OK, we get it - the new VW Golf is not the most exciting thing to look at. The car was leaked a full day before the proper reveal, giving the Internet plenty of time to moan. We’ve lost the sharp lines of the departing Mk7, with the Golf 8 sporting a rounded, arguably less distinctive look.
But don’t panic: the real action is in the cabin. It’s a very smart space, isn’t it? There’s something quite Porsche 911-like about the interior, with its heavily defined horizontal lines. The dual-clutch gearbox models even get a similar rectangular gear selector to the 992.
Inside the Golf 8, you’ll also find a great deal of its tech. As standard, the car gets a 10.25-inch digital cockpit that looks a whole lot more interesting than the disappointingly basic one fitted to the Golf 7.5. It’s teamed up with an 8.25-inch infotainment screen, with two 10-inch versions available optionally if you’d prefer. Also on the options menu is a widescreen head-up display.
To ensure the latest Golf hits as many “hey millennial, please buy our car!” targets as possible, the 8 has both Amazon Alexa voice control and the ability to use your smartphone as a key. If you regret not adding any snazzy features when configuring the car, it’ll be possible to unlock a great deal of them - including adaptive cruise control - at a later date via VW’s ‘We Upgrade’ service.
Inevitably, a lot of the tech concerns things you can’t see, like assistance systems. There’s a new ‘Travel Assist’ facility with a lane-keeping function, although VW is keen to point out that you still need to be paying attention when using it. Keep your hands off the wheel for more than 15 seconds, and you can expect a digital telling off. Fail to heed the warnings, and the Golf 8 will activate ‘Emergency Assist’, slowly bringing the car to a halt.
The adaptive cruise control system is much smarter than before, using GPS data to automatically lower your speed when approaching corners, junctions or roundabouts. It’ll also adjust the speed when the limit changes via the ‘Dynamic Road Sign Display’. The Front Assist is better too, incorporating something called ‘Cyclist Monitoring’.
Powertrain-wise, the big news concerns the hybrids. Previously, there was the GTE PHEV, and, well, that was it. Now, you can have a 48-volt mild hybrid ‘eTSI’ setup on three of the range’s petrol engines - the 108bhp 1.0-litre inline-three, plus the 128bhp and 148bhp versions of the 1.5-litre inline-four. The eTSI allows the Golf 8 to coast along with the engine deactivated entirely, while giving a handy electric boost to get you off the line a little quicker.
Along with eTSI, there are now two full plug-in hybrids on offer. The two ‘eHybrid’ models pair a 1.4-litre inline-four turbo engine with a 13kWh battery pack, and although VW hasn’t said what the electric-only range will be like just yet, we do know how pokey they’ll be. The base version is good for 201bhp, while the GTE puts out a mighty 242bhp - as much as the old Golf GTI Performance.
Don’t go thinking this is the new GTI, though - VW will still launch a hot 2.0-litre-powered GTI plus a GTI TCR in the next year, and a 296bhp Golf R has already been confirmed. Manual gearboxes are very much on the agenda too - in fact, VW has gone to the trouble of developing a new one. The six-speeder will only be available on front-wheel drive, non-hybrid versions of the car, though.
Despite VW making a big song and dance about the electrification of the Golf 8, there are conventional diesel options here. A 2.0-litre TDI can be had in two states of tune: 108bhp, and 148bhp. A GTD will be arriving at a later date.
Away from the GTE, GTI, GTI TCR, GTD and R, four trim levels will be available. Golf, Life and Style replace the old Trendline, Comfortline, Highline models, with the top-level R-Line trim retained. Whatever you go for, though, you can expect more stuff as standard.
What kind of Golf 8 will it be for you?