are a huge pair of directional air vents with unique lockable temperature controls (ranging from a low of 16ºC to 30ºC), deep door pockets capable of holding a medium-sized water bottle, grab handles, one-touch power windows (that go almost all the way down, too), coat hooks, reading lights and another pair of USB-C ports to plug in to as well. More famous Golf packaging smarts.

    The large, long and deep boot floor, offers 374 litres of space (image: Byron Mathioudakis). The large, long and deep boot floor, offers 374 litres of space (image: Byron Mathioudakis).

    But, despite these, it feels fairly basic back there, with that AWOL centre armrest, no map pockets or cupholders, while it’s even louder than ever for a modern VW. At least, like the rest of the car, the Golf seems well made and screwed together (in Germany).

    Further back, it’s back to big old practicality, thanks to a low loading lip, wide aperture and large, long and deep boot floor, offering a Mazda3-obliterating 374 litres with backrests erect (versus the latter’s 295L), or 1230L with them folded forward. A space-saver spare wheel lives beneath the cargo area, and it’s all pleasingly finished and topped by a sturdy cover.

    Overall, then, the Golf 8’s interior is big, roomy and delightfully detailed as always, but the move to simplify through digitalisation has come at a cost of, ironically, ease, along with functionality and convenience.

    With the backseats folded forward, the space opens up to 1230L (image: Byron Mathioudakis). With the backseats folded forward, the space opens up to 1230L (image: Byron Mathioudakis).

    Unless glossy screens are your thing. In which case, the Haval Jolion we’ve tested since does the that somewhat more effectively.

    What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

    A carryover from the Mk7, the Golf is powered by a 1395cc, 1.4-litre, direct-injection, double overhead cam, 16-valve, turbo-charged four-cylinder petrol engine, delivering 110W of power at 5000rpm and 250Nm of torque between 1500-4000rpm. That power maximum means it’s also known as the 110TSI.

    Using VW’s stated tare weight of 1304kg, the Golf’s power-to-weight ratio is 84kW/tonne, or 82kW if we guestimate a 1344kg kerb weight. That puts it about on a par with the Mazda3’s 114kW 2.0L outputs but far behind the similarly-priced, i30 N-Line’s 150kW 1.6L turbo alternative’s 104kW/tonne.

    The Golf is powered by a turbo-charged four-cylinder petrol engine (image: Byron Mathioudakis). The Golf is powered by a turbo-charged four-cylinder petrol engine (image: Byron Mathioudakis).

    VW’s older engine has been chosen over the more-advanced 1.5-litre Evo equivalents offered elsewhere in the world, which VW attributes to Australia’s inconsistent fuel quality as well as our lower emissions standards requirements.

    Also ditched is VW’s well-known dual clutch transmission (DCT), dubbed DSG. In comes an Aisin-supplied, eight-speed torque-converter automatic, joining other stablemates like the Skoda Karoq and Skoda Octavia.

    Sending drive to the front wheels only, this transmission includes paddle shifters, in lieu of a tip-shift lever as found in previous Golfs. Unlike higher-spec grades, the cheapest new Golf no longer offers a ‘Sport’ driving mode either.

    Though perhaps intimidating at first glance, the space-saving fly-by-wire shift nub’s action soon becomes second nature. Just remember to press ‘P’ for park when you’re done driving.

    For some buyers, the move away from a DCT is good news, as there has been much bad publicity over the years about the reliability, longevity, smoothness and cost of these types of transmissions as they age. A Japanese transmission, on the other hand, may be far more reassuring. Golf 8s with the 110TSI engine have it. GTIs do not, in favour of the seven-speed wet-clutch DSG unit that carries over from the Mk7.5 version of the hot hatch.  

    But we fear the 110TSI's move to torque converter has come at a cost in other ways... 

    How much fuel does it consume?

    Over mostly inner-urban as well as some rural driving roads, we averaged a disappointing 10.3 litres per 100km at the pump – well under the 5.8L/100km official combined figure (which equates to a carbon dioxide emissions figure of 132 grams/km) and 7.2L/100km urban average (for 163g/km). The trip computer’s long-term average read 7.8L/100km.

    The engine’s emissions standard is Euro-6 rated, and is equipped with stop-start functionality to help save petrol.

    Our fuel consumption figure is substantially higher than what we have managed in previous Golfs with the 1395cc 1.4L turbo engine. Is it the switch from the old DCT to the torque-converter auto?

    We averaged a disappointing 10.3 litres per 100km at the pump – well under the 5.8L/100km combined average (image: Byron Mathioudakis). We averaged a disappointing 10.3 litres per 100km at the pump – well under the 5.8L/100km combined average (image: Byron Mathioudakis).

    It must be pointed out that our particular example arrived with just 753km on the odometer, so was very new and tight. Higher mileages should improve the economy significantly. We hope.

    Anyway, using the official combined consumption figure of 5.8L/100km, expect the Golf to exceed 860km, thanks to a 50L fuel tank. Speaking of which, come refill time, the new Golf aligns with most current models by requiring premium unleaded petrol of at least 95 RON.

    What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

    Here's one area where the latest VW shines brightly.

    Tested in late 2019, the Golf achieved a five-star ANCAP crash-test rating. It scored especially high for adult occupant protection (95 per cent), as well as a commendable 89 per cent for child occupant protection.

    On the safety front, you’ll find eight airbags (dual front, front side, rear side and curtain), AEB (operable between 6km/h and 250km/h) with pedestrian and cyclist monitoring (operable between 6–85km/h), adaptive cruise control with stop/go functionality, lane support systems (between 60-250km/h), oncoming-vehicle braking when turning, driver fatigue detection, front/rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitor, driver-fatigue detection, rear view camera, front/rear sensors and tyre-pressure alert.

    These are on top of the ABS anti-lock brakes, emergency brake assist, electronic stability control, traction control, hill-start assist and multi-collision braking.

    Safety features include a rear view camera (image: Byron Mathioudakis). Safety features include a rear view camera (image: Byron Mathioudakis).

    However, for auto high beams, Emergency Assist (which automatically contacts services in the event of airbag deployment) and Exit Warning System (to help stop dooring cyclists when alighting from the vehicle), you’ll need to step up to the more expensive grades.

    Two rear-seat ISOFIX points as well as three top tethers for straps are fitted.

    What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

    Volkswagen offers a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty and one year’s worth of roadside assistance.

    Service intervals are at 12 months or 15,000km. This is all standard fare nowadays, but behind the industry best (Mitsubishi’s conditional 10-year warranty and seven years for Kia, Haval, SsangYong and MG).

    No capped price servicing is available, though buyers can choose to purchase a Care Plan at $1100 for three years of pre-paid servicing, or $1900 for five years.

    What's it like to drive around town?

    The Mk8 Golf doesn’t just look similar to the vaunted Mk7; its MQB modular transverse architecture – including the MacPherson struts front end and aforementioned multi-link rear suspension – are essentially carryover items. Additionally, most measurements are near-enough identical. But all this doesn’t mean new drives exactly like old.

    As we said before, the eight-speed auto is the biggest change from a driveability point of view. Our verdict is that – around town at least – the highs aren’t as high as the old DCT set-up, but there are also a couple of unexpected lows.

    Put your foot down and response is instant and urgent – almost to the point of overwhelming the front wheels over damp surfaces – with performance building quickly from there. The 110TSI punches hard and fast, feeling far livelier than its diminutive capacity suggests.

    The steering is equally eager and responsive yet super-easy around town (image: Byron Mathioudakis). The steering is equally eager and responsive yet super-easy around town (image: Byron Mathioudakis).

    This is great around town, especially in the dry, where the VW literally darts in and out of traffic gaps without lag or hesitation. It’s a rorty and sporty little mover. Factor in the commanding driving position, deep windows and big mirrors, and the German hatch feels right at home in the big city. Easy to park as well as a pleasure to scoot about.

    However, while the steering is equally eager and responsive yet super-easy around town, the latest Golf has lost something – that Teflon-like slickness that absolutely informed everything that made the Mk7 one of the great cars of the 2010s. The suspension isn’t great at dealing with small bumps, feeling a bit stiff and even jittery at times, as if a degree of suppleness has been dialled out of the dampers. Bigger humps are managed OK, conversely, which underlines the solid structural integrity of the architecture as a whole.

    Question marks also hang over the new Golf’s refinement, as there is just too much noise coming through inside. We don’t know whether the VW has taken a step backwards or the competition has caught up in the interim, but this base grade at least seems to linger behind class leaders like the Mazda3 and (outgoing) Peugeot 308 in this regard. This is in stark contrast to the 7’s boundary-redefining civility, especially in the early days.

    Where the Golf absolutely shines is out on the open road, due to a magnificent chassis that elevates the German hatch to the apex of small-car dynamics.

    Though the steering is a tad light for keener drivers, it provides superb poise and control, meaning that the VW glides through tight corners and wide bends alike with breathless confidence. Furthermore, it feels lithe and agile, like a car far smaller and lighter than its overall size suggests. Solid yet brilliantly athletic.

    Here the Golf shows palpable progress over its already-leading predecessor, but – just like around town – there are signs of shortcuts going on here too; road noise is all-too noticeable over some surfaces; the ride lacks the smooth polish of past models and the old vault-like cabin isolation just isn't present anymore... not in the cheapest version, anyway.

    Our only thoughts are that – being a base grade – there just isn’t the sound-deadening measures fitted. A CX-30 also in our charge the same week was noticeably quieter and smoother over the same test route. A Mazda quieter than a VW? What Freaky Friday shenanigans is this?

    Good but no longer the greatest around town, yet incredibly fit and fast on the open road; this sums up how the cheapest new Golf auto behaves.

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    Expectation management is required to appreciate the cheapest version of the latest VW Golf.

    Its direct predecessor rewrote the small-car rules for the most part of a decade, particularly for refinement, efficiency, comfort and driving pleasure. Plus, and this is remarkable given the German sourcing, it represented unparalleled value for money, outshining far-more expensive – not just against imitators like the Mercedes-Benz A-Class, BMW 1 Series, Lexus CT200h and even the related Audi A3, but also when lined up alongside mid-spec mainstream rivals.

    There simply wasn’t a dud model in the range.

    This time, things are complicated. The base Golf costs too much and – safety aside – features too little. Cheaper competitors have long caught up in some areas while the VW has slipped behind a tad in others – namely refinement, urban ride comfort and efficiency. And some of the changes to modernise it inside seem like a sideways step at best, like the digital interfaces. Unlike before, the Mk8 is not the whole in one.

    History has demonstrated that most of these observations won’t matter one bit to a huge portion of buyers. A Golf is an original, a classless classic. And you’ll still be getting fundamentally a fabulous small car. But based on how thrillingly chuckable its chassis is, our hunch is that the more you spend up the range, the better this hatch gets, culminating in the GTI.

    Our verdict? Skip the base and save up for the richer grades to savour the true Golf experience.

    $31,950

    Based on new car retail price

    Daily driver score

    3.5/5

    Urban score

    3.5/5
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    $31,950

    Based on new car retail price

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    Disclaimer: The pricing information shown in the editorial content (Review Prices) is to be used as a guide only and is based on information provided to Carsguide Autotrader Media Solutions Pty Ltd (Carsguide) both by third party sources and the car manufacturer at the time of publication. The Review Prices were correct at the time of publication.  Carsguide does not warrant or represent that the information is accurate, reliable, complete, current or suitable for any particular purpose. You should not use or rely upon this information without conducting an independent assessment and valuation of the vehicle.