New 2021 Volkswagen Golf Estate review

Tyler Heatley

10 Jan 2022

1/7

YesAuto Score:

74/ 100

This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car.

YesAuto’s exhaustive evaluation criteria considers every aspect of a car in terms of how it stacks up against rival models in the same class only. Below are the areas every car is judged and scored out of 10 on, each contributing to an overall score out of 100:

  • Interior quality and design
  • Interior tech
  • Interior space
  • Boot space
  • Engine performance
  • Engine economy
  • Ride and comfort
  • Handling
  • Driving and safety tech
  • Fit for purpose

Electric cars are scored out of 10 in the following areas instead of performance and economy:

  • Battery and motor
  • Range and charging

PROS:

+ Plenty practical for family life

+ Lots of standard equipment

+ Strong engine line-up


CONS:

- Poor infotainment system

- Not the most exciting car in the class

- Costs more than rivals


Verdict: The Volkswagen Golf Estate ticks all of the essential family car boxes. It’s spacious, feels pretty durable and this wagon offers all the boot space you’d realistically want. It’s also a wonderfully mature thing to drive, with the diesel engines, in particular, being ideal for lengthy motorway hauls. However, this all comes at a price – literally. Sister cars such as the Skoda Octavia Estate represent better value, all be it at the cost of badge kudos.






2021 Volkswagen Golf Estate review: the five-minute read



The fashionable SUV might be dominating the automotive landscape at the moment, but the humble estate car battles on for that coveted space on the driveway.


A staple of these practical family cars for many years has been the Golf Estate, a model that offers a boost in boot space while retaining all of the core strengths of the ever-popular hatchback. With an all-new Mk8 Golf comes a new Estate model.


If you’d define yourself as an introvert, this is the car for you. While your neighbours are busy trying to make each other jealous with vividly coloured SUVs, the subtly styled Golf Estate presents a more mature machine.


Sure, the Mk8’s styling was a bit of a departure from what came before with its more bulbous front, but the passage of time has seen this widely accepted as the new normal.


Its design still features the clean simplistic lines we’ve become familiar with over the years, all be it with the introduction of more intricate items such as LED lighting. Desirable to look at? Some will call it unremarkable, but it will be just what the doctor ordered for others.


The grownup theme is most notable inside where the cabin is unrecognisable when compared with its predecessor. Contoured dashboard, neatly integrated vents, a near-total absence of switchgear. It looks modern and professional with standard mood lighting and plenty of tech giving off a premium vibe.


There are some questionably hard plastics that undermine that ‘quality’ appearance, but while better choices could have been made, we are sure those with young families will value the durability they provide.





We’ll talk at length about the standard 10-inch infotainment system later in this review, but in summary, it looks great yet leaves much to be desired. The same goes for the multiple haptic buttons presented to the driver. There will be no complaints from passengers in the back as they enjoy good levels of head and legroom, and large windows also prevent any sense of claustrophobia. Option the large glass panoramic roof to further exaggerate the feeling of space. Boot volume has grown over the old car, now offering 611 litres with the seats up, or 1,642 with them flat. However, this is smaller than its sister car, the Skoda Octavia Estate.


There’s a good range of engines available for the Golf Estate, ranging from an entry-level 1.0-litre petrol or 1.5 in various states of tune to larger diesel options. Each caters for a particular need, but the diesel engines are particularly pleasing in how smooth they are, with plenty of low-end torque for endless motorway slogs. Manual and automatic transmissions are available, the latter being impressively slick.


On the road the Golf Estate’s comfort, even on standard passive suspension is impressive. Option adaptive dampers add a greater breadth of ability, but unlike on the Golf GTI, we don’t think it’s a necessity here. Obviously larger alloy wheel options will impact this and bring additional noise into the cabin, but overall it is a composed and serene experience behind the wheel. Activate the cruise control on the M25 and watch the miles tick on by without a fuss.





Drive the Golf with a bit of verve and you do tend to feel a little disconnected from the drive. While there’s plenty of potential in this more agile Mk8 chassis, the steering is rather devoid of feel and feedback. Its light nature makes more sense when parking in tight urban spaces but means that rivals are a keener steer.


The Volkswagen Golf Estate will appeal to people in the same way a washing machine does. It’s a car of function, all be it highly polished, and one that will be blissfully taken for granted by its owners – no bad thing.


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Extended read…



2021 Volkswagen Golf Estate interior and infotainment



One of the Golf Estate’s strongest assets is the interior. It’s a thoroughly modern affair with base cars getting 10 different shades of mood lighting, digital instrument display and a large infotainment screen. Step up to Style trim and you can have 30 different colours of disco lights.


The cabin architecture is sleek and not too overstated. Neatly integrated vents, contrasting elements and a lack of buttons cluttering the consoles is visually pleasing. There are a few less than desirable plastics that aren’t befitting of a car with a £24,580 starting price, but the cabin does at least feel up to doing battle with toddlers.


Seating is supportive and high levels of adjustment should enable all shapes and sizes to get comfortable. It’s nice that VW is offering a ‘Storm Grey’ fabric option as well as the default black, a choice that really brightens the cabin. Obviously, there are plusher materials on offer further up the trim levels, but it’s nice to see some choice even in the base car.

If you’ve read any review of a Volkswagen Group car of late, you’ll be familiar with the following gripes. The new 10-inch infotainment system is a great size, graphically impressive and supports plenty of features such as Apple CarPlay. However, many options are buried deep inside menus and the lack of any form of physical buttons makes it difficult to use when driving. Haptic buttons that supposedly simulate the touch of a real digit are just as ergonomically tricky as a screen. Manufactures such as Citroen have learned their lesson over the years and are now putting physical buttons and dials back into new models – VW should think about doing the same.


Scratchy plastics and infotainment aside, the Golf Estate’s interior is a highly functional and comfortable place to spend time.





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2021 Volkswagen Golf Estate practicality and boot space



As with all good estate cars, the real assets are in the back. The outermost passengers receive generous headroom thanks to the Golf’s boxy shape, and legroom is pretty good, too. Sadly, the middle passenger does have to contend with a hump in the floor, although the seat itself offers more shoulder room than some other models.

There are plenty of cubbies to store everything from phones to loose change, and deep door bins will happily accommodate drinks bottles. Unlike competitors from Peugeot, you will find a good size glovebox to use at your leisure.


Volkswagen enlarged the boot on the Mk8 Golf, delivering on a claimed 611 litres. The opening itself has a nice large aperture, and a flat floor further boosts ease of loading. Fold the 60:40 rear seats flat and that grows to 1,642 litres. While it is smaller than in Skoda form, it is larger than what you’ll find in a Ford Focus. Handy hooks also prevent bags from flying around a largely empty boot.




2021 Volkswagen Golf Estate engine



If you’re looking at the entry-level Life model, you’ll have the option of the peppy 1.0-litre petrol. This little three-cylinder unit is a cracker, punching above its weight and proving to be very refined. Volkswagen is now also offering it as a mild-hybrid in the form of a 1.0 eTSI. Also in the petrol stable is a 128bhp 1.5-litre that can come in mild-hybrid guise as well as a more potent 148bhp flavour. If you want the practicality of the Golf estate for busy family life, the 1.0-litre petrol would be our pick of the patrols, however, if you do regularly fill the car’s boot to the brim, the more muscular 1.5 might be better suited.


On the diesel front, there’s one engine offered in two states of tune. The 2.0-litre TDI with 128bhp is perfectly adequate for most needs, offering plenty of refinement and pleasing economy. Its lower CO2 emission than its 148bhp sibling might sway company car buyers. However, if you plan on towing or lugging a heavy load on holiday to Devon, the added torque of the more powerful derivative is certainly welcome.


Most engines are available with a seven-speed automatic transmission option, the six-speed manual being the default. Swapping cogs yourself will be desired by some, however, the Golf doesn’t offer the most rewarding of shifts in comparison to the wonderfully direct motion of a Ford Focus Estate. However, the automatic is a silky smooth affair when left to its own devices, only being slightly hesitant on downshifts when commanded manually.


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2021 Volkswagen Golf Estate driving



This is going to sound overly simplistic and a borderline stupid remark to make, but the Volkswagen Golf Estate is very good at being a car. In the same way that your fridge and washing machine are excellent at doing their job, this Golf absolutely nails its mission statement of being a practical means of carrying people and their clobber from place to place.


Loading the boot with a pushchair and heading into town with the Golf Estate reveals how, just like every Golf before it, this one gets the essentials right. The highly adjustable driving position means that you’re comfortable, and excellent all-around visibility thanks to sizeable windows help put you at ease. In a world of rakish rear windscreens, it’s nice to not have to rely on a reversing camera in the Golf. It’s a doddle to park as a result, especially with standard parking sensors front and rear. The light steering also prevents this from turning into a wrestling match.


At low speeds, the Golf’s standard passive suspension strikes a good balance between ride comfort and body control. This sensible damping means that, unless you option large alloy wheels, you don’t necessarily need to pay out for adaptive dampers. That said, their huge range of configurations is impressive and adds greater flexibility to the chassis.


Speaking of the chassis, on faster roads you can feel that this Mk8 Golf is a more agile creature than the model that came before. Sharply turning into bends reveals that trademark stability and ample grip, but also a newfound keenness to pivot around a bend. This is true of the hatchback, and by extension the wagon. There is some body roll, but it is far from unwieldy as the Golf seemingly takes whatever the road ahead has in its stride. However, if you’re looking for driving enjoy meant, you should look in the direction of the Ford Focus Estate.


The Golf’s steering is the real killer of any man-machine connection as it lacks the feedback required to truly know what those front wheels are up to. Its light calibration also contributes to its numb sensation. There is an argument that a C-segment estate car – and typically its owners – shouldn't care for handling finesse, but some competitors make a strong argument to the contrary.


Where the Golf Estate really shines is on the motorway, especially with a strong diesel engine under the bonnet. Refinement is good with wind and engine noise being kept to a minimum, and a little road noise simply being an exaggeration of the big empty space estate cars offer. Set the standard adaptive cruise control and this car will much the miles with the best of them. Fitted with the most powerful diesel engine and an automatic gearbox is torquey progress is effortless.


The Volkswagen Golf Estate’s driving dynamics might not win it any awards, but as a complete family car package for those seeking something subtle, it’ll be a perfect companion.



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Tyler Heatley

10 Jan 2022