Volkswagen Golf 8
Divide and conquer
In 2020, Volkswagen will introduce two new cars. The first is the eighth generation of the Golf. The second is the ID.3. Both cars are roughly the same size and equally expensive, but target two different audiences. With the ID.3, Volkswagen is breaking new ground, with a completely new design style and electric drive. The ID.3 is therefore the Volkswagen of the future. For those more comfortable with the familiar, there is the Golf 8.
At a glance, the Golf 8 is recognisable as a Golf, but a modern Golf. The lines have become sharper, while the exterior dimensions have remained almost the same. This is also reflected in the interior, where the space in the front is excellent and the space in the rear is just enough for adults. Thanks to the generously-sized seats, the Golf feels larger than some other cars that are in fact just as spacious.
The Golf 8 features a so-called "digital dashboard". This means that all the dials of yesteryear have been replaced by screens. The advantage of this is that the driver can choose which information is displayed how and where. Just like on a smartphone, icons can be dragged and dropped to determine how the screen is arranged.
Volkswagen's new "infotainment" system (audio, communication and sat nav system) works a little differently from those of other brands, but after some experimentation, it is self-explanatory and anyone can make the most of its many features. This system can be operated by touching the screen or by making gestures. The latter works a lot better than in the last generation of the Golf 7, so it was also used more during the test drives. Not revolutionary, but convenient: all buttons on the dashboard are now touch-sensitive panels, where it is enough to drag your finger to change the temperature, for example.
The only setback: Volkswagen's voice-activated assistant proves to be very limited in scope. In fact, it is nothing more than a way to control the functions available through the menu with freely formulated voice commands. Requesting all kinds of information requires installing Alexa's app. However, because Volkswagen does not grant access to data from the car, Alexa cannot interact with the car. The driver is therefore left with two assistants, each offering limited functionality.
Very nice though: in addition to FM and DAB+ radio, Volkswagen also provides internet radio and in practice this works excellently (no hiccups and fine sound quality). The optional high-quality audio system from Harman Kardon has a clear, detailed and civilised sound.
The big difference between the Golf 8 and the ID.3 is in the drivetrain. The ID.3 is an electric car. The Golf 8 features conventional internal combustion engines. For this test, we drove the 1.5 TSI, the 1.5 TSI and the 1.5 e-TSI petrol engine. The difference between these three engines is in the power output and any assistance provided by an electric motor ("mild hybrid").
The 130 hp / 200 Nm strong version of the 1.5 TSI is carried over unchanged from the previous Golf. The power is more than enough to keep up with the flow of traffic, but on the motorway or in the mountains, for example, one has to push a little to keep going briskly. It is noticeable that the clutch has a somewhat long stroke and that the car is a bit hesitant to get going. Once the engine revs, however, it has a lot of suppleness and can be driven very slowly (read: quietly and economically) in high gears. On a demanding course with mountains and city traffic, test consumption with this engine came out at 5.9 litres per 100 km.
The 150 hp / 250 Nm variant of the 1.5 TSI has a different turbo and different engine management than the 130 hp version. This stronger variant also takes off slightly hesitantly, but then has significantly more power and has no trouble at all with high speeds on the open road or steep slopes in the mountains. By choosing sport mode, the engine responds more directly to the throttle and also bites better when more power is required. Test consumption, on the same route as taken with the lighter engine, came to 6.1 litres per 100 km.
By far the finest engine is the 1.5 e-TSI. Assisted by a small electric motor, it provides exactly the power where the other variants fall short. It's as if an invisible hand gives a nudge in tricky situations. The e-TSI performs with much more ease and therefore lifts the whole car to a higher level. During braking and coasting, motion energy is converted into electricity, so the e-TSI never needs to be charged at the socket. The mild-hybrid drive also ensures lower consumption: 5.1 litres per 100 km on the same route as with the other versions.
Both the Golf 7 and Golf 8 are based on the same "MQB-A" platform. According to Volkswagen, however, so much has been changed about this in the interim that internally it refers to it as the "MQB-A'" (accented) platform. Thereby, the Golf 8 has a completely new suspension. For this, technology was "borrowed" from the larger and more expensive Passat, whereas it was previously considered too advanced for the Golf. Note that all versions of the Golf have a new, advanced front suspension. Only models with 150 hp of power or more also have advanced rear suspension. In real life, the driver has to be very bold to experience the difference between the two, but this is something to consider when taking a test drive at the dealer.
Handling has also been improved by choosing wide tyres. Thanks to cooperation with tyre manufacturers, new tyres have been developed that, despite the increased width, do not have higher rolling resistance and therefore do not negatively affect consumption. Nor do the wider tyres increase rolling noise. Perhaps this is precisely why it is noticeable that the wing mirrors do cause driving noise at high speed.
In practice, handling is the Golf 8's strongest point. From the very first moment, the feeling in the steering wheel is particularly good and the driver senses what the Golf is capable of. Apologies for the cliché, but when cornering, the Golf 8 almost sticks to the road. Even those with little feeling for cars feel that the limits are very far away and naturally gain a lot of confidence in the car. Those with more car feeling experience a feeling of superiority without having to drive fast to do so. It is clear: Volkswagen is once again setting the standard, and it is a lot higher than before.
Volkswagen has elevated responding to popular demand to an art. With the Golf, Volkswagen proves time and again that it knows exactly what the customer wants. However, with major changes in the (car) world, Volkswagen is forced to cater to two types of customers. This is why Volkswagen is introducing two new mid-size models. Those looking for innovation can turn to the ID.3. Those who want a familiar but modern car can turn to the Golf as usual.
The ID.3 represents state-of-the-art technology and breaks with all traditions when it comes to design, ergonomics and handling. The Golf 8 moves with the times in its own way. The Golf opts for familiar packaging and for solutions that do not make the car more expensive or require any driver adjustment. This is why the Golf 8 features familiar petrol engines (taken directly from the previous Golf), but with electric assistance. A more advanced suspension ensures excellent handling, making the Golf both more comfortable and more dynamic.
- Great handling
- New yet familiar
- Strong, economical 1.5 e-TSI engine
- Limited voice assistant capabilities
- Wind noise outside mirrors from 100 km/h
- (For now) mainly available with engines from previous Golf