Volkswagen Golf Highline 2018 review: Why the new and spacious VW hatchback is worth buying
It's practical as heck
The first thing you'll notice upon clambering into the recently-updated-for-2018 Volkswagen Golf is how much space there is — for people and for said people's stuff.
Well, you get all that with the Golf GTI too, but that's a lot more expensive and let's be honest, its raciness won't appeal to everyone. If it's ultimate value you're after, though, you might want to have a look at Skoda, a close cousin of this Volkswagen.
Monster door bins will easily swallow 1.5-litre bottles or medium-sized laptops, there's a seemingly bottomless box under the central armrest, plus a host of other storage cubbies scattered liberally throughout its cabin.
Then there's its boot, which will hold 380 litres (going up to 1,270 litres with the rear seats down), which is generous, but not class-leading by a huge margin. But what the numbers don't tell you is how usable all that space is.
The load sill is low, which means you won't get a hernia trying to load the two airline cabin-sized bags that will fit in the Golf's boot. And since it's a hatchback, you'll be able to pile your stuff all the way to the ceiling, though that's not exactly recommended, since rearward visibility is kinda important.
All that practicality, and you realise that the Golf is technically a small car.
It's big on value
When this, the then-new seventh-generation Volkswagen Golf first made its appearance five years ago, it promised to bring premium features and a driving experience to the mass-market segment.
Yeah, yeah. It's only something we've heard like a million or so times before.
This, though, is different.
For instance, it has a 9.2-inch touchscreen infotainment system taking pride of place in the centre stack and an all-digital instrument cluster that, along with the usual speedometer, can also display the map/navigation.
But more than that is how remarkably quiet everything is, at any speed you care to name. Or how composed and all-of-apiece the Golf feels either when just pootling along or thrashing it. Or how everything feels so impressively well-built. The doors slam shut with a solid, premium-esque thunk and every knob, dial and button is impeccably constructed.
In fact, cover up the Volkswagen badges and you'd be forgiven you're in a premium car. It's that good.
All that comes at a price, though
Literally. To be specific, a shade under $140,000 (though VW tells us it's actually transacting at $125,900).
You know the big-screen infotainment system (with integrated sat-nav) and digital dashboard we mentioned earlier?
Yeah, you're seeing it in this particular Golf's price tag. A price tag that could rival or is even larger than some of its premium segment competitors - think the Audi A3, BMW 1 Series and Mercedes-Benz A-Class.
To be fair to the Golf, this one is pretty much Gucci spec. In addition to the above, you get a sunroof and a full complement of LED headlights and taillights. And on that last point, LED lighting used to be only available on the most premium of premium cars, and even then, they were a hefty cost option.
Well, you could always go for the base model, which comes in way cheaper at around $100,000. Its 1-litre engine is decent enough, developing 100hp (not too far off this one's 1.4-litre engine with 125hp), though you'll have to do without such niceties as a sunroof, have to stare at analogue dials and only a single zone air-conditioning system.
See what we said earlier about the Golf Highline being premium?
Is it worth shelling out for, though?
Oh, absolutely. Whether you choose the high SES Golf or the, ahem, poverty spec one, rest assured you're getting one of the finest mass-market cars on sale today.
Ordinarily, we'd advise against buying a car that's undergone and mid-life refresh and wait for the new one instead (expected here in 2020), but since the seventh-generation Golf was so far ahead of the competition when it was launched in 2013, this is a moot point.
The Golf looks, feels and drives like a brand-new model, and for a car that's effectively five years old - most cars these days run on five-year product life cycles - that's no mean feat.
Most cars (barring limited-run Ferrari hypercars) could hardly be seen as good investment options, and the Golf is no different. But as great value, one that will probably still feel as relevant a decade from now when its COE runs out, definitely.