Volkswagen Golf Estate (2012 - 2017) review
The Volkswagen Golf Estate is a practical and cheap-to-run small family estate car. It's also handsome and well equipped, too
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The Volkswagen Golf Estate has a well resolved appearance. In a neat trick of the eye, most of the side window pillars are blacked out, making the Estate appear long and sleek in profile. Another subtle feature is the sharp crease along the flanks of the car, which is delicately interrupted by the rear wheelarch. It’s a reserved car, which is less daring than the Ford Focus Estate, but still manages to look more expensive.
Volkswagen has done it again. The Golf’s interior is unbeatable for the price, perfectly matching high quality with ease-of-use. We love the dashboard, which is angled towards the driver and features a colour touch-screen. Every knob and button could easily look at home in a car costing three or four times as much. Rear headroom is really impressive, while front elbow room is also pretty good, making the cabin feel more spacious overall.
The luggage space behind the rear seats now measures 605 litres, comprehensively beating the Ford Focus Estate and even the 500-litres of the Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer from the next class up. Fold the Golf’s rear seats down – some trim levels let you do this via levers just through the boot hatch – and space increases to 1,620 litres. The loading bay has flat sides, with no wheel-arch intrusion and there’s a low and very wide loading lip. There’s also a folding cargo floor, which can be installed at different heights and has a space to store the retractable parcel shelf when not in use. It’s almost class-leading, but the Skoda Octavia Estate is even bigger, with a 1,740-litre boot.
Ride and handling
The Golf Estate is based on the same underpinnings as the hatchback, which is a really lovely car to drive. It also features XDS+ as standard, a system which can brake both wheels closest to the apex of a corner if it senses the car is losing grip, helping keep you on your chosen path. Active Chassis Control (ACC) is also available as an option, adding adjustable suspension which can be cycled through ‘Comfort’, ‘Normal’ and ‘Sport’ settings. Models with less than 120bhp get a more basic rear suspension design. This still offers a very good balance of ride and handling, but can’t soak up all road imperfections with quite the same level of polish.
There’s a broad spread of engines, all of which are turbocharged. Petrol models are 1.2 or 1.4-litres in displacement, with power levels of 84, 104, 120 or 138bhp. The top version features cylinder deactivation, effectively making it a two-cylinder car when not much power is needed. There are also 1.6-litre or 2.0-litre TDI diesel engines, with either 89 (in entry-level S trim only), 104 or 148bhp. Every engine has a smooth and grown-up demeanour, with the 1.6-litre diesel expected to be the biggest seller in the UK, especially among business drivers. The 120bhp petrol is also a popular choice with private buyers, and it is punchy and refined. The top diesel is the best choice for towing, as its huge pulling power makes light work of extra weight, and can pull a 1,600kg braked trailer.
Every model in the range has average fuel consumption above 50mpg, with the 104bhp diesel returning 72.4mpg and emitting 102g/km of CO2. All models feature BlueMotion Technology, including stop/start and battery regeneration, but for the first time in a Golf estate, there’ll also be a full BlueMotion model capable of 85.6mpg and emitting 87g/km of CO2.
The Golf Estate feels extremely well built and engineered, and while it’s based on the all-new Golf, most of its engines and technology are tried and tested in other Volkswagen models.
The Estate features Post-Collision Braking, which triggers the brakes if a collision is detected, helping to avoid or minimise the danger of further impacts. SE trim levels and above feature Front Assist with City Emergency Braking, which can initiate hard braking if a risk of collision is detected at speeds below 19mph. Seven airbags are fitted as standard, as well as anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control, and the hatchback on which this estate is based scored a maximum five-star rating in Euro NCAP crash tests.
Standard kit includes Bluetooth, DAB digital radio with a 5.8-inch touchscreen and iPod connector. SE models have 16-inch alloy wheels, auto lights and wipers, Driver Alert System and driver profile selection, while the top GT version has 17-inch wheels, sports suspension, tinted windows, sat-nav, folding door mirrors and parking sensors.
The Golf Estate has reached a size where it’s a real alternative to models from the next class up. It’s significantly more practical than the Focus Estate, and offers a classier interior.