The latest Golf has a 26mm boost in length to 4,284mm. We'll have to wait nearly a year before it reaches our shores. Picture: SUPPLIED
The latest Golf has a 26mm boost in length to 4,284mm. We'll have to wait nearly a year before it reaches our shores. Picture: SUPPLIED

Since its inception, 35-million people across the world have bought Golfs, and Volkswagen hopes they won’t abandon the world’s most popular car.

And to keep abreast of the move to electrification in Europe, the company is releasing the eighth generation of the ageless hatchback, now with plug-in functionality.

The new generation will be headlined by five hybrid models in all, including a pair of plug-in hybrids, each with more than 70km of pure electric range, and another three mild hybrids.

The remaining diesel version, a 2.0l turbo four cylinder, will come with a 17% drop in its CO2 emissions, thanks to a new dual AdBlue injection system for the series catalysts, while the petrol motors will all cut about 10% from their emissions figures.

There will be old-fashioned speed, too, with up to 221kW ready to go from the four-cylinder turbo motor for the late-arriving GTi five-door hatch.

It will also be the first Car2X car in its class, with its permanently-on wireless internet able to receive warnings from police, fire and ambulance crews, along with notifications about roadworks or emergency scenarios.

The system’s pop-up messages will give drivers up to five seconds of extra reaction time to oncoming emergency services or for closed lanes or crash sites, with up to 800m of range in open country or 250m in inner cities.

The Golf Mk VIII looks sleeker, with a tauter stance on the road, while losing none of its luggage space and gaining even more rear legroom.

“The new Golf is a sporty type that easily copes with everyday life,” Volkswagen’s design head Klaus Bischoff said.

“Its nonchalance is expressed as part of its clear-cut, pure design language that has achieved a seamless appearance in the eighth generation.”

The Golf Mk VIII looks sleeker, with a tauter stance on the road, while losing none of its luggage area and gaining even more rear legroom. Picture: SUPPLIED
The Golf Mk VIII looks sleeker, with a tauter stance on the road, while losing none of its luggage area and gaining even more rear legroom. Picture: SUPPLIED

It still rides on the MQB underbody architecture, though it has been revised to the point where it’s now called MQB Evo, and slashes 50kg from the Golf’s kerb weight while stiffening the chassis even further.

Its dimensions remain in the same class as the seventh-generation Golf, with a 26mm boost in length to 4,284mm, a 10mm reduction in width to 1,789mm, 4mm more height and 16mm more length in the wheelbase, which now pushes out to 2,636mm.

Its interior will bring a choice of up to four digital instrument cluster layouts, two touchscreens and completely new controls that slash the car’s button count.

There will be both e-Hybrid and GTE plug-in hybrids at the top of the Golf food chain, though the e-Hybrid will ditch the car’s pure EV (electric vehicle) power-train.

“Golf has always brought innovative technology to a broad number of people,” Volkswagen head of sales and marketing Jürgen Stackmann said.

“In the first generations, that was comfort and safety, but with the eighth generation it is the digital revolution. This is the most intelligent Golf ever and it is a revolution for the class.”

The move away from the EV e-Golf is either Volkswagen expecting cannibalisation from the all-new ID.3 electric hatch or Volkswagen not wanting the e-Golf to take EV sales away from its new electric toy.

THE CAR IS ALWAYS CONNECTED, WHICH MAKES IT EASY TO STREAM MUSIC VIA SPOTIFY OR APPLE MUSIC, FOR EXAMPLE

Both of the range-leading plug-ins will use the same 2.0l  petrol engine as their combustion power source, combined with a strong new electric motor.

Everything will have some sort of electrification, either through plug-in hybrid power, 48V mild-hybrid power or the cheaper 12V mild-hybrid system.

The base plug-in, the e-Hybrid, will top out at 150kW of power, while the GTE pushes that out to 180kW.

Both plug-in Golfs will stretch out to almost 75km of electric range, though Volkswagen engineers expect 60km-70km of real-world range.

The manual gearbox survives into the new-generation Golf with an all-new six-speed unit, specifically designed for the lower-powered models, saving a claimed 5g/km in CO2 emissions all by itself.

Volkswagen makes the same claim for its revised seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, which now loads up with up to 400Nm of torque capacity.

It needs that because the integrated starter-generator electric motor in the mild-hybrid Golfs will generate 50Nm of torque.

Both of the 1.0l, three-cylinder TSI petrol engines will receive the mild-hybrid system. The base version will deliver just 66kW of power, but the top version will have 81kW.

The 1.5l four-cylinder petrol Golfs have the same technology, introduced on the Golf VII’s facelift, and deliver either 96kW or, with the hybrid eTSI, 110kW of power.

Largely a carry-over motor, the 2.0l Evo TDI will have either 85kW or 110kW, depending on the specification.

Both the GTi and the GTD will remain, though neither of them will launch with the rest of the Golf Mk VIII models. The GTi will produce 190kW-plus, and an R version is also under development.

In-car technology steps it up

Huge high-resolution digital screens dominate the cabin. Picture: SUPPLIED
Huge high-resolution digital screens dominate the cabin. Picture: SUPPLIED

Three huge high-resolution digital screens, all at the same level, dominate the cabin but that’s not the most impressive thing about the consumer technology at play here.

Instead, there’s what Volkswagen calls IQ Assist, which can run the cruise control system at up to 210km/h without steering, braking or throttle inputs, provided its drivers keep their hands on the wheel. 

The cockpit has a 25cm touchscreen or, in the lesser versions, a 21cm touchscreen. The instrument cluster itself now offers a choice of four displays, including two with round dials and one with a larger navigation display.

The infotainment system adopts a lot of the Innovision philosophies that debuted on the current Touareg and improves them. For example, it takes five touch steps to find the dimmer switch for the instrument cluster on the Touareg, but just two on the new Golf.

The navigation system uses a trip overview, as well as information from traffic alerts, topography and driver habits, to deliver the optimal electric power delivery for the plug-in hybrids.

The car is always connected, which makes it easy to stream music via Spotify or Apple Music, for example, or use services such as Alexa, and it can easily download from the cloud.

The steering wheels are all multifunction units, helping to lend the Golf’s interior a clean and minimalist design, which is helped by a lift in cabin materials.

There is now the option of a windscreen-based head-up display, and the “Hello Volkswagen” voice-control system has been refined too.

All-new lights top out with an LED Matrix system. With 22 LEDs per headlight, the only traditional bulb in the entire Golf Mk VIII range will be the turn indicator in the entry-level car. Even the rear lights are full LED.

The new eighth-generation Golf will go on sale in SA in late 2020.