Nearly new buying guide: Volkswagen Golf Mk7
4 January 2022 - autocar
The seventh-generation hatchback is a classy all-rounder that covers nearly all the bases
Seek out a good used example of the 2013-2020 Volkswagen Golf Mk7 and you’ll have yourself one of the most multi-talented cars of all time.
What it offered was a combination of extremely useful all-round abilities in a delightfully classy and tastefully restrained package, all wrapped up in an eminently affordable car that you would be happy to take anywhere.
For starters, there’s the range of 1.0, 1.4 and later 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engines that punch far above their weight in terms of performance yet return impressive fuel efficiency. Then there are the 1.6 and 2.0-litre diesel engines for those who might be doing big miles. Anybody interested in low-emission driving might want to consider either the plug-in hybrid GTE or fully electric e-Golf. For those more interested in speed, there’s always the hot hatch GTI or ballistically quick Golf R.
On the regular models, entry-level S trim isn’t lavishly equipped: you get air conditioning but there are no alloy wheels and few other niceties. Move up to the rather better-equipped Match and SE and you’ll add 16in alloy wheels, a leather-trimmed steering wheel, power-folding door mirrors and adaptive cruise control, plus many useful driving aids, infotainment upgrades and safety features. Next up the scale, GT added more luxuries, and later models topped out with R-Line trim, which made the Golf a very smart and well-equipped car indeed.
To drive, even the regular versions of the Golf offer enough agility and steering sharpness to make them enjoyable, with the extra and impressive speed of the GTI and R versions making them a delight on an empty road or a twisting stretch of Tarmac. All versions are refined and stable, too, and the Golf rides better than most of its contemporaries, thanks to its supple suspension.
The interior is very smart, whichever trim you go for. The dashboard is built from upmarket-feeling materials and is laid out almost ideally, with all the major controls right where you need them to be. Infotainment is taken care of by an 8.0in touchscreen system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto phone mirroring.
Space up front is plentiful, even for tall drivers, and there’s good leg and head room in the rear, even if six-footers won’t enjoy sitting behind similarly tall front-seat occupants for long journeys. The boot is big enough for a huge weekly shop or a baby buggy, but probably not both at the same time. There was a contemporary estate version for those in need of extra space.
The Golf was substantially updated in 2017, with some styling tweaks to the exterior, a range of more efficient engines, some additional trim levels and a new infotainment system for the interior. This later version has become known by the unofficial moniker Mk7.5 and is the one worth seeking out, if money allows. To end as we began, it’s a truly classy and competent all-rounder.
Need to know
Around £5000 buys a high-mile car, but £7k is safer ground. From £8000-£9000 lies a good mix of 2015-16 cars, while £10k gets 2017 and 2018 examples. Pay upwards of £14,000 for 2020-21 cars.
Budget at least £11,000 for a GTI, £15k for a four-wheel-drive R, £14k for a GTE and £16k for an e-Golf.
The most economical regular Golf is the earlier 1.6 TDI 105, at 74mpg (NEDC); later 1.6 TDI 115s manage 56.5mpg (WLTP). The 1.5 TSI Evo returns 49.6mpg (WLTP).
Gearbox: VW has largely sorted its DSG ’box problem, but some early cars still have issues. Make sure the gearbox changes smoothly and there is no errant behaviour.
Engines: Petrol engine timing chains have been known to snap, causing major engine damage. Having the car serviced on time mitigates this, so a full service history is crucial.
Electrics: Faults with the sat-nav and entertainment system have been reported, so check that all the electrics work as they should.
Oil consumption: GTIs can drink a lot of oil, so it’s crucial to check the level between services. If it gets too low, it can damage the engine or timing chain.
Adaptive cruise: Cars with adaptive cruise control can suffer from problems with the system slamming on the brakes. It can be recalibrated, at a cost.
Recalls: There are too many recalls to detail in full, but they include issues with the airbags, seatbelt tensioners, fuel leaks, front wheel bearing housings, fitment of incorrect front brake discs, head restraints, child locks, rear hub carriers and seat backrests. Your VW dealer will be able to tell if your car is affected and if remedial work has been done.
Reliability: Our sister mag What Car?’s reliability data says petrol Golfs are more reliable than diesels. Petrols were given a reliability rating of 94.6% and diesels 89.4% – not terrible nor amazing. Volkswagen as a brand ranked 20th out of 30 in the same survey.
1.5 TSI Evo 130: Petrol Golfs are quieter and smoother than their diesel equivalents, and yet just as punchy on the road. Our favourite among the older cars is the 1.4 TSI 125, while on later post-facelift cars the 1.5 Evo 130 version gets our vote.
Golf R: If you want whip-crack performance, go for the mega-hatch bargain R. Its 296bhp 2.0-litre engine has impeccable manners that help the suave automatic DSG version shift from zero to 62mph in less than five seconds. Way to go.
Our top spec
SE Nav: We reckon the SE and Match trims offer the best balance of equipment and price on earlier cars, but our pick is the post2017 SE Nav trim. You get all you could need plus satnav, not surprisingly.
Ones we found:
2015 Volkswagen Golf 1.4 TSI 125 SE, 90,000 miles, £7995
2017 Volkswagen Golf GTI, 35,000 miles, £17,995
2018 Volkswagen Golf 1.5 TSI 130 SE Nav, 20,000 miles, £18,995