Automotive landmarks are infrequent but the all-new VW Golf Mark 8 is on the spot
Having influenced over 35m customers since its 1974 introduction, reports Iain Robertson, Europe’s best-selling motorcar continues to set trends, establish new technological parameters and deliver its hefty share of the ‘people’s car’ ethos.
No single compact family car has ever held sway over an entire new car market, with as much chutzpah, as the Volkswagen Golf. Its entire raison d’etre is based on drawing down features from classes above it to introduce them to the mainstream. It is the comparator, by which all of its rivals are judged. Golf gave reason to ‘soft-touch’ interior trim. Golf fostered the archetypal GTi. Golf introduced ‘stop:start’ technology. Its list of impactful achievements is lengthy and honourable.
Of course, it is worth highlighting that, without the determination of a British Army Major (Ivan Hirst), who wanted to put the residents of Wolfsburg back to work, initially by repairing the WW2 bombed factories but, then, by producing the original ‘Beetle’, VW might not have survived post-1945. The Beetle set the bar high. It became immensely popular, thanks to its classless simplicity but high-quality appeal. Eventually, it supplanted the Ford Model T as the best-selling car in the world.
Although the Passat model came first and demonstrated that VW could produce front-wheel drive cars, after more than 30 years wedded to flat-four configured, rear engined contraptions, the Golf, always intended for mass-market mobility, was a breath of fresh air from Wolfsburg that has never ceased to sell in huge numbers and motivate the new car scene worldwide, through seven easily traceable generations. Its original concept was bang on-the-money and set standards that successive models, with a couple of notable exceptions, have endeavoured to explore and expand upon.
The VW Golf is eminently recognisable worldwide. Park the latest Mark 8 alongside the ‘Ur’ Golf (the Mark One version) and a direct lineage can be tracked. Its dimensions have grown with each generation, mostly to incorporate a wealth of additional equipment but, as an ‘everyman’ car, it is also accommodating for up to five people, with copious space for luggage and personal possessions. Golf is the class of the field. Other carmakers have attempted to emulate its success but, even the best of them, cannot create the intoxicating cocktail of user friendliness and automotive iconography that has become standard Golf fayre for 45 years.
However, the technological leap from Marks 7 to 8 is utterly mind-blowing. I have invented a word, ‘Golfation’, that is intended to encapsulate Golf, Eight and innumerable levels of technology, from automation and electrification, to digitalisation, incorporating new levels of connectivity and tactility in the process. VW has performed consistently in this respect, with the Golf. Each successive generation has not merely out-trumped the previous one but also confounded all attempts by its main competitors to replicate each application of new technology in the class. At no stage can any Golf customer consider that his choice of car is not market-leading and epoch defining…until the next version comes along.
Virtually all displays and controls in the new car are digital. The new electronic dials and infotainment systems create a display landscape that features touch buttons and sliders, instead of hard switches. Being able to reconfigure them to meet a motorist’s demands is a bonus. A head-up display (projected into the lower edge of the windscreen) that carries more information than ever is available as an option. The entire package is accentuated by mood lighting that is designed to engage with all occupants.
As part of VW’s electrification strategy, no fewer than five hybrid variants are available from launch, the intention being to reduce fuel consumption by at least 10%. The actual reductions will be considerably greater. Known as eTSI, 107, 127 and 147bhp petrol-hybrids are core models. However, two plug-in hybrid alternatives, with 201bhp and, in GTE form, 242bhp, introduce 13kWh lithium-ion battery technology for up to 40-miles of pure EV usage and well over 130mpg being a regular tank-to-tank contribution.
The engine line-up also includes conventional petrol (TSI), diesel (TDI) and natural gas drive (TGI), not merely so that VW can hedge its bets but mainly to enable the company to serve its worldwide audience. The new TSI variants have particularly low consumption values and exhaust emissions (WLTP standards) thanks to elements that include an innovative TSI Miller combustion process. As an innovation for turbodiesel applications, Volkswagen now uses twin-dosing technology (two SCR catalytic converters), to reduce significantly the nitrogen oxide emissions (NOx) by upwards of 80%, while fuel consumption is lowered by up to 17%, compared with its predecessor. In the wake of the ‘dieselgate’ scandal, which is still being resolved for UK customers, VW has expanded its efforts to ensure that its diesel offering is not just one of the cleanest but also the most frugal option.
VW’s linking system uses an online connectivity unit (OCU) that is also connected to the outside world. The standard OCU features integrated eSIM links to ‘We Connect’ and ‘We Connect Plus’ online functions and services. However, its standard Bluetooth software enables both Apple and Android mobile connectivity, as usual. The new Golf is also the first Volkswagen to connect with its environment as standard, using Car2X technology, which takes signals from the traffic infrastructure and information from other vehicles up to 800 metres away that are notified to the driver via a display panel. The Golf also shares these relevant warnings with other Car2X models. Swarm intelligence is becoming a reality, representing the beginning of a new phase of traffic safety, and Golf is right in there from the outset.
Conclusion: The new Golf 8 arrives in the UK this December. Pricing, which is certain to have escalated, and packaging details will be available imminently, just ask your local VW dealer for more information.