FIRST DRIVE | We tell you what it's like to pilot the VW Golf 8

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The best hatchback in the world just raised the bar again, writes Michael Taylor from the international launch

A crisper steering feel and terrific ride comfort make the latest Golf even better than before. Picture: SUPPLIEDThe Volkswagen Golf Mark 8 has arrived, reasserting its place as the world’s best hatchback and raising the bar in the class considerably.

The interior, all touchscreen and sliders and digital surfaces, could easily have outrun the ability of older buyers to operate it, but it mostly hasn’t. It could have looked tacky and flimsy, too, but it enhances the interior’s quality, rather than detracting from it. Updates to the Modular Transverse Matrix chassis have delivered crisper, more accurate, more nuanced steering and a more secure, confidence-inspiring front-end feel, along with a gentler, calmer ride.

The biggest news, though, is at the front end. The optional adaptive dampers and direct steering give the Golf Mk 8 an agility lacking even in the Mk 7’s GTi versions. It’s assured on highway cruising, too, and proves very resistant to crosswinds and undulations and generally behaving like a much larger machine than it is, and its bump absorption has improved at all speeds.Its driver assistance systems are comprehensive, allowing it to use its combination of adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assistance and autonomous emergency braking to deliver “hands-free” driving at up to 210km/h.

Its suite of driver assistance systems is comprehensive — right up there with the best from Audi or Benz — and astonishing for the price. It’s easy to use. It’s faster and simpler to find the driver-assistance systems than it was, to change the temperature or volume via the slider beneath the screen or to find any of the digital functions in the car.

It’s not a lot bigger inside overall, even though rear-seat legroom was one of the Golf’s shortcomings to some of its rivals.

 

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