The VW Golf has long set the bar high in the enduringly competitive family hatchback sector, continuing its winning ways after 45 years and more than 35million examples built. 

I tried out the Active trim version of the eighth-generation car, boasting a wealth of lovely features. 

Style file
With its clean, dynamic lines, the five-door car looks purposeful and appealing. Exterior features include body-coloured bumpers, door handles and door mirrors. One of my favourite details are the door handle recess lights - both sophisticated and useful.

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Inside story
The cabin continues the exterior design themes – combining clean lines with high-quality finishes to create a comfortable and welcoming place to be. There are visual and tactile treats, with highlights including high-gloss and matt silver decorative inserts.

Convenience and comfort combine in the front centre armrest with storage compartment and rear centre armrest with two cup-holders. There’s a high-quality ambience throughout.

The car has a wealth of kit. Here is just a taste: welcome-home function for the front lights, ambient lighting for the cabin with a wide choice of colours, climate control, heated windscreen washer jets, electrically heated door mirrors with memory settings, puddle lights and reverse-activated kerb-view adjustment on passenger side, adaptive cruise control, parking sensors front and rear (our car also had an optional rear-view camera), dusk sensor for the driving lights and a rain sensor for the wipers, speed-sensitive power steering, heated front seats and heated steering wheel.

On the in-car entertainment and communications front, features include a 10in dash display, with touch-sensitive functionality for many features, satnav, Bluetooth connection, a wireless smartphone charger, and a comprehensive connectivity suite.

Practicality? You will find features including two LED reading lights in both front and rear of the cabin, a 12-volt power socket and storage compartment in the centre console, a 60/40 split-folding rear seat back with load-through provision, carpeted storage compartments in front and rear doors, bag hooks, LED light and a 12-volt socket in the luggage compartment, and a height-adjustable and removable boot floor.

On the road
I had plenty of time to savour the Golf’s driving qualities on a trip to the Scottish borders, and it was a quality experience. If there was a spot in the motoring hall of fame for ‘top manual gearchange’ then this six-speed unit would surely clinch it, with its slick and positive movement. Mated to a quiet 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine, the car laid down its power smoothly and efficiently. Performance figures are 0-62mph in 9.2 seconds and a top speed of 133mph, with combined fuel consumption of 52.6mpg and 122g/km of CO2 (manufacturer’s figures).

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Tech time
The car’s engine had ‘active cylinder technology’, a fuel-saving system that automatically and imperceptibly de-activates two of the four cylinders in use in certain driving conditions, returning to four-cylinder running again automatically and imperceptibly. It also has ‘Car2X’ technology – intelligent vehicle networking which allows the car to exchange information between other vehicles and the traffic infrastructure, learning of hazards on the road ahead, for example broken-down vehicles, traffic jams or even approaching emergency services.

This motoring icon continues to reign supreme, combining classy looks and practicality with top tech, excellent build-quality and great driving satisfaction. 

Price as tested: £26,855 (inc options)