And so we reach Golf Life 8, the latest generation of the famous Volkswagen hatchback which has been a favourite with Irish buyers for 45 years.
It’s all jazzed up for the age of infotainment and connectivity in a cabin that adapts some great design but is let down by one or two over-reaches.
It gets to Ireland in March. The first to arrive will be the 2-litre diesel (150bhp) and 1.5-litre petrol (150bhp too). They will be followed soon after by the 1-litre TSi and the 115bhp 2-litre TDi. By summer we can expect to see a GTi, a high-performance ‘R’ and plug-ins.
There will be four trim levels: Golf, Life, Style and R-Line. The specs have all increased on the current model, so the old entry Trendline is effectively gone. They say the ‘Golf’ spec is more like Comfortline of old, ‘Life’ equates to ‘Highline’ and ‘Style’ is higher Highline if you like. ‘R-Line’ is out on its own.
We’re told prices should start under €24,500 for the ‘Golf’ trim 1.0 TSi 90hp, €28,500 for the 110bhp ‘Life’ 1.0 TSI.
There is a regular 1.5 TSi 130hp and a 1.5 TSi 150hp (manual); and a mild hybrid 1.5 TSi 130bhp and 1.5 TSi 150bhp (both DSG).
The 1.5-litre regular and mild-hybrid start at Style spec, so assume under €31,000 for the conventional 130bhp manual and under €33,500 for the mild-hybrid.
I think they’ve done a really smart job on the outside – details such as double creases on the bonnet, for example, lift and subtly advance the look. I’m seriously fond of the evolved, crisper look.
But Volkswagen is the first to admit that most of the action is on the inside where the smartly-drawn dash is focal.
Instruments and infotainment “merge” to make a digital cockpit. There is an online connectivity unit (OCU), with We Connect and We Connect Plus.
The pluses are the serrated-sweep dash design embracing the breadth of the interior. It is excellent. I like it; most materials are of a high-quality.
The twin-screen cluster is angled for easy sight by the driver. The fact and pity is the two screens are not merged.
The one with information for speed etc (behind the steering wheel) and the more central, infotainment interactive screen are separated by a chunk of black plastic that let down the whole effect. The central infotainment screen looks far less integrated than it should. Pity.
I thought the graphics and presentation of data were visually clunky, especially the sat nav. Those who have a more modern take on these matters didn’t agree.
Volkswagen really has embraced the infotainment/connectivity age with a vengeance – to the point that there isn’t one good old-fashioned button on the dash for audio or air circulation.
Such basic needs are partially coped with via little plasticky slide keys that were too slippery, small and far from tactile. I wouldn’t like to try working the air con with long finger nails. Yes, you can do much with micro-buttons on the steering wheel or voice control (not great), but what’s the point of having the slide keys if they are not universally suitable?
And low-down vents mean you don’t get air directly on to your face. I don’t know if that’s intended or imposed by design.
We drove an eTSi mild hybrid, a 1.5-litre TSi petrol and a 2-litre diesel as well as a quick comparative run in the current Golf 7 model (I thoroughly enjoyed my drive in it and noted how integrated its screen looked).
There’s a great chassis underpinning all this; really good as I found on my drives. But the steering felt light – no matter how much we boosted the Sport/Individual settings.
The mild-hybrid was less appealing than the 1.5-litre 110bhp petrol.
This new car is much the same size as before: 4,284mm long, 1,789mm wide, 1,456mm tall with a 2,636mm wheelbase. The 380-litre boot transforms into 1,237 with the rear seats folded.
Rear space (behind me) was good but not behind my co-driver (different front-seat preferences).
They expect 2,800 people to buy one in a full year. But the arrival of the sub-€30,000, 330km range ID.3 electric car year may hit demand.
They say Golf 8 represents the “greatest leap forward” since its debut. I’m not so sure about that, especially after that drive in the Golf 7, but it has made some real advances.
* ‘Golf’ trim includes: digital driver’s display, LED headlights, lane assist, wireless app connect, keyless go etc.
* ‘Life’ has Adaptive Cruise Control, 16ins alloys, park distance control, navigation system, wireless charging, ambient lighting.
* ‘Style’ has 17ins alloys, 3-zone air con, lane-change system ‘Side Assist’, high-beam assist, electric/folding mirrors.
* ‘R-Line’ has special decor inside and out, heated leather sports seats, driver profile select, tinted windows.
* Key engines include: 3-cyl 90PS, 3-cyl 110PS petrols; 1.5 TSI 130hp and 1.5 TSI 150hp (manual) and MHEV 1.5 TSI 130 and 1.5 TSI 150 (both DSG).
* Mild-hybrids: 110bhp, 130bhp, 150bhp (48v belt starter generator; 48v lithium-ion battery under front-passenger seat). And 115bhp, 150bhp diesels.
* Plug-ins include 204bhp, 245bhp versions with 13kWh battery.