How do you like the way the regular Mk8 Golf looks? In our blinkered Twittersphere, the verdict was a resounding ‘meh’. I’m not quite sure why; the evolutionary exterior design changes that moved the Golf on from the Mk7 – a fantastic car and the mechanical basis for this new model – are handsome enough, and the R-Line package does a world of good on top. (Plus, if you’re partial to the Alfa Romeo Montreal, you can even appreciate its somewhat sleepy face.)
It’s much the same story inside, where the justification for Volkswagen’s ‘all-new, all-digital’ advertising slogan becomes very apparent. You will struggle to find an interior cleaner than this; there are only five actual buttons on the dashboard. Everything else is controlled by touch-sensitive icons or on the 10.0in infotainment touchscreen itself.
Whether or not this is a good design concept has already been much discussed already, and it seems that most readers are very much against it on the grounds of distraction and difficulty of operation.
My sensible side agrees. When it comes to the air-con and headlight controls, it does feel unsafe to be forced to look and lean away from the road. But I’m also in my twenties, so the other side of me that knows that Drake is inarguably better than The Beatles thinks the Golf’s interior looks superb, that the speed of the touchscreen’s response is excellent, that the graphics are great and that the software is very easy to work out and operate. So I’ll have to let you make your own conclusion.
Elsewhere, it’s clear that Volkswagen has taken note of the criticism it received for cutting costs with the T-Roc in the soft-touch department, because the materials in this car look great and largely feel it, too. Compare with the equivalent Ford Focus and the Golf will seem on another level, but those switching directly from a Mk7 Golf may well notice small retrograde steps in some places.
Dynamically, the biggest difference you will notice on the road between the R-Line and another Golf concerns ride quality, both because of the big wheels, with their low-profile tyres and the lowered sports suspension. It’s also worth noting that our test car was fitted with the popular Dynamic Chassis Control option (adaptive dampers), which costs £785.
We’ve already noted from driving a 1.5 TSI Life in the UK that “no longer can we instinctively recognise the Golf as the most comfortable, best-isolated, best-riding car in the hatchback class” – that would be the Focus – and the R-Line chassis doesn’t change that verdict. Except, perhaps, for rear-seat passengers, because models with 148bhp or more get multi-link suspension at the back, rather than a torsion-beam set-up.
With the DCC suspension’s Comfort mode selected, the ride is generally acceptable around town, although it improves on the motorway. In general, the car feels nicely tied down but still unavoidably firm in the way that hatchbacks with sporting pretensions almost always do. However, select Sport and traversing the ground can become bone-rattling – particularly so on unkempt asphalt.