The VW Golf 8 Variant at a glance
Start with “happy ending”
Dear reader – I hope it is okay with you that we start this story with a “happy ending”. That is obvious when looking back at the history of the VW Golf Variant. In 1993, when the longer station wagon, based on the third generation of Golf, came onto the market for the first time, it was advertised as a “Golf with a happy ending” on advertising posters, in advertisements and in brochures.
The customers were happy because they could now invite more people into a Golf than usual. But was VW really happy with the image of the compact Variant? He tried to shed his field service and company car charm with the model change in 1997. But even as a twin with a square front, frame headrests and “Bora” lettering (one of the many attempts to inherit the Jetta) the Golf Variant was not a charm.
From then on there was a companion with a hatchback for the Golf generations, which had to and must continue to assert itself not only against the larger Passat, but increasingly also against internal competition in the form of the Skoda Octavia – but at least with a sharpened blade.
Longer wheelbase on the Variant
As is well known, VW uses the flexibility of the MQB architecture in the Golf 8. When the aforementioned Skoda Octavia and, more recently, the Seat Leon with a seven centimeter longer wheelbase want to outdo the Golf in terms of passenger comfort, the Wolfsburg-based man simply follows suit. While the compact Golf remains itself, the Variant now stretches its axes 2.69 meters apart.
This also gives the designers more leeway when designing the body. With a sloping rear window, the Golf Variant appears more dynamic than before. Its cargo space has a capacity of 611 liters, and it can be expanded to 1,642 liters by folding down the backrest. It is regrettable that there is no level loading area – but unfortunately this is common practice with modern station wagons.
The Golf Variant can continue to invite. But what about getting in? When the rear doors open, the Passat should slowly get nervous too. Because with the longer wheelbase, the golf station wagon offers lavish leg space. The hatchback also ensures excellent headroom.
R-Line with comfortable sports seats
The Golf proves its everyday usefulness with small pockets on the back of the front seat backrests that can hold smartphones and other small items. Only the sports seats from the R-Line equipment line stand in the way – in the truest sense of the word. Its integrated head restraints block the view of the passengers, and together with the black roof lining, the airy rear compartment appears more depressed than it is.
Perhaps that is why the driver and front passenger have a guilty conscience. But they sit very comfortably on those sports stools, enjoy good lateral support and a comfortable leg rest.
It’s good to relax when you get lost in the digital jungle of menu navigation. Unless you order the Golf as a basic model with a “small radio”, the eighth generation completely dispenses with rotary controls and as far as possible on buttons. This now also applies to the multifunction steering wheel, whose capacitive fields always pass on their commands with a slight delay.
The format of the selector lever for the dual clutch transmission (DSG) could also be reduced. “Shift by wire”, without mechanical command, allows the transmission to be operated using a small knob.
If the Golf drives up as a 1.5 eTSI (combined fuel consumption: 4.9 liters / 100 km; combined CO2 emissions: 112 g / km²), as in the case of our test car, selecting the DSG automatically means electrification as a 48-volt Mild hybrid. When coasting or braking, energy is recuperated and stored in a lithium-ion battery under the front passenger seat.
Economical mild hybrid
When starting and accelerating, the additional thrust of the integrated belt starter generator is sufficient for rapid progress. Much more important, however: when you are taking a relaxed trip, the system switches off the engine as often as possible, even in freezing winter temperatures. As soon as you step on the gas pedal again, or the software wants to use the engine brake, the four-cylinder reports back to work. This works without any annoying noises or vibrations.
Together with the DCC chassis, which is subject to a surcharge and whose adaptive dampers can be adjusted in many ways, the VW Golf Variant 1.5 eTSI becomes a competent long-distance car. With a test medium of 6.5 liters (according to the on-board computer), including driving on the highway, consumption remains at a low level.
That can only be said about the price to a limited extent. The Golf Variant 1.5 eTSI with 150 PS in the Life equipment line costs at least 31,550 euros. The test car as a Golf R-Line with all sorts of extras comes in at just under 43,000 euros.
But there is still a “happy ending” at the till. Not only when you realize that a similarly equipped and motorized Skoda Octavia Combi is now hardly cheaper. But also because the long-tail Golf with the longer wheelbase is finally an alternative to the family Passat. And that is around 6,000 euros more expensive depending on the equipment.
The new version of the VW Golf Variant will not be a heartbreaker either. But above all thanks to the longer wheelbase, it is now not only a load master, but also a perfect family car that some customers will dispute with the larger Passat. If you don’t feel overwhelmed by the operating concept and are looking for an economical gasoline engine, you should hardly go wrong with the balanced 1.5 eTSI.
Is that it already? Unfortunately not this time. Because the question in the headline unfortunately has to be answered with “not like this”. It is known that VW has overwhelmed the Golf 8 and thus also many customers with the software installed in the vehicle. 56,000 cars that have already been delivered have been updated as part of a service campaign.
The test car wanted to show the full tinsel of its warning lights and error messages again. First, all the warning tones and notices appeared (gearbox defective, brakes defective, etc.) that the digital instrument cluster can handle. At first the engine stopped accelerating, and then it even went out while driving! After rolling onto the motorway hard shoulder, the car could no longer be started. The towing service was also unable to put the gearbox into neutral to pull the damaged Golf onto the loading ramp.
An individual case? Hope dies last. Because the test car was a pre-production copy, some of which are handmade and can differ in many respects from the production car. Hopefully, customers with their Golf Variant will be spared such a “sad end”. (Text and image: Bernd Conrad)