Volkswagen Golf (2013-2016)

By Jonathan Crouch

Models Covered

3 & 5DR HATCH, ESTATE (1.2, 1.4, 2.0 PETROL / 1.6, 2.0 TDI DIESEL)


Volkswagen’s Golf is the family hatchback against which all others are judged – and never more so than in this lighter, larger, quieter and more efficient seventh generation guise, where it proved to be cleverer and more usable than ever before. If you’re shopping for a secondhand example, you might be asking yourself why you should buy one. But perhaps the more pertinent question is whether there’s really any reason why you shouldn’t

The History

Volkswagen’s modern era ‘Peoples’ Car’, the Golf family hatchback, has been bought by an awful lot of people. Launched back in 1974 to replace the iconic Beetle, it was the car that saved the company through 29 million sales and six generations that by 2013, brought us to this MK7 model.

At launch, this was the first truly new Golf we’d seen since just after the turn of the century, the previous sixth generation version having been merely a light re-skin of the old MK5 model. And it arrived at a time when the marque needed to step up its game. Volkswagen’s in-house Skoda and SEAT brands were offering Golf technology for less, the South Korean competition was improving and more familiar mainstream family hatch rivals were adding premium quality and technology that, in the words of their marketeers, made them ‘more Golf-like’.

But, as Volkswagen has always argued, there’s no substitute for the definitive article – and this, we’re told, is exactly it. Stiffer, plusher, safer, smarter, more efficient and higher-tech than its predecessor, the MK7 Golf model’s goals lay far beyond simply being better than a Focus or an Astra. This car aimed to move above that, aspiring to appeal to buyers who might be considering premium-badged compact hatches from brands like BMW, Audi or Mercedes. Not everyone bought into that and predictably, throughout its lifetime, the Golf MK7 sold to people who wanted a nicer version of something Focus or Astra-sized. Volkswagen substantially upgraded this design in early 2017, but it’s the original version of this generation model that we evaluate here as a secondhand buy.

What To Look For

Most Golf MK7 owners we surveyed were very happy with their cars, but inevitably, there have been those who have had problems you’ll want to look out for. One owner reported squeaky noises coming from the suspension over speed humps. Another noted that his steering wheel made a slightly wheezy noise when going round bends slowly. There were reports of the boot juddering when closing. And fuel caps that were difficult to open, making re-fuelling a struggle. One owner reported vibration from the door cards at the front and the rear. And another reckoned that his infotainment system was choosing not to function in very cold weather – and at times, was choosing to control itself.

As for mechanical stuff, well we came across one owner who’d had a clutch go after just 4,600 miles – but that’s very unusual. Another experienced faulty injectors. And another experienced a power failure related to his DSG auto gearbox. Also look out for smearing wipers, problems with the cabin air blowers and a rattle from the gearbox over speed humps.

On The Road

Effortlessly rapid. That’s how we’d sum up this Golf to drive. Often, you don’t actually think you’re going that fast when you’re out on the road with it, but such is its combination of stability, poise and control that you find journey times shrinking rapidly. We’ll get to that in a minute but right up front, we’ll tell you about the first thing that we noticed behind the wheel – perhaps the first thing you’ll notice. The refinement.

The previous MK6 version was already a class leader in this respect, but that wasn’t good enough for the folk in Wolfsburg. Adopting the all-new MQB platform that this car shares with its SEAT Leon, Skoda Octavia and Audi A3 group stablemates gave them a chance to create a substantially stiffer structure. And a stiffer structure is a less creaky one. Add in the cleverer engine and suspension mounts that are part of it, the extra attention to engine installation and the sound-deadening acoustic windscreen and you can begin to understand just why after using this car, a drive in an ordinary mainstream Focus-class family hatch seems so noisy.

In other words, there’s the basis here for a very enjoyable driver’s car indeed, even if the electric power steering isn’t quite as rich in feedback as that of a Focus. And you can develop things further with all manner of electronical trickery. Beyond the entry-level trim level, most models feature what Volkswagen calls ‘driver profile selection’ – essentially the same as Audi’s ‘drive select’ system. Here, four available programmes – ‘Eco’, ‘Sport’, ‘Normal’ and ‘Individual’ – alter the throttle mapping and engine management to suit your chosen driving style. Add the optional ACC Adaptive Chassis Control system, which enables you to tweak the suspension to suit the road and your mood, and there’s a fifth ‘Comfort’ mode.


In the words of a previous Volkswagen Group Chairman, the only mistake a Golf can really make is to stop being a Golf, a failing you could never level at this seventh generation model. All the reasons you might want to buy one are satisfied here. It looks like a Golf and functions with all the quality you’d expect from the Western hemisphere’s most recognised and most desired family hatch. This is what happens when all the resources of Europe’s leading auto maker are focused n creating the definitive expression of conventional family motoring.

True, it could be more exciting in its more affordable forms and you certainly wouldn’t call it inexpensive in comparison with mainstream models in this segment. But then, this isn’t a mainstream model any more, as good in every meaningful respect as the premium compact hatch models from the fancy brands that are much pricier. It is, in short, a Golf made good. Which, if you’re shopping in this sector, makes it very desirable indeed.