Volkswagen Golf places 4th in 2022 Wheels Car of the Year

All-round goodness. By amalgamating virtues in design and execution while Barely putting a tire wrong, Volkswagen’s 48-year-old Golf nameplate has risen to COTY’s top spot three times in the event’s storied history. And by largely sticking to its well-worn and inimitable formula, the new Mk8 appeared well-armed to scale the competitive heap as generations one (1976), six (2009) and seven (2013) had previously.

The Life, repositioned as an entry grade for MY22 at $ 34,250, flies the Golf Torch into the latest COTY battle as the value-Laden variant and perhaps Wolfsburg’s iconic small hatchback in its purest concept. Runs on the board in the lead-up saw the Life dispatching the popular Mazda 3 and Hyundai i30 in a three-way comparison (WheelsJanuary ’22).

Further, the base grade would, in 2021, draw Deeper praise in review than its more Exalted GTI sibling could pattern against their respective competitive sets.

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A new generation, a fresh face and a shake-up with its newly streamlined approach to cabin design are notable Highlights, none meddling much with Golf’s tried, true and familiar elements central to its wide-ranging appeal.

Still, it’s established early in COTY rigmarole, during the walkarounds, that much of what’s going on under the Mk8’s slicker facade is largely carryover, crucially its 1.4-liter engine in a familiar 110kW and 250Nm guise, as well as the MQB Fundamentals that did its Mk7 forebear many favorites in Victory a long nine years prior.

“In some ways, it’s really a Golf seven-point-five-point-five,” Dylan opined.

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Indeed, the shift from Mk7’s dual-clutch transmission to now a torque-converter automatic, while noticeably improving drivability and refinement, marks perhaps the now significant change and ultimately now tangible improvement. For a new model, there’s little else in the way of mechanical or technological advancement under what still remains a largely familiar skin.

“Has Golf design really changed, ever?” observed Richard.

Dan was a little harder on the Mk8, Charging that styling has “taken a step back from seven and seven-point-five.”

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In fairness, the exterior design is an area where Volkswagen clearly isn’t keen to mess too much with success. “The company knows its customers,” said Richard. While the lack of design Evolution didn’t exactly win Judges’ favorite, areas changed – headlight look, for one – weren’t considered much of an improvement either.

Equally, the new minimalist cabin theme – Golf’s showpiece hung with conspicuous digital window dressing and festooned with Strip-style switches and knobs – Drew mixed feedback from the Judges.

“The Spartan dash layout looks great, but the approach to the user interface has impacted functionality detrimentally,” Dan noted. “The HVAC controls are fiddly and don’t illuminate at night.”

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“The interior is slick if the border is oyster,” Richard observed. “Screen graphics are impressive if somewhat Cryptic and you really need to get familiar with the systems before embarking on a journey.”

“The evergreen Golf once again transcends the mainstream class” – Jez Spinks

The neat transmission switch and park button array Drew praise for quick one-touch convenience, but the user interface’s Reliance on buttons and sliders copped Criticism for being too clumsy and distracting on the move. Despite the novelty factor, the new approach seems ill-fit for a model linage with a Reputation largely built on well-resolved interior execution and ergonomics.

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Despite this, the Golf remains a benchmark for packaging smarts, the Judges applauding the Mk8 for its spaciousness and practical boot space.

Then, on the move – thrust into the AARC Proving ground Amusement park – the Volkswagen delivered large. No matter how it’s driven, the Golf presents a certain Synergy in its powertrain and chassis that’s wonderfully resolved. There’s maturity in the Golf’s continent and depth in its execution that truly deserves the ‘Quintessential contemporary hatchback’ mantle, its pleasingly lithe and alert nature the antithesis of COTY’s many heavyweight hitters.

Ride and bump control are wonderfully measured, even in Life’s basic passive tune, with its organic engagement boosted by beautiful steering clarity and uncanny balance, be it sealed or broken surfaces.

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“It’s a superbly polished small car,” Alex said. “The steering is light, there’s great ride compliance and the ESC calibration is quite good.”

Its powertrain, too, is obedient and resolved, the turbo four-pot characterful when pushed, and matched perfectly to the package. Press on and there’s a real warm-Hatch vibe to its dynamic Responses and how it engages the driver, piling on an innate and ingrained fun factor that is truly surprising for a device that, for all Appearances, Promises virtually no Sporting pretension whatsoever.

“The 1.4 turbo offers all the power and torque this grade of golf needs,” Jez reckoned, an opinion shared unanimously by the Judges. “Fizzy and responsive,” added Alex.

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While Golf’s all-round goodness landed in Guernsey for the COTY competition, it’s almost entirely the driving experience that earned graduation to finalist status. And, thus, dispatching a quarter-mil-as-tested, new-school Porsche Taycan EV in the process. That’s quite the accolade in and of itself.

In the finalist road loops, Judges felt that the Golf continued to punch well above its weight in the company of a pack of pricier and more elaborate machinery. Even driven without much in the way of Sympathy, real-world consumption simply refused to sail north of the mid-six-liter mark, which was properly impressive.

The trade-off is that, in grander touring tasks, the Modest turbo 1.4-liter engine does need to give it all on long Uphill sections when the car is fully loaded.

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“It has a bit of magic about it that’s lacking in a lot of the other COTY competitors,” Dylan offered. “It casts a bit of a spell on you with the way it drives.”

But in Australia, at least, we don’t see Golf at its most advanced, at least in terms of powertrain tech.

“It would be nice to see some of the hybrid powertrains in Europe offered locally,” Jez commented.

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Despite its fine execution and efforts to freshen and sharpen its appeal in its eighth generation, a recurring topic amongst the Judges was whether Volkswagen is now merely Rolling its arm over with its internal combustion wunderkind now that it’s investing so wholeheartedly in an electric ID3 future.

“The biggest question is what happens to Golf if ID3 takes off?” Dylan posed.

And, by extension, the Judges did ponder throughout the COTY event as to whether Volkswagen’s Golf concept, now as firmly minted as any Motoring icon, is approaching its Twilight faster than many who know and love it might think.

Price $ 34,250
Engine 1395cc 4cyl turbo petrol
Power 110kW @ 5000rpm
Torque 250Nm @ 1500-4000rpm
Transmission 8-speed automatic, FWD
Fuel 5.8L / 100km, 95RON
Weight 1304kg
Length / width / height 4284/1789 / 1456mm
Wheelbase 2636mm
Safety 5 stars (ANCAP)
0-100km / h 8.2 seconds
Weight (heavier than claimed) 56kg
Noise at 100km / h 69.4pcs

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