You might not know that the word "Volkswagen" translates as "people's car." And no other car makes that point quite so eloquently as the Volkswagen Golf.
Since its launch in 1974, the Golf has continued to evolve and grow to meet society's ever-changing needs, becoming the safe, refined and grown-up car that it is today.
Very few models survive over 30 years in our increasingly demanding car market, yet 2020 saw the launch of the latest Mk8 generation, proving that the Golf still has what it takes to be the ultimate family car.
The Golf has something for everyone, including its good value S trim, the fire breathing GTI and R models, and its eco-friendly hybrid GTE and electric e-Golf versions. Let's have a look at the Golf in more detail, to see why it remains one of Europe's best selling cars, and why you should consider one.
One of the reasons the Golf lives on as such a successful model is its reputation for bombproof dependability and reliability. Even entry-level models are well built with high-quality materials, and you can feel the difference immediately when you clamber inside and experience the thoughtfully designed, well-organised interior.
The cabin of a Golf is admittedly not as exciting a place to be as some of its rivals, but everything works, and everything feels friendly to use, from the well-damped switchgear to the soft-touch plastics.
The Golf exterior is conservative but classy, and even the sportier models such as the GTI give off the discreet, understated vibe of a wolf in sheep's clothing. The rear wheels are pushed far back into the corners, meaning that the Golf manages to be slightly smaller than some of its peers, yet somehow more spacious inside. This short rear overhang also makes the Golf easier to park.
In terms of safety, the Golf Mk7 scored the full five stars in its Euro NCAP crash test, with a range of safety systems fitted as standard, including stability control, seatbelt pretensioners and seven airbags to help keep passengers safe in the event of a crash.
Whichever trim level of Golf you choose, you are assured of a pleasant driving experience, with predictable handling and excellent ride quality. It feels solid enough to drive it with confidence while being effortlessly comfortable.
The other significant benefit of a Golf is that if the hatchback isn't quite practical enough for your needs, you can have an estate version for load-lugging, or the taller Golf SV for more of a people carrier experience.
Make no mistake, you will pay a premium to buy a Golf over some of its rivals, but it holds on to its value, and it pays back that extra investment in sheer quality. There are few other cars on the road that comes close to the Golf's all-round capability, which is why it is an excellent choice as a used buy.
Quite simply, there is a Golf for you, whatever your needs or tastes.
The entry-level S model opens the range, although it doesn't feel entry-level because it still comes with a decent specification, including air conditioning, electric windows, ABS, an onboard computer, Bluetooth connectivity and heated electric mirrors.
Upgrading to the SE gives you more features, including alloy wheels, cruise control, rain-sensing windscreen wipers and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
The sportier GT gives you larger 17" alloy wheels, parking sensors and satellite navigation. Also, look out for special edition models such as the Match or GT edition, which give enhanced specifications.
Having chosen your trim level, it's time to look at the engines. Every Mk7 Golf, whether petrol or diesel, comes with a turbocharged engine to maximise power while reducing CO2 emissions, keeping your road tax and fuel bills down. There is also a choice of manual or DSG gearboxes across the range to suit your preference.
The smallest petrol engine is a three-cylinder 1.0 TSI, producing either 85bhp or 110bhp. The 85bhp model won't set the road alight with its 0-60mph time of 11.9 seconds, but the turbo helps it hold its own in most situations. The 110bhp makes the sprint two seconds quicker, so it is probably a better choice for all-round ability. Stepping up to the four cylinders 1.4 TSI with 125bhp, it will achieve 0-60 in 9.1 seconds. Or if you'd like a bit more performance, there is the more recent addition to the range of a 1.5 TSI Evo with a choice of 130bhp or 150bhp outputs.
While the petrol engines are surprisingly fuel-efficient at up to 51 miles per gallon, the Golf offers a range of diesel engines if you need even better fuel economy. These start with a 1.6 TDI producing either 90 or 105bhp. This engine was upgraded in more recent models to 115bhp, hauling you to 60mph in 10.3 seconds. You'll get up to 59 miles per gallon with these models, but there was also a pre-2017 facelift BlueMotion version with tweaks, including aerodynamic body modifications, which returns a claimed 83mpg.
If you fancy a bit more power, there is the 2.0 TDI, available with 150bhp on the main models, or 184bhp if you upgrade to the sportier GTD trim.
Now the bit you've been waiting for. The Golf is renowned for its unforgettable GTI hot hatch, complete with tartan seats, golf ball gearknob and red front grille trim.
The 2.0 TSI produces 230bhp and roars from 0-62 in 6.4 seconds, and you can even find 245bhp versions. Or for the ultimate thrill, there is the four-wheel-drive R, which boasts 300bhp and achieves 62mph in just 4.6 seconds (for the DSG version). These two are almost unbeatable in their class.
If you're looking for hybrid or electric, the Golf has got you covered there too. The extremely popular GTE is a plug-in hybrid with a 1.4 TSI petrol engine, boosted by an electric motor which ensures it can achieve 62mph in just 7.6 seconds and an impressive claimed 188mpg. Or for full electric, you can choose the e-Golf, with a range of up to 144 miles on a single charge and instant power on tap from its electric motor.
The great thing about the Golf is its popularity, so you are guaranteed plenty of choice when you look at the used market. Golfs are known for their reliability, but where they can come unstuck is if they aren't maintained properly. Ensure they get serviced regularly and the timing belt is replaced on time. Diesels that have mainly been driven on short journeys can suffer from blocked Diesel Particulate Filters (DPF), so ensure there are no warning lights on the dash.
The Golf's reliability makes it popular with hire companies, fleets and taxi firms, so look out for tired examples with worn interiors or body damage. There have also been reports of short clutch lifespan, so have a good test drive to check that it has a firm bite and doesn't slip. Test all the electrical parts such as windows, computer and air-con to rule out any hidden gremlins. If you want to buy one, research the trims and engines to find the one that suits you perfectly, then take your time to find a good one.