Volkswagen celebrates Golf’s 50th anniversary with reinvented model

As it turns 50, the German carmaker’s all-time best-seller receives a wide-reaching suite of technology upgrades, usability enhancements, material improvements and a new look inside and out in the new Golf GTI.

By Greg Kable, Autocar UK calendar 24 Jan 2024 Views icon2448 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp

Volkswagen has comprehensively rebooted the eighth-generation Golf in a bid to sustain its appeal to the end of the decade, when it will be replaced by the electric Mk9.

As it turns 50, the German firm’s all-time best-seller receives a wide-reaching suite of technology upgrades, usability enhancements, material improvements and a new look inside and out.

The powertrain line-up has been revamped, too, with the addition of new long-range plug-in hybrids, revised petrol and diesel options – and more power for the GTI hot hatch, which will head the line-up until the launch of the revised four-wheel-drive Golf R later this year.

Due in the UK in April, the 2024 Golf seeks to reinstate the model as Europe’s number one by sales volume after supply chain bottlenecks and a drop in popularity caused it to slip behind the likes of the Peugeot 208, the Dacia Sandero, the Volkswagen T-Roc and the Renault Clio in the sales charts.

Visually defining features include the Volkswagen logo, which is illuminated for the first time on the Golf, and the newly designed LED headlights

Styling elements that distinguish the new Golf include an illuminated Volkswagen badge at the front – a feature made possible by a recent change in Europe’s advertising laws – and a reprofiled front bumper with redesigned air ducts (decorated by a honeycomb insert on the GTI).

Another obvious change is the new-look, angular LED headlights, which can be optionally specified with VW’s IQ Light HD matrix technology.

There are new sills underneath the doors too, as well as a more prominent spoiler above the tailgate on the GTI, a restyled rear bumper and new-look LED tail-lights.

The 11 paint colours offered up until now have been extended to include four new metallic colours, and a black roof is being made available for the first time as an option on the GTI, GTE and R-Line variants of the Golf.

The GTI can also be ordered with carbonfibre exterior applications for the first time, and the iconic teledial alloy wheel design has returned to the options list for the first time since the Mk6 version as one of five new designs for the 2024 hot hatch.

Inside, Volkswagen has provided the upgraded Golf with a new multifunction steering wheel. It reverts back to button controls, dropping the widely criticised capacitive controls used on the pre-facelift Golf.

There are also higher-quality materials throughout the cabin to help lift perceived quality.

New ChatGPT-powered voice assistant can be used to control the air conditioning, telephone and navigation system as well as access the internet.

Ahead of the driver is a revised instrument display with new model-specific graphic skins, which can be selected using a new dial on the steering wheel.

Crucial to marking out the ‘Mk8.5’ from the pre-facelift Golf is the introduction of VW’s new fourth-generation infotainment system, called MIB4, which has already been rolled out to the latest Tiguan, Passat and ID 3 as well as the new ID 7 saloon.

With quicker processing times, revamped menus and slicker graphics, it runs through either a standard 10.4-inch or optional 12.9-inch touchscreen display and introduces a new ChatGPT-powered voice assistant, which can be used to control the air conditioning, telephone and navigation system as well as access the internet.

In reaction to criticism of the outgoing Golf’s poor ergonomics, the touch slider for the temperature and volume control below the infotainment screen has been revised so that it is now backlit and new software provides it with speedier reaction times.

The upgraded Golf also brings Volkswagen’s 360deg View, Park Assist Plus and Park Assist Pro systems as options for the first time, which means that it can be parked remotely via a smartphone.

The engine line-up is exclusively four-cylinder, with all initial models adopting a traditional front-wheel-drive layout.

Included are 114bhp and 148bhp turbocharged 1.5-litre petrol units – with and without mild-hybrid technology – in a quartet of 1.5 eTSI and 1.5 TSI models.

There is also a reworked turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine with an added 13bhp, at 201bhp, in the upgraded 2.0 TSI – and 20bhp more in the 262bhp GTI, which is no longer available with a manual gearbox.

Volkswagen hasn’t revealed any performance claims for the GTI, but Wolfsburg insiders say its 0-62mph/0-100kph time undercuts the 6.2 sec of its predecessor. Top speed remains limited to 155mph/250kph.

The diesels get a further developed version of Volkswagen’s turbocharged 2.0-litre engine, offering 114bhp and 148bhp in a pair of 2.0 TDI models.


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