On Thursday afternoon, Volkswagen finally took the wraps off its new Golf hatchback. Many of us thought we would have seen the eighth-generation Golf at this year’s Frankfurt auto show, which took place in September. But VW had other ideas for its home expo, banishing the Golf (and anything else fossil-powered) in favor of its new electric future; multi-billion Euro fines will follow if it fails to get under a fleet average of 95g CO2/km next year.
But even the most optimistic projections recognize that internal combustion engines will be a thing for at least the next decade, so this remains an important vehicle for the automaker.
Like its predecessor, the Mk8 Golf uses VW’s MQB (, or Modular Transverse Toolkit) architecture. Styling-wise, Golfs have always been a mixed bag; my heart belongs to the big-bumper Mk2 for a few reasons, and the Mk 7 has never really done it for me. Obviously, this sort of thing is highly subjective, but at first look, the new Golf’s styling appears to be headed back in the right direction, particularly when painted a bright color. Aerodynamically, it’s quite slippery, with a drag coefficient of just 0.275 and a frontal area of 23.8 square feet (2.21m2).
VW offers a range of gasoline and diesel engines, as well as 48V mild hybrid and plug-in hybrid EV variants, the last of these using a 1.4L gasoline four-cylinder and a 13kWh battery. Or at least there will be in some markets; Americans prefer sedans over hatchbacks, and VW can’t make money selling cheap Golfs here. We are confirmed to get both the Golf GTI and Golf R variants, but VW isn’t ready to share details on either right now.
On the inside, there’s a full digital cockpit (with a 10.25-inch display) even on the cheapest models. And the car’s electronic architecture can support a pair of 10.25-inch infotainment displays, just like the Porsche Taycan, although an 8.25-inch single screen is the default option. VW’s press materials emphasize the Mk8 Golf’s connectivity and technology, which includes adaptive cruise control that now works at up to 130mph (210km/h)—one for the home market, in that case. There’s a new suite of advanced driver assistance systems, and the Mk8 Golf is fitted with a European-standard vehicle-to-vehicle communication system called Car2X that communicates with other vehicles at ranges of up to 2,600 feet (800m).
Most interestingly, VW says that the Mk8 can be retrofitted to add technology options that weren’t originally specified when the car was bought from new. VW says this includes features like adaptive cruise control and adaptive headlights, but we’re not yet sure if that means all Mk8s carry the required hardware (i.e. the Tesla Model 3 approach) or if this requires someone to break out the tools to swap modules—we’ll update this story once we get clarification from VW.