How do you improve the best small car on the market? That’s a question Volkswagen have been pondering for some time. Resting on your laurels is dangerous – even for VW, whose seventh-generation Golf continues to wear the accolade of leading hatchback four years after the car’s 2013 launch. Do nothing, and inevitably, your competitors will catch you – and cars like the Hyundai i30 and Holden Astra are now better than ever. Wolfsburg are keenly aware of this: do nothing wasn’t an option. Instead, the response is the most comprehensive mid-life update to a Golf ever – enter the 2017 Volkswagen Golf 7.5.
We had few complaints about the outgoing Golf 7 – and reflecting this, Volkswagen have skipped wholesale changes to the car. They’ve opted for a large number of new refinements that boost the performance, add to the value proposition and modernise the Golf’s technology in order to stave off the attacks from Korea, Japan, and within Europe itself.
Under the bonnet the Golf’s small but willing 92kW turbo four-cylinder has been jettisoned in favour of a significantly beefier 110kW version, reflecting similar decisions by Hyundai and Holden to meet buyer demand for more power in the hatchback segment. Inside, small, old displays are gone, replaced by big and beautiful glass touchscreens and the option of an Audi-style, 12-inch, fully-digital set of driver dials for the first time ever in this class.
Small omissions have now been corrected, too: at last, autonomous emergency braking is standard across the Golf range. Value is up, especially on the base model, which aside from the more powerful engine and better cabin tech, replaces steel wheels with smart alloys. But prices are up too – more than $1,000 on the base car – and the effect of this will be most felt when Volkswagen’s current driveaway launch specials are no longer in effect.
On the launch of the Mk7.5 Golf in the Yarra Valley in Victoria, we were curious to see how much appeal these new features added, and if anything else about the Golf had changed. We drove it hard on some of the country’s best roads, but also in Melbourne and in a variety of conditions. So, with a slew of new competitors, is the class favourite still the best all-rounder small car? Based on first impressions, we think so.
Key specs (as tested)
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