The pre-launch fanfare for the latest Golf was considerable. A staggered countdown through the seven previous generations, Volkswagen crowed about how they had sold 33 million examples around the world, 2 million of which have been parked on UK driveways. Then the new car was revealed, and it was a bit of a letdown, with changes that only the most ardent Volkswagen fan would spot, but that’s maybe because there was little wrong with the outgoing car.

Think of it as a Golf 7.5 with a series of technology upgrades, including the introduction of new infotainment systems. The eagle-eyed will notice the revised front bumper, including a chrome strip that visually widens the front of the car. There’s new headlights with LED daytime running lights, and the option of full-LED headlights, while at the rear, all versions come equipped with LEDs for the back clusters, too. New front wings are ushered in alongside a fresh pallet of colours, new interior trims and alloy wheel designs. For automatic transmission fans, all gearboxes now come with seven ratios, but CO2 emissions have crept up on all models as Volkswagen adopts a more real-world approach to its statistics. With an extra 4bhp on this higher-powered 1.6-litre TDI engine, fuel economy on the combined cycle is quoted as 68.9mpg with CO2 emissions of 106g/km. The outgoing Golf had vital statistics of 70.6mpg and 103g/km respectively.

Performance off the line is adequate, taking a little over ten seconds to complete the zero to 62mph dash, while mid-range pull is reasonable. The gearbox is silky with a light clutch, but it’s disappointing to note that there’s only five ratios when most rivals now have six. At a motorway gallop it’s very easy to reach for the nonexistent ratio, which would further boost the car’s cruising ability. On challenging back roads, the Golf handles neatly, with very little in the way of body roll and steering that is accurate and precise. Grip levels are high and the ride comfort generally well cushioned, though it can get jiggly over poor road surfaces, and jars in deeper potholes. The engine is largely a backing track, though you know it is present at most speeds, and while there is a modicum of wind flutter, it’s the road noise that is noticeable and particularly sensitive to changes in road surfaces. Aside from an upgrade to the infotainment systems, the cabin of the Golf largely remains the same as before, and that’s just fine, as it’s a great environment to spend time in. The quality of the plastics are peerless, standing out as the premium offering in the mainstream class. It sets the benchmark for others to aspire to, with plush feeling squidgy materials and nice damping to the controls. The glass-effect black panel infotainment systems are a joy to use with proximity sensing, while gesture control features on the Pro versions. Crystal-clear instruments are easy to read both day and night, and if there was a criticism to be made, it’s that the cabin could do with a dash of colour in order to brighten up the grey sombre aesthetics.

The driving position is good, with plenty of adjustment to the steering wheel and chairs to gain a comfortable spot. Firm but supportive, the seats hold you nicely in place when cornering. Forward vision is decent, but over the shoulder visibility is hindered by thick rear pillars. Headroom is excellent both front and rear, while back seat passengers will find that knee space is generous, too. Space for oddments is well-judged, with a lidded cubby ahead of the gear lever, a small compartment underneath the armrest, and generously proportioned door pockets and glovebox. There’s 380 litres of luggage room – more generous than the Focus and Astra – while folding down the rear seats opens the capacity up to 1,270 litres. For caravan owners, it’s important to note that the Golf can haul a load of up to 1.5 tonnes, more than you’ll find with most of the Volkswagen’s rivals.

Prices £19,770 to £30,990
Bodystyles 3-door and 5-door hatchbacks and 5-door estate
Engines 1.6 (89bhp), 1.6 (114bhp), 2.0 (148bhp), 2.0 (181bhp)
Trim levels S, SE, SE Nav, GT, R-Line, GTD, GTD BlueLine, Alltrack
Also consider Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra
Model tested SE Nav 1.6 TDI Price £21,925
Made in Wolfsburg, Germany
Bodystyle 5-door hatchback, 5-seats
Engine 1598cc, 4-cylinder, 16-valve, turbo diesel with stop-start
Transmission 5-speed manual
Layout Front-wheel-drive
Maximum power 114bhp @ 3,250-4,000rpm
Maximum torque 184lb ft @ 1,500-3,200rpm
Top speed 123mph 0-62mph 10.2secs
CO2 emissions 106g/km
Official fuel economy (urban/extra urban/combined) 61.4/74.3/68.9mpg
Fuel tank size 50 litres Range 758 miles
Insurance group 13 BIK rate 23%
Size (length/width with mirrors) 4,258/2,027mm
Boot space (minimum/maximum) 380/1,270 litres
Kerb/maximum towing weight 1,301/1,500kg
Euro NCAP crash test rating(pre-facelift tested)
Verdict The changes to the latest Golf are modest, but that’s because it was already top notch. It’s still just as good as ever.