1 June 2021

Volkswagen Golf 2021 Car Review

Since its first appearance as the replacement for the famed Beetle, the Golf has been Volkswagen’s staple vehicle, boasting over 35 million owners around the globe, with 10,000 of those residing here in New Zealand.

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Volkswagen Golf TSI R-Line 2021
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Volkswagen Golf TSI R-Line 2021
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Volkswagen Golf TSI R-Line 2021
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Volkswagen Golf TSI R-Line 2021
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Volkswagen Golf TSI R-Line 2021
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Volkswagen Golf TSI R-Line 2021

In its eighth generation, the Golf is built all-new and with a few surprises up its sleeve to keep it cutting edge, while retaining a sense of familiarity.

There will be four models in total, with the two base variants – the TSI Life and TSI R-Line – here already. The higher end GTi and Golf R models will arrive later this year in New Zealand, in May and November respectively.

The model we reviewed - the Volkswagen Golf TSI R-Line - is available from $47,990 (+ORC).

Out with the old, in with the new

For the first time in a Golf, rear side airbags are fitted as standard across the range, with the future R-Line and GTi models receiving additional safety aids like Park Assist with an Exit Warning System, Travel Assist, and Emergency Assist. All models received a 5-Star ANCAP safety rating.

The traditional gear lever has gone, and has been replaced by a shift-by-wire toggle, which is quite nifty, and with a bit of practice you’ll stop putting on the handbrake as you attempt to move the lever without glancing down. The move away from the more performance-engineered DSG helps give the car a smooth drive feeling, further increasing the Golf’s appeal as an everyday family car.

In another new twist, the TSI Life and TSI R-Line models both come equipped with an eight-speed conventional automatic transmission, replacing the famed DSG found in previous models.

On top of the TSI Life, the TSI R-Line adds features like Driving Profile Selection, Heads-up Display (HUD), Wireless App-Connect (Apple CarPlay) and three-zone air conditioning, along with the R-Line exclusive trimmings and front sport seats.

At first glance, the interior of the new Golf might seem minimalist but confusing at the same time. You now have direct access selection buttons in the centre console, with a few nestled under the infotainment screen.

Now, you simply swipe your finger over the temperature or volume control to adjust, which feels very refined and looks good. Navigating to and from some of the infotainment menus, however, felt a little confusing at times - pretty much every feature accessible via touchscreen or ‘touch sliders’. This can result in accidental inputs, like changing the volume while you’re trying to navigate elsewhere in the menu.

We’re happy to report that the Tartan-look seat trim remains from previous generations.

Notable mentions

The R-Line includes the latest ‘MIB 3’ infotainment system, with a 10-inch Discover Media Satellite Navigation system. The 10.25-inch Active Info Display ‘Pro’ is also included, replacing the traditional instrument cluster with a digital screen which you can customise to show a variety of information or functions.

Wireless charging is fast becoming the norm in new cars, and fortunately the Golf is no different, with all models offering this feature for enabled phones. Interior ambient lighting can set the tone for a night road trip or a night out and also comes as standard, with 10 colours available in the TSI Life and an additional 20 on offer in the TSI R-Line.

There are four new body colours on offer to give a grand total of 10 difficult choices, but if you want to really stand out then our favourite would be the signature colour Lime Yellow Metallic - it really pops and looks great in the sun.

The drive

The daily work commute is a great test of a car’s ability to perform in stop/start traffic and gives us a chance to get familiar with the safety assist features on offer.

During a weekend road trip to the upper North Island, the Golf felt like a breeze to drive - the speed setting for the cruise control was easy, and the little 110kW 1.4-Litre turbo engine was very efficient and still had some ‘oomph’ to help get you up the hills. The Golf has a fuel efficiency rating of 5.8L/100km and a CO2 emissions rating of 132g/km.

Travel Assist - Travel with ease at the touch of a button

‘Travel Assist’ has been added to the TSI R-Line models upwards. This enables assisted driving up to 210 km/h, relying on systems like the Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) and Lane Assist. Travel Assist is activated using the multifunction steering wheel.

For legal and safety-relevant reasons, drivers must permanently monitor the system and must have at least one hand on the steering wheel. Thanks to new Capacitive Sensor Technology in the steering wheel, it is sufficient if drivers merely touch it. If they happen to let go of the steering wheel for more than 15 seconds, visual and audible warning signals and a braking jolt are issued and implemented. The driver must react by this point at the latest and touch the steering wheel, otherwise Emergency Assist is activated and the Golf is brought to a safe stop.

Who else should I consider?

A fairly recent naming convention has come about by adding the word ‘Line’ to a model, which indicates it has the looks of a higher performance model, but is not quite there in terms performance or price.

While the Volkswagen Golf slots in a little lower than luxury brands like BMW and Mercedes-Benz, it does offer a little more than similarly-named models such as the Ford Focus ST-Line X (from $42,990 +ORC) and the Hyundai i30 N-line (from $43,990 +ORC).

Where’s the spark?

Unfortunately there is no e-Golf or Hybrid models of the Golf 8 on the horizon, but the VW group are in discussions to introduce low and zero emission vehicles to NZ over the coming years. Also, contrary to some rumours circling, there will be a ninth-generation Golf, so this is not the last hurrah.

At a glance


Volkswagen Golf TSI R-Line


1.4-litre TSI


From $37,990 (+ORC), ($47,990 +ORC as tested)

ANCAP safety rating

5 Star

Power and Torque

110kW, 250Nm


Eight-speed auto 

Fuel economy/CO2

5.8L/100km, 132g/km

Towing capacity

1,500kg (Braked), 660kg (Unbraked)


2WD (Front)

Seating capacity


Luggage capacity/payload

381 litres

Safety systems

  • Electronic Stability Program (ESP)
  • Proactive Occupant Protection System
  • Electronic Diff Lock
  • Front Assist incl. City Emergency Braking and Forward Collision Warning
  • Driver and passenger front airbags
  • Pedestrian and Cyclist monitoring
  • Side and Curtain airbags (front and rear)
  • Lane Keep and Side Assist
  • Rear Cross Traffic Alert
  • Driver Fatigue Detection 

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