Volkswagen Golf Estate (Mk8) review


What is it?

This is the estate version of the Mk8 Golf, known more familiarly as the Mk8 Golf Estate. It’s a bit bigger, a bit more sensible, though as we’ll get to in a bit, a thousand per cent more irritating than what has come before.

Looks quite nice, doesn’t it? 

Indeed, we think the Mk8 Golf looks better in this estate form than it does as a hatchback. That certainly hasn’t been the case for previous generations: when Volkswagen has created Golf Estates before it’s just sort of grafted a bit of extra boxiness on the back of the hatch, but this time around there’s a sloping roofline, a ‘shooting brake inspired’ rear window and LED lights as standard to sharpen things up. It’s a very handsome thing, the Mk8 Estate.

And what about the fun versions?

It looks even smarter in top-spec R-Line trim, while the jacked-up, all-wheel-drive Alltrack will win you the most Cool Points (from Team TG, at least). The 4×4 version understandably comes with a fuel consumption and CO2 penalty, but with the extra cladding and the raised ride height it works very nicely. Worth getting and buying a field or something for.

There’s also the Golf R Estate, which comes fitted with the same 2.0-litre turbo as found in the 316bhp Golf R hot hatch. To cut a long story short, it’s very quick and very spacious.

Unfortunately for the sake of interesting cars on the road, Volkswagen reckons that most long-roofed Mk8s will be sold in base-spec Life or mid-range Style trim.

What are the engines like? 

Petrol engines include a teeny 999cc three-cylinder turbocharged unit and a 1.5-litre four-pot that can be had with either 128bhp or 148bhp. A 6spd manual gearbox is standard fitment, but all petrol engines can be optioned with a seven-speed DSG that also adds 48V mild-hybrid tech. You’ll see those badged as eTSI models, although the claimed fuel economy and CO2 figures are remarkably similar even with the electric assist.

There is still a diesel option: a 2.0-litre TDI that comes with either 113bhp or 148bhp. Both of those can also be combined with a 6spd manual or 7spd DSG auto box, but neither is available with additional electricity.

Does it drive alright? 

Driving isn’t the issue with the latest version of the Golf – it’s all very dependable and sensible. A great family car with neutral characteristics in standard form, a certain amount of off-road capability with the Alltrack version and fast grand touring potential if you go for the R version; perhaps even enough fun to muster up a B-road blat every now and then if you fancy.

No, the real issue – and we hate to keep banging on about this, but it’s a genuine hardship from a car that has always been so easy to live with – is the interior. Volkswagen lost all control of its senses when it signed off the infotainment set-up on the latest Golf (and most of its newest cars). The menus are infuriating, the buttonless interiors exasperating and the software experience muddily slow. It’s a rare misstep from one of the world’s most dependable carmakers.

How does the Golf Estate compare with a Skoda Octavia?

If we take the entry level trim as a comparison, prices start from around £27k for the bog standard Life model with the 1.0-litre 3cyl engine, up to £30k for the 113bhp diesel with DSG auto. Both ends of that spectrum make the Golf a solid chunk more expensive than the entry trim on the Octavia Estate (£25k–£26k), although admittedly that car isn’t available with a diesel engine until SE L trim, a £4k uplift on the entry petrol there.

Any others I should look at?

Outside of the VW Group stable, alternatives include the Ford Focus Estate, Toyota Corolla Touring Sports, Mazda 6 Tourer, Peugeot 508 SW and (arguably) the Kia Proceed. Stuff like the Volvo V60 and BMW 3 Series Touring represents a bit of a leap, price wise.

Our choice from the range

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1.5 TSI 150 Style 5dr


What's the verdict?

“Overall it's a very accomplished thing, the Mk8 Golf Estate. Massively practical too…”

Overall it’s a very accomplished thing, the Mk8 Golf Estate. Massively practical too – much more so than that crossover you’re inevitably thinking of buying, even if it does have slightly less room than its Skoda and Seat siblings. You can read our Octavia Estate review by clicking these blue words, and our Leon Estate review by clicking these words.

If you’ve got your heart set on the VW, though, Style trim combined with the 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol probably provides the best value for money and balance between a decent drive and comfort. That’ll get you a strong spec with prices starting at just over £29k.

Make sure you have a good fiddle with the infotainment on your test drive though (you want to be sure you can live with it), and avoid the bigger wheels and sportier suspension set-ups to get the more relaxing road manners. Or maybe just buy the Octavia instead…


What is it like to drive?

Overall the Golf Estate is as grown-up and refined as it has ever been, which makes the interior infotainment niggles that much more infuriating.

The 1.0-litre 3cyl engine that comes in the entry level Life-spec car is a willing engine that still manages to be quiet and refined, especially at motorway speeds. There’s only 109bhp and 148lb ft of torque being sent to the front wheels so it does struggle when fully loaded, but it’s a novelty to have three pedals and the 6spd manual gearbox is as precise as it needs to be.

The 1.0-litre TSI’s main problem isn’t to do with the drivetrain itself – it manages a respectable 0-62mph time of 10.5 seconds and tops out at 126mph. The issue is that the more powerful 128bhp four-cylinder is only £600 more. Volkswagen says the most popular car in the range is the 113bhp 2.0 diesel in Life spec, perhaps an indication of the sort of cheapo fleet buyers who like VW Golf Estates.

What about the more powerful diesel?

That manages 0-62mph in 8.7 seconds and hits 139mph at the top end. It pulls well enough, has even better motorway manners than the petrol and would be the best choice if you’re planning to tow. It’ll also manage over 60mpg without really breaking a sweat. It works well in the 4×4 model, which is rated for towing up to 1,500kg braked and 750kg unbraked, but you’ll get closer to 50mpg there because of the extra energy the 4×4 set-up demands.

What’s the ride like?

Lower spec cars get a simple torsion beam rear suspension setup that doesn’t lend itself to a particularly engaging drive, but means the ride is slightly softer than you’ll find in something like a Ford Focus Estate. The Octavia Estate is spongier still, though. The Alltrack 4×4 adds more movement to the mix with its raised ride height despite fancier suspension – the trade-off for its off-roading pretensions.

The larger engines are combined with more advanced multi-link rear suspension that improves handling and feel, while R-Line models get firmer sporty set-ups. There’s even optional Dynamic Chassis Control that offers Sport, Comfort and Normal modes if you’re willing to get the wallet out, but we’d suggest that £950 would be better spent elsewhere.


What is it like on the inside?

If you’ve read our review of the Mk8 Golf hatch, you’ll know this is where it falls down compared with its rivals – even against those from within the VW Group. Yes, the seating position is perfectly judged, there are plenty of nice soft-touch materials (particularly the brilliant cloth seats) and it’s all screwed together well, but we just haven’t got on with the standard ‘Innovision’ cockpit.

Sometimes with cars it’s just a matter of getting used to the setup, and we often only see these things for short periods. But here? Pure contempt, every time.

Okay, explain…

As with all new Golfs, the Estate gets a 10in display for the dials and a 10in central touchscreen for all of your infotainment and climate control needs. There’s then a confusing capacitive slider under the screen that controls temperature and volume, but it’s far more complicated to use than a simple knob and you can’t see it at night because it doesn’t light up. You’ll also accidentally touch it a lot when trying to use the touchscreen on the move.

It really is a frustrating task trying to turn off menu-hidden driver assistance systems or attempting to set cabin temperatures. Thankfully there are some proper buttons on the steering wheel, although these are swapped out for terrible touch-sensitive haptic surfaces on R-Line cars. Avoid.

How much space is there inside?

Suppose we should talk about practicality, given that’s probably the sole reason you’re on this page. The wheelbase on the Mk8 Estate is 66mm longer than the previous version of the car, and the whole thing is 35mm longer in total. This means an increase in bootspace to an impressive 611 litres with the rear seats up and 1,642 litres with them folded flat. That longer wheelbase also increases the legroom for rear passengers by 38mm over the previous generation. You can easily seat six-footers front and rear.

It’s worth pointing out here, though, that the similarly MQB-based Octavia gets a 640-litre boot with the seats up, or 1,700 litres with them folded down. The Leon Estate also does ever so slightly better than the Golf with a 617-litre boot. Though these are ultimately tiny differences.


What should I be paying?

There are three trims available on the Golf Estate – starting Life and moving through Style and R-Line – plus an Alltrack and R version. The Life model starts at £26,970 and gets 16in alloys, aircon, a 10in infotainment screen and adaptive cruise control as standard. You won’t be celebrating Christmas getting into this one.

Style adds £2.5k to the price tag and throws in 17in alloys, three-zone climate control, carpets and LED headlights, while R-Line gets you sportier seats, fancier exterior trim and tinted rear glass for £30,725.

The Alltrack is your slightly beefed up 4×4 model at £39k, and £45k gets you into the souped up R model car with its 316bhp 2.0-litre petrol engine that manages 0–62mph in 4.9 seconds.

All Golf Estates are rated in the high-40s to high-50s on fuel consumption, except the R which is rated at 35.8mpg. Worth noting that the R and the Alltrack both tip into the £555 first year VED bracket, where all other models are in the cheaper bands at around £200.

What about monthly costs? 

The entry level Life model with the 1.0-litre 3cyl engine is a comparative bargain at £375 a month if you can live without all the equipment (the second-up-the-ladder SE Technology Octavia is the cheapest estate in that range at £380 a month). The 1.5-litre 4cyl R-Line model with 148bhp is the next cheapest trim to go for at £440 a month. The go-faster R-spec car will cost you around £690 a month, but the most expensive in the range is the Alltrack 4×4 at around £850 a month.

How does the Golf compare with its VWG rivals?

It’s worth noting that the Skoda Octavia estate shakes out around £2k less than the Golf Estate like for like. It’s a big difference, essentially a space vs style dilemma, but as ever you’ll pay the premium for style. Meanwhile nobody quite knows what the Seat is for, but the Leon Estate is a reasonably stylish and slightly cheaper alternative to the Golf.

The other virtue of either the Leon or the Octavia is that those cars also come with a PHEV option – why doesn’t the Golf? You’d think Volkswagen would have an electric estate on sale by now too, come to think of it.

What extras should I go for?

There are a few boxes to tick on the configurator. The brilliantly bright IQ.Light LED-matrix headlights are an £875 optional extra. A rear-view camera is £300, the full-fat version of VW’s Travel Assist system is £710 (although it’s standard with Style trim) and the head-up display is £625.

A heated steering wheel comes as part of a £550 ‘Winter Pack’ (standard on the Alltrack), but every time you press the steering wheel-mounted button it brings up the climate control panel on the infotainment screen. Argh!

There are all the usual active driver assistance systems, as well as a choice of 30 colours for the interior lighting on higher spec models (10 on the entry car). Pretty colours.

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