VW family favourite Golf steers down the hybrid route
No all-electric version but plenty of spark in upgrade for well-connected hatchback
VW Gold: the eighth generation - we could either be peering at the endgame for the Golf, or its rebirth into a new electric future.
Volkswagen’s unveiling of the latest generation of its best-selling Golf could be a defining momebt for the brand. Depending upon how the relationship, and especially the sales balance, between this Golf and VW’s new ID.3 all-electric hatchback plays out over the next decade or so, we could either be peering at the endgame for the Golf, or its rebirth into a new electric future.
For now, all VW will say is that the two cars will co-exist.
“The Golf is based on the enhanced modular transverse matrix (MQB). Its electrification will include the plug-in hybrid,” a spokesman said. “The ID.3 is based on the modular electric drive matrix (MEB), which is designed exclusively for pure electric vehicles. Both vehicles will therefore serve different mobility needs and customer requirements. The Golf and ID.3 will therefore sit in parallel to each other in the Volkswagen brand’s range of products.”
There’s no doubt that the Golf is still a hugely important car for Europe and for Ireland, even if, this year in Ireland, it has been outsold by both the Toyota Corolla and two in-house rivals – the Skoda Octavia and VW’s own Tiguan. With sales of around 36 million globally since 1974, one in every five family hatchbacks on Irish roads is a Golf, and it accounted for almost 20 per cent of sales in that category last month.
Electric power is at the core of this new Golf line-up, just not in the way you’re expecting. There will be no all-electric version of this Golf; no replacement for the current battery-powered eGolf. There will be hybrids, though. Lots of hybrids.
That hybrid line-up starts with a new range of mild-hybrid engines, based around VW’s existing TSI turbocharged petrol engine family. Three eTSI engines will be offered, with power outputs of 90hp, 130hp, and 150hp.
According to VW, the addition of a 48-volt electrical system, a compact lithium-ion battery, and an integrated starter-generator means a 10 per cent saving on fuel economy, compared to a standard, non-hybrid engine.
Unlike a Toyota hybrid, the VW mild hybrid can’t drive the Golf on battery power alone, but allows for an earlier (and longer lasting) activation of the stop-start system in traffic. It also means there’s less demand on the engine to provide electrical power for other systems (lights, infotainment, heating etc) so that helps to ease fuel consumption too.
For the first time, the Golf will also be available with two plugin-hybrid versions. The first will have a combined power output of 204hp, while the other, a higher power version with 245hp, will gain the GTE badge. Both use a 13.1kWh battery, which should provide at least 60km of electric-only range when fully charged.
There will be conventional turbocharged petrol engines too, with 110hp and 150hp. Volkswagen Ireland expects the 110hp TSI petrol to be the best-selling model here.
The Golf 8 will also be available with VW’s new family of diesel engines, for which the company is claiming an 80 per cent reduction in NOX emissions, thanks to the addition of anew AdBlue injection system.
“The new TDI engines are amongst the world’s cleanest combustion engines”, VW claims, and they’ll come with power outputs ranging from 115hp to 150hp. There’s a new six-speed manual gearbox for all engines, and the plugin-hybrids will come with a six-speed DSG automatic.
Performance versions of the Golf will be available, just not from launch. VW has already confirmed that a new 300hp Golf R is being prepared, as is a high-performance diesel GTD. And the famed GTI? There will be one, but VW is going to keep us on tenterhooks for a while.
In the Golf’s cabin, there’s also plenty of electricity on show as the car moves to an entirely screen-based cockpit. Even basic versions will come with a 10.25-inch digital instrument panel and an eight-inch infotainment touchscreen display. There’s also an extra, small, touchscreen to the side of the main instruments that controls items such as lights and screen de-misting. Optionally, you can expand the main infotainment screen to a full 10-inches, and there’s also an optional heads-up display.
The centre console has been designed to be cleaner and simpler than before, and cars equipped with the DSG dual-cultch automatic gearbox get a new, much smaller, gear shifter which frees up more space.
Whichever options you select, all Golf 8s will come with an online connectivity unit – a box equipped with a SIM card that constantly connects the car to the internet. That allows for features you’ll already be familiar with – live traffic updates, parking availability, fuel pricing and so on – and some you’re not. You’ll be able to activate extra functions, for a fee, after you’ve bought the car, while Amazon’s ‘Alexa’ voice assistant is already embedded in the Golf 8’s electronics. There will also be access to streaming music services and podcasts, internet radio, and over-the-air software updates.
Buyers of the new Golf will be offered a package of connectivity options, bundled under the WeConnect (basically an unlimited service) and WeConnect Plus (designed to be free-to-use across Europe for either one or three-year periods). There will also be a company-focused WeConnect Fleet, which will monitor usage, mileage, consumption, and maintenance.
Optionally, and depending on your choice of smartphone, you’ll also be able to do away with a conventional key for this new Golf. Samsung phones will be able to double-up as your Golf’s key. Simply set the phone up in the WeConnect system, and you just need to hold the handset near the door handle to unlock. You place the phone into the centre console to start the car.
Volkswagen claims this Golf will also be the safest Golf ever, and not just because it has a bevvy of airbags. It’s also coming with ‘V2X’ technology that allows it to both send and receive data to and from roadside safety systems in an 800-metre radius. This allows information to be passed regarding localised traffic, road and weather conditions, and can give warnings of accidents or delays ahead, or even patches of ice on the road.
On top of that, the Golf 8 will also have the new travel assist function – the Golf’s first big step into autonomous driving. At speeds of up to 230km/h (on the Autobahn only, please) you can leave the steering, lane-keeping, and braking up to the Golf, as long as your hands are on the wheel and you’re keeping your eyes on the road, of course. Fail to pay attention, and the electronics will bring the car to a safe stop.
Other safety items include new LED lights, and a forward collision detection system that can prevent you turning into another car at a junction.
Style-wise, there’s nothing dramatically new here. It’s very much in keeping with the traditional Golf idiom, although the downward-sloping front end does mean it looks a touch downcast, compared to the more expressive ID.3. A portent of what’s to come, perhaps?
The new Golf will go on sale in March in Ireland, and while Irish prices won’t be announced for a while yet, we do know that standard equipment will include LED lights front and rear, keyless start, digital instruments and the eight-inch infotainment screen, online services, a multifunction steering wheel, automatic air conditioning, lane keeping assistant, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, and the C2X data communications system.
Trim lines in Ireland will start with plain old Golf, then move to Life, and then Style, and then to the top grade R-Line.