The Golf is something of a staple in the car world, and Volkswagen has stuck to a fairly rigid formula with its big-selling family hatchback. And why shouldn’t it, as the Volkswagen Golf has always provided a thoroughly sensible choice against Toyota’s Auris, the Ford Focus and other rivals - with the bonus of that desirable VW badge on its grille. Solid build, high quality and inoffensive styling, mixed with respectable performance, economy and emissions across the entire range means there’s a Golf for everyone, at prices to suit most budgets.
Replaced in 2013 by the Mk VII Golf the Mk VI is a very attractive used buy, not least because it looks so similar to the newer car. The sharp style introduced in 2008 has aged very well, the Golf looking smarter than its many contemporaries, further underlining the Volkswagen’s classy, upmarket appeal. As you might expect, the range is vast, with engine and trim choices encompassing everything from entry-level petrol and diesel options from 1.4 litres and up, to the range-topping high performance 210hp GTI and its 170hp GTD turbodiesel alternative.
Tempting as those overtly sporting GTI and GTD models might be they’re understandably at the thicker end of most people’s budgets, the majority of those on sale being a bit more sedate and sensible. There’s a lot of choice if you stick with the 80hp 1.4-litre petrol engine, or the 1.6-litre TDI unit with 90- or 105hp. Earlier examples offer the 2.0-litre TDI engine with 110hp, that power swelling to 140hp in later cars. Offering more choice is the naturally aspirated 1.6-litre petrol engine and the 1.4-litre TSI unit, which unusually combines both a turbocharger and supercharger for 160hp output - but sensible economy and emissions. The 1.6-litre petrol was latterly replaced by a turbocharged 1.2-litre TSI unit with 86hp.
Transmission choices include five- and six-speed manuals and a six-speed DSG automatic - depending on the model. Three- and five-door models were offered, the latter by far the most popular. Trim choices follow the usual Trendline, Comfortline, Highline and Edition-R on later cars, earlier models offered in a variety of trims including Base, S, Comfort, Match, GT and Sport. Not forgetting GTI and GTD range-toppers, either. To add to the confusion there are option packs, while economy specials gain the BlueMotion tag.
With so much choice you can afford to be picky. If you’re likely to be doing big mileages then the economy benefit of the 1.6 TDI engine gives it the edge over the 1.4-litre petrol, though that is more than adequate for day-to-day driving. Trims depend on budget, but regardless of which one you choose all come relatively well specified, and all feature superb build quality and refinement.
Volkswagen Golf 1.6 TDI
Engines: 1,598cc four-cylinder turbodiesel
Maximum speed: 189km/h
0-100km/h: 11.3 seconds
Fuel consumption: 4.5 litres/100km
Euro NCAP: *****
• Beautiful build quality
• Excellent refinement
• Economical engines
• Not huge in the rear seats
• Expensive compared to rivals
We might have listed ubiquity as a bad point above, but the Golf is popular for good reason. It’s a quality product, that, while not particularly exciting (in its lesser, everyday forms at least) is a hugely competent, comfortable and refined all-rounder. Add the brand cachet from that VW badge and plentiful choice and it’s difficult not to recommend the Golf as a used car purchase.