Used Volkswagen Golf Mk7 buying guide

The Mk8 is on sale now, which means the previous generation of Europe's favourite car is an even better proposition than when it was new

Volkswagen Golf Mk7 (2013-2020) - this is a 2017 car
On sale from 2013 to 2020, the seventh-generation Golf is a terrific used buy

How old is it? The seventh-generation Volkswagen Golf was sold in the UK from 2013 to 2020

How much does it cost?* Prices start from £4,000

What’s good about it? Classy interior, comfortable ride, great to drive, practical

What’s not so good? Some reliability question marks, not the cheapest to buy

What’s the Volkswagen Golf Mk7 like?

Let’s be honest, you probably know the answer to this one already. After all, Golfs are everywhere, and the seventh-generation model is just like those that went before it: smartly, if conservatively, styled with just a whiff of upmarket aspiration about it.

Where this version of the Golf betters some of those that came before it, though, is in the driving experience. It’s not quite as entertaining as a Ford Focus, but the Golf still feels great even when you aren’t hustling along, and it’s surprisingly good fun when you are – especially if you choose the cracking GTI or seriously quick R. 

Inside, too, it’s beautifully finished, with tasteful, high-quality materials that lift it above the vast majority of its rivals. The controls are all just where you’d expect them to be, and the instrumentation is crisp and clear.

Is it big enough for my family?

Up front, the Golf fits around you beautifully, with seats that provide just the right mix of suppleness and support even in the most basic versions. There’s plenty of room for you and your passenger, and a decent amount of storage for all your odds and ends, too. 

In the back, meanwhile, there’s as much space, if not more than you’ll find in most other family hatchbacks of this type, and a boot that, while not quite as large as that of the Skoda Octavia, is still one of the biggest in its class. 

That said, it isn’t quite as flexible as some rivals’; family SUVs like the Skoda Yeti offer clever tumbling or sliding rear seats, but while the Golf’s split and fold in a traditional 60/40 ratio, they’re otherwise entirely conventional. 

How safe is the Volkswagen Golf?

It’s one of the safer family cars you can buy for the cash. The industry standard crash-testing organisation, Euro NCAP, awarded it a full five stars when it was tested in 2012, and that was backed up by strong showings in both adult and child occupant tests.

All Golfs get front, side head and chest, and knee airbags as standard, as well as an airbag cut-off switch in the front passenger seat. 

Which is the best version to choose?

The Golf came with a range of excellent turbocharged petrol engines, and we’d pick one of these. In fact, we’d keep it simple and choose the smooth, punchy 1.4-litre 125 engine.

A facelift in 2017 swapped this for a 1.5-litre, which actually turned out to be slightly less smooth, so we prefer the earlier engine; the perky little 1.0-litre TSI, which was introduced at the same time, is worth a look, though. If you do higher mileages and need low fuel consumption, the 2.0-litre TDI is a smart alternative.

Then we’d choose either the SE or Match model. Both are toward the lower end of the Golf range, with a fairly similar specification, but you get climate control, adaptive cruise control, and satellite navigation as standard, with smartphone mirroring having been added from 2016 onwards – so they represent the best value.

Is the Volkswagen Golf reliable?

According to the What Car? Reliability Survey, petrol-powered Golfs are more dependable than their diesel-powered siblings; the former came 12th out of 31 family cars included in the 2019 running of the study, with a score of 96.1%, though the latter only came 25th, scoring 90.7%. All in all, that gives the Golf a rather average reliability rating, though it’s far from the worst in its class. In-keeping with this, Volkswagen earned itself a mid-table ranking in the 2019 JD Power Vehicle Dependability Study. 

When new, the Golf was offered with a warranty that consisted of a two-year, unlimited-mileage period, and then a third year which was limited to 60,000 miles, so any used example falling within those criteria will still have the balance of its warranty remaining. Extended warranties are available from Volkswagen dealers, and approved used examples come with a year’s unlimited-mileage warranty if they aren’t already covered by the manufacturer guarantee. 

What do I need to look out for?

The Golf’s DSG automatic gearboxes are famously prone to problems, though these seem to be most prevalent on earlier examples (approximately pre-2016) with smaller engines. Golfs can also suffer problems with the adaptive cruise control radar system, which can cause sudden braking and/or error messages on the dashboard.

Suspension dampers are also a weak point, with rattling from the rear on sports models and those of lesser versions leaking fluid.  

How much should I pay for a Volkswagen Golf?*

You can now pick up a Golf of this shape for as little as £4,000, though you’ll have to know what you’re doing or be feeling brave, as you’ll only be able to buy one that’s a bit tatty with a high mileage for that sort of money.

The famed GTI version has grown more mainstream over time but still commands a premium. Here's the original version leading the Mk7 incarnation  Credit: Jeff Gilbert

It’s better to spend a bit more, in other words. £6,000 should be enough to get you into an early, low-spec car with average miles and a full service history, while £7,000 should get you a similar example of our favourite model, the 1.4 TSI SE, or a diesel equivalent.

Golf GTIs, meanwhile, start at £11,000 for an example with a reasonable mileage and a good history, but if you want the top-of-the-range Golf R you’ll need to shell out at least £14,000.

We found: 2015 Golf 1.4 TSI 125 Match, 35,000 miles, full service history, £8,490

Why should I buy one?

Put simply, the Golf is the best all-round family car of recent years. It’s practical, but shot through with a touch of class; sensible, but not without a fun side; smart without being ostentatious.

It’s so ubiquitous that it’s easy to find a good example, too. And with such a wide range of engine options and specifications, there’s a Golf out there to suit everyone. 

What alternatives to the Volkswagen Golf should I consider?

Under the skin, the Golf is very similar to the Skoda Octavia and Seat Leon. The former is more spacious, the latter more sporty, but neither quite has the Golf’s cachet.

Neither does the Vauxhall Astra, for that matter, but don’t let its humdrum image put you off; it’s a very competent alternative to the Golf, and it’s great value, so you get an awful lot more car for your cash.

* Prices correct at time of writing (June 2020)


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