Volkswagen Golf review - the ultimate family hatchback? - Ride and handling

The Volkswagen Golf defines the family hatchback class, for good reason

Evo rating
Price
from £17,785
  • Quality, space, refinement, performance
  • Everyone’s got one

Ride and handling 

There’s a serenity to the way the Golf goes about its day-to-day business and that's not just down to the huge refinement on offer, but also the ride quality. The entry-level cars ride with real composure, while GT and R-Line trims gain a lower suspension set up for greater agility. There’s little trade-off in ride comfort with the more taut set-up, but it adds more incisive response to steering input and it's a long way from being uncomfortable.

The steering itself offers good weighting, though however nice the wheel itself might feel in your hands, that’s down to the quality of the materials it’s made of rather than any useful information at the rim. That’s a complaint that can also be levelled at the majority of the Golf’s rivals, though. Live with it a while and it’s quickly apparent that for all the Golf’s somewhat also-ran image dynamically it’s actually got quite a talented chassis.

There’s plenty of grip and if you do get hugely carried away there are no nasty surprises, even if you’ve switched off the electronic stability control. Natural balance is good so the Golf never feels like it's about to suddenly lose grip at either axle. Traction is strong too, so it's rare to see the traction control light flickering, and as a result the Golf is adept at crossing ground with surprising speed and real ability. That’s true across the range, even the base S models coming with Volkswagen’s traction enhancing XDS electronic 'differential lock'.

The e-Golf and GTE are slightly compromised by their extra weight compared to more conventionally-powered models not carrying around large battery packs, and this makes them slightly less responsive and works their tyres slightly harder than their closest petrol- or diesel-powered equivalents. The GTIs, GTDs and Rs though are genuinely impressive - you get a little more feedback, albeit not the constant stream we strive for, and they can be good fun in the right driving conditions.

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