The Volkswagen Golf. The epitome of an entire vehicle class. Best-selling for eight generations now, loved by millions of drivers. I recently had the pleasure of working with the current generation for the first time and was allowed to work in the new one Golf GTE plug-in hybrid Take a seat and drive (combined fuel consumption: 1.7 l / 100 km; combined power consumption 12.4 kWh / 100 km; combined CO2 emissions: 38 g / km²). But driving events are always one thing, everyday life is something completely different. Therefore we are now asking the cheapest (from 26,972 euros incl. 16% VAT) and at the same time the weakest mild hybrid in the current Golf range for testing.
Lively three-cylinder turbo
The VW Golf 1.0 eTSI initially drives with a manageable engine power (combined fuel consumption: 4.3 l / 100 km; combined CO2 emissions: 98 g / km²). The three-cylinder turbo engine delivers 81 kW or 110 PS and 200 Newton meters of torque, but is noticeably supported thanks to a belt starter generator, a small 48-volt lithium-ion battery and loads of electronics. And indeed: the three-cylinder barely lacks power. The throttle response is spontaneous, the pull-through enables even tighter overtaking maneuvers and on the autobahn, the test subject can manage 215 kilometers an hour (real 202 km / h) on the speedometer. Enough. For everyday life anyway.
eTSI drive concept is convincing
But there is more between the lines that makes this small drive so special. Because as often as the electronics send the eTSI on a sailing tour, disconnect it from the gearbox and then completely paralyze the engine, is extraordinary. During the warm-up phase, the engine is switched off when rolling to a traffic light, the three-cylinder is silent and the Golf drives noiselessly and without emissions to the intersection. If you now step on the accelerator pedal (or the brake), the 999 cm³ engine starts up again within fractions of a second and is ready to accelerate almost instantly.
Great savings potential in the accelerator
It can be said that the Wolfsburg man has learned to save a lot of fuel. We all know it. If the right foot is as heavy as lead on the accelerator, it is not far from all sorts of standard consumption. Depending on the equipment, Volkswagen reports 4.3 liters of premium petrol per 100 kilometers for the Golf 1.0 eTSI. It’s not unrealistic, but a five or six before the decimal point is more likely. What impressed me, however, was that the consumption peaks (on average) fell significantly. Seven liters is almost the top end of the flagpole, no matter how brutally the Golf is rushed on longer tours.
Crunchy chassis, great transmission
The Golf 8 1.0 eTSI also convinces in other ways in the driving chapter. The standard chassis installed in the test car (adaptive damper control DCC is only available with larger engines) could be a shade softer, but is suitable for courageous cornering. The progressive steering does what it should and the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission does not appear. It switches imperceptibly and always appropriately for the required performance. The picture is the same for the brakes: inconspicuous with a lot of bite when it matters.
Comfortable seats, poor choice of materials
Anyone who has read this far will think that I hardly have anything to complain about with the Golf 8 1.0 eTSI. This is also true when it comes to the driving chapter and the general drive technology. In the interior at the latest, however, unconditional advocacy is over. Reduced to the essentials, however, it can first be reported that you will probably sit very well in the first row. Even when you’ve grown taller. The sport comfort seats are pleasantly cut and tightly padded, the steering wheel is well positioned in the space. At the back it naturally becomes narrower, whereby the material quality in the second row also decreases noticeably.
MIB3 continues with teething problems
But I don’t want to complain about the quality of plastic here, it’s about the operating system used and the usability of such a bread and butter car. As of today, both are in great need of improvement. In almost every test drive, software or operating inadequacies were noticed. Whether it was the constant failure of Travel Assist, the sometimes oversensitive work of Front Assist or a navigation system that lost its thread in the middle of Munich. Voice control works rather rudimentary and the performance of the entire MIB3 system (especially when the car is cold started) is like an aging Windows computer. The operating concept offered is also not groundbreaking when day-to-day functions such as air conditioning are unnecessarily hidden in operating menus. Why the sensor buttons for temperature control below the center display are not illuminated remains a secret from Volkswagen.
The operation of the Golf is too cumbersome
After all, drivers (or users?) In the Golf can comfort themselves by choosing over 30 different colors in the optional ambient lighting. Various apps can also be used and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto work wirelessly. Hardly anyone would have a USB-C cable to connect the smartphone anyway. It doesn’t look much better behind the steering wheel, which is overloaded with control surfaces. The digital instrument cluster has numerous functions that, at first glance, can only be operated poorly. Some cockpit views that can be selected, however, cause more confusion than clarity and should therefore only be switched when the vehicle is stationary. The bottom line is: The entire operating concept of the Golf 8 distracts from what is actually happening around you.
Even in its eighth generation, the Golf remains true to itself. At least in the driving chapter. The engine, transmission, steering and chassis work together in the best possible way, and the noise insulation is a positive feature. The 1.0 eTSI mild hybrid drive will satisfy even the most demanding of people, is surprisingly elastic and can be driven quite economically. As a car, the Golf keeps the competition at a distance. Less than a computer. MIB3 (in its current form) is not a step forward, but a clear step backwards compared to previous systems. While the writing guild used to get upset about the lack of volume controls, the problems have now become glaring. The operation of day-to-day functions suffers from the system changeover, and not only older generations will have problems with it. (Text and image: Thomas Vogelhuber)