There’s an engine to suit every taste in the Golf range, and every one we’ve tried is – in its own way – very impressive. The most affordable of these is the lower powered version of the two turbocharged 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engines, but it’s worth stepping up to the more powerful one. It’s not particularly quick, but it’s a lot perkier than you might expect. And with plenty of flexibility thrown in, it makes it a very easy car to live with.
Further up the petrol range are turbocharged 1.4- and 1.5-litre engines, both of which are quick and wonderfully smooth. Of all the powertrains on offer, the 1.5-litre petrol is probably the pick of the range. It is prone to the odd stumble as you come on and off the throttle at low revs – no doubt a by-product of limiting emissions – but in truth, only a hopeless pedant will take issue with this. The rest of the time, the engine is creamy smooth, with a strong lust for revs and an impressively linear power delivery right up to the red line.
Both the legendary GTI and bonkers fast R models come with exceptionally strong, smooth 2.0-litre turbo units so, it’s simply a case of just how hot do you need your Golf to be? Diesel choices start with a 1.6-litre unit, which is very flexible if not all that quick, and it could be quieter and smoother, too. The 2.0-litre diesels address these issues, are much more flexible, and throw in a fair bit more pace.
The GTE plug-in hybrid has both a 1.4-litre petrol engine and an electric motor to deliver 201bhp, meaning it has near-hot hatch pace but with unbelievably low running costs. There’s also an all-electric e-Golf, which is eerily quiet and smooth as it fizzes up to speed. Most versions get a slick-shifting manual gearbox as standard, but are also available with a smooth twin-clutch gearbox as an option.