In 1974, Volkswagen introduced its follow-up to the original people’s car, the classic Mk 1 Golf. Forty-five years and seven major redesigns later, the eighth-generation 2020 Volkswagen Golf has arrived to continue the nameplate’s legacy and presumably get it to its fifth decade.
So far, it hasn’t been confirmed if the standard Golf 8 will make its way to the North American market. Volkswagen says the decision to bring it to North America is still “under consideration,” but GTI and Golf R models have been confirmed—no word on when they will make their debut, however. Whether they bring it to the U.S. or not, Volkswagen is still going to sell plenty of Golfs—it’s the brand’s best-selling car in Europe and an extremely important car for VW globally. Hoping to keep that streak going, Volkswagen has updated the Mk 8 from the ground up, starting with the newest iteration of the MQB platform. Globally, the new Golf will feature eight drivetrains, a range of advanced safety tech, and a futuristic car-to-car communication system VW is calling “Car2X.”
The Golf still keeps its hatchback profile, but the Mk 8 will only be available globally as a four-door car, which should be fine for Americans as the two-door body style left our market in 2016. The more angular lines of the Mk 7 have been softened in most places, the front bumper is more sculpted than before, and there is a stronger through line that flows along the side of the car, bisects the door handles, and bleeds into the taillights. LED headlights and taillights are now standard across the Golf range. The new Golf also adopts VW’s subtly redesigned logo and new badging for the Golf model designation, now in all capital letters, sits just below the VW emblem on the back. That rear VW badge will no doubt still double as the release handle for the hatch.
Volkswagen calls this the most progressive Golf ever, and the changes inside are more drastic than on the outside. A new three-spoke multi-function steering wheel rests behind a standard 10.25-inch Digital Cockpit instrument cluster, and toward the middle of the car sits a standard 8.25-inch touchscreen infotainment display that is angled slightly toward the driver. A 10.0-inch infotainment screen is optional, and a widescreen head-up-display is also available. The climate controls lay hidden just beneath the infotainment cluster. The center console itself apes what we’ve seen in the new 911 with a stubby-looking electronic gear lever flanked by a series of buttons for other functions like auto brake hold. Gone is the parking brake handle, replaced by an electronic switch.
For the first time, the Golf will offer a total of eight powertrain options, five of which are hybridized. The new range of powertrains runs the gamut from gas-powered to plug-in hybrid, with diesel, natural gas, and mild hybrid options also joining the mix. The two gas and two diesel units are all turbocharged and feature direct fuel injection. The diesel engines, which the U.S. will almost certainly not get whether VW brings the Golf stateside or not, are said to be 17 percent more efficient. Volkswagen also says they’ve doubled AdBlue injections to “significantly cut nitrogen oxide emissions.” But then VW says a lot of things about its diesels.
The new Golf will also be the first Volkswagen to feature mild-hybridization. The eTSI engines will pair a three-cylinder motor to a 48-volt electrical system and will have horsepower outputs ranging from 150 to 200 hp. The most powerful engine in the Golf range will have 296 hp, though no word on which model that engine belongs to. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly to those passionate about driving fun, Volkswagen has spent the money to develop a new six-speed manual gearbox for front-wheel-drive Golfs, and it comes standard on the gas-powered cars. The GTI, TCR, and Golf R models will all use a 2.0-liter TSI mill, but each with different power outputs.
The Mk 8 also gets a host of new safety features from VW. The new Golf comes standard with lane-keep assist, a new turn-off assist feature, frontal area monitoring system, and a new prediction system to help mitigate collisions with pedestrians. Volkswagen is also debuting what it’s calling “Car2X,” or the first car-to-car communication system in a VW. The Golf will be able to transmit and receive relevant traffic information to and from other vehicles in real time within a radius of up to just over 2,400 feet. The Golf will be able to recognize situations like accidents, broken down vehicles, tail ends of traffic jams, roadwork areas, emergency braking situations, and emergency service vehicles and relay that information to the cars around it.
Higher-end Golfs will also feature VW’s dynamic chassis control, and niceties like LED matrix headlights and adaptive cruise control. The new Golf will come in three trims, standard, Life, and Style, and each step up comes with a comprehensive bump in features. Pricing hasn’t been announced yet, but then we’re still waiting to see if VW is bringing the Golf to the ‘States at all.
Sigh. At least we get the GTI.