New Golf the magnificent seven for Volkswagen

Volkswagen Golf is solid, dependable and oozes quality and just keeps getting better.

Volkswagen Golf is solid, dependable and oozes quality and just keeps getting better. - Credit: VW

You don't have to break the bank to buy quality – look at the VW Golf, says motoring editor Andy Russell.

My elder son drives a Volkswagen Golf. I steered him towards it after another driver hit and wrecked his supermini and I wanted him in something safer and sturdier.

It's an entry 1.4-litre petrol model that's now seven years old with average mileage and it copes with everything he, and three or four passengers, throw at it with the minimum attention and goes into the garage once a year for a service and MOT.

And that's what you get from a Golf – safety, strength, space and durability – and that's why it is Europe's top-selling car and Volkswagen's best-selling car in the UK. Since being shown for the first time in 1974 more than 30 million have been sold worldwide – more than 1.6 million of them in the UK.

Now in its seventh generation, I decided it was time to get back to basics with the new Golf and drove the current entry-level S model with the new 1.2-litre turbo petrol engine to see if it still delivers at all levels.

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Sitting beside my son's old Golf on the driveway, he couldn't see that it looked much different and, from a distance, he's right. Yes, it has improved but it's still unmistakably a Golf – and that's another reason it has been so successful. The Golf has evolved from generation to generation so loyal owners and new customers know exactly what they are getting and keep coming back.

As Walter de Silva, Volkswagen Group head of design, said: 'One of the keys to the Golf's success lies in its continuity. There are a handful of cars with a design that, like the Golf's, has been refined, tweaked and enhanced down the decades and thus become timeless.'

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The Golf's not flash but it's smart with nice attention to detail – functional but not fussy.

The 1.6 and 2.0-litre diesels are always popular but the TSI range of turbo petrol engines is cracking – peppy, refined, economical with low emissions – and a good choice.

The range starts with the 85PS 1.2 TSI but I went for the 105PS version – there are also 122 and 140PS 1.4 TSIs – mated to the seven-speed automatic DSG gearbox which is another big selling point.

It's a sweet engine that makes good progress once rolling along, kicks down eagerly to overtake safely, cruises comfortably and should return 45 to 50mpg overall in everyday driving.

Another great strength of the Golf is the big-car feel and quality in the way it drives – it feels as though it comes from a class or two higher. The handling inspires confidence on twisty roads with great steering feel while the ride is always composed and comfortable regardless of road conditions.

The lastest Golf is bigger on the outside and, with more distance between the front and back wheels, that means more space inside for front and rear passengers so you can seat four large adults comfortably and five won't moan on a short journey.

The well-shaped boot has also grown by 30 litres to 380 litres with a low sill to make loading and unloading easier and boosted by the two-level floor which can be lowered from bumper height to give more depth. The 60/40 split rear seat backs drop flat to create a long, flat load bay big enough to get a bike in or take a mid-sized ironing board diagonally.

The cabin has a quality look and feel to the trim, although it is a shame the back door cappings are not soft to the touch like those up front, and an uncluttered fascia with clear dials and redesigned controls to make their more user-friendly for the driver. New touchscreen infotainment systems are easy to use with finger gestures similar to a smartphone. There's also lots of cabin storage space.

The days are gone when entry-level VWs were spartan and even the entry S model includes seven airbags, anti-lock brakes, stability and traction control, semi automatic air-conditioning, multifunction computer, front electric windows and heated door mirrors, height adjustment for front seats, Bluetooth phone link and DAB digital radio/CD with multi device interface and iPod cable – spend £420 on optional alloy wheels and the S looks the business.

Move up to SE and GT and you can choose from new safety systems previously reserved for bigger cars and make possible by the new modular platform.

Drive the new Golf and it's not difficult to see why it is so successful while this entry model shows quality is so affordable.

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