When it comes to a reliable set of wheels, the Volkswagen Golf is a safe bet. It also has the advantage of being one of the most popular hatchback’s on Britain’s roads, so spares and repairs won’t cost you extortionate amounts.

Often rated as one of the better small cars you could buy second hand – along with the Focus, Hyundai i30 and Vauxhall’s Astra – the Golf is a firm favourite of small car lovers and families alike. It’s for good reason too, the Golf has some pretty cool standard kit and an extensive range of reliable and impressive engines to choose from. At the end of the day, the VW Golf is about as grown-up as you can get for a hatch these days.

Under the bonnet of the Volkswagen Golf

There’s a dizzying array of engine choice when it comes to the Golf – petrol, diesel, hybrid and even a fully electric e-Golf. The smaller 1.0, 1.4 and 1.4-litre petrol and diesel engines offer astounding performance and economy. The larger 2.0-litre engines found in the GTI and Golf R are impressively fast and often a better buy for those commuting on the motorway daily.

For those of us interested in avoiding the costs of ultra-low emission zones and congestions charges, the plug-in hybrid and fully electric e-Golf are worth seeking out. Both feel fast – even if they don’t look it on paper. The e-Golf has a top speed of 87mph and takes over ten seconds to go from 0 – 62mph. 

The GTE on the other hand – the plug-in hybrid choice – has the same level of grunt as the GTI thanks to the turbocharged 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine. It has great handling and charging takes up to 5 hours from mains electric.

Of the wide array of engine choices, unless you’re keen to go electric, we’d recommend the SE 1.6 diesel. It has its fair share of get-up and go while balancing nicely with fuel economy, offering 45 – 50 mpg for everyday driving.

Inside the Volkswagen Golf

While you’d hardly call the entry-level S trim for the Golf lavish, it does come with all-around electric windows and aircon. If you want a few more perks than that, the Match, SE and SE Nav should have the kit you most desire.

Expect 16” alloy wheels, automatic lights and wipers, a leather-trimmed steering wheel, power-folding door mirrors and adaptive cruise control along with various safety features and infotainment niceties.

The latest generation of the Volkswagen Golf, the Mk 7, offers comfort in spades. A great layout for the dashboard has everything you need, right where you need it while the 8” touchscreen infotainment system is big enough to easily control music, navigation and phone integration. Graphics are sharp and menus are clear.

Even though it’s a small car, there’s plenty of room in the cabin – even for taller adults – both headroom and legroom are great. The boot is a good size too although you may be hard-pressed to get your weekly shop and buggy in there at the same time – you’d best opt for home delivery of your groceries.

What to look out for in a second-hand Volkswagen Golf

This is one car where a full-service history will certainly stand you in good stead; timing chains have been known to snap before they’re due to be replaced. This causes extensive damage and at the very least will have your hatch off the road for quite some time.

The boot can have some locking problems – a spray of WD40 usually sorts this out. Squeaking and rattling from the front suspension usually mean the anti-roll bar brushes need replacing.

Overall, the Golf is a great little hatch, coming in 12th out of 24 in the family car class of What Car’s reliability survey. It’s worth noting that the petrol engines faired better than their diesel counterparts.

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