Auto Trader cars

Skip to contentSkip to footer
Expert Review

Volkswagen Golf Hatchback (2008 - 2013) review

Read the Volkswagen Golf hatchback (2009 - 2012) car review by Auto Trader's motoring experts, covering price, specification, running costs, practicality, safety and how it drives.

The Auto Trader expert verdict:


The Volkswagen Golf is smart looking, well built and good to drive. And with typical Volkswagen build quality and reliability and it’s not difficult to see why it has become an icon.

Reasons to buy:

  • tickElegant styling
  • tickWide range of engines
  • tickWell equipped

At a glance:

How good does it look?

The looks of the latest Volkswagen Golf brought about mixed feelings in our office, and among our readers. We found the new Scirocco-like nose and headlights attractive and modern, and we liked the more pronounced shoulder lines which run along the sides of the new Golf. However, we were less convinced by the taillights which seem like a step back from the more curvaceous clusters fitted to the 2004 to 2009 Golf.
Expert rating: 4/5

What's the interior like?

The biggest step forward has been made inside the Golf, elevating its interior above all other competitors in the hatchback class. Every material you can touch feels high quality and strong and each button and switch is thoughtfully laid out. This is a cabin which puts some far more expensive cars to shame. The instruments (now backlit white instead of blue) remain illuminated at all times to make them easier to read and sit in individual metallic cowls. Volkswagen has also improved refinement by fitting thicker glass and better soundproofing.
Expert rating: 5/5

How practical is it?

The Golf is Volkswagen’s biggest seller, and particular attention does seem to have been paid to the small details which make it fit into an owner’s life. The large glovebox is lockable and cooled, there are deep door bins, well-placed cup holders and a boot mounted power source. Boot space of 350 litres is competitive but not class-leading. We don’t normally mention the owner’s manual, but the Golf’s is particularly clear and concise. Changing a bulb and performing simple tasks like checking the engine oil level and adding windscreen washer fluid is child’s play.
Expert rating: 4/5

What's it like to drive?

The Golf excels here because it works brilliantly in almost every situation, soaking up bumps and ruts on the motorway one moment and handling with verve on a twisting country road the next. It has a chassis which feels unflappable and secure and has a well-judged ESP system to help prevent skids. The steering is well weighted and accurate and the Golf has plenty of grip. Adaptive Chassis Control (ACC) is available as an option, allowing the driver to select from normal, comfort or sport modes for the suspension, steering and accelerator.
Expert rating: 4/5

How powerful is it?

There‘s a good spread of engine variants to suit all comers. The 2-litre 110bhp TDI we tested was noticeably quieter and smoother than the previous 1.9-litre. Its idle and low speed noise level is significantly more refined and petrol-like. There is no fuel consumption or tax band penalty if you opt for a 2-litre TDI 140 with its increased performance. Don’t be fooled by petrol engine size, the 1.4-litre engines with a TSI badge are more powerful, economical and cleaner than the less advanced 1.6-litre and command a price premium as a result.
Expert rating: 4/5

How much will it cost me?

Significant emission improvements and high-tech new engines bring the running costs of the new Golf down. All diesel models are fitted with a diesel particulate filter as standard. Thanks to its huge sales numbers, parts for the Golf will remain competitively priced and widely obtainable, as will servicing and repairs. Residual values for the Golf are excellent, and the latest model is expected to retain half its value after three years. The Bluemotion model emits just 99g/km and averages 74.3mpg.
Expert rating: 4/5

How reliable is it?

Volkswagen is listed just behind Ford and Vauxhall in the Reliability Index, but ahead of its more luxurious stable mate Audi. Many mechanical components have been carried over from the 2004 to 2009 Golf and are well proven as a result. There has only been one official recall, affecting cars fitted with the DSG gearbox. After several months behind the wheel of our Golf 2.0TDI Match long termer, we’ve experienced no mechanical problems. More than 50 owners  have scored the latest Golf 4.6 out of 5 for reliability in their owner reviews.
Expert rating: 4/5

How safe is it?

The Golf scored a five-star EuroNCAP crash test rating for adult occupant safety. Every version comes fitted with seven airbags as standard, electronic stability programme (ESP), brake assist, ISOFIX child seat anchor points, Electronic Differential Lock (EDL) and traction control. It scored four stars for child safety.
Expert rating: 5/5

How much equipment do I get?

Equipment levels increase logically from the entry level S through to Match and GT trims. S specification includes electronic engine immobiliser, remote central locking, CD player with four speakers, electric front windows, semi-automatic air-con and a multi-function computer. Match specification highlights include cruise control, Multi Device Interface with USB, iPod and Bluetooth connectivity, automatic headlights, front and rear parking sensors and 16-inch alloys. GT specification features sports suspension, front fog lights, sport seats, tinted rear glass, telephone preparation and ‘Porto’ 17-inch alloy wheels. The Bluemotion label denotes models featuring fuel saving devices such as a blanked-off grille and taller gearing.
Expert rating: 4/5

Why buy?

Some might argue the new Golf carries too many parts over from the 2004 to 2009 model to be regarded as a completely new car. We found its new engine line-up, interior and improved refinement do give it enough of a boost, even if it looks very similar from the outside. The Golf has always been about evolution, not revolution and this model is good enough to sit at the very top of the hatchback pile.
Expert rating: 5/5

Still interested in buying the Volkswagen Golf?

Find newFind usedFind a dealer