Emerging from a crazy year and after several delays, the new Volkswagen Golf has finally landed in NZ, and AA Motoring was invited to be one of the first to sample it on our roads. Putting it simply, VW calls the new Golf an ‘evolution on the outside and revolution on the inside’ a very accurate description indeed.

The fact that the car was delayed means that NZ now has plenty of stock in place, so prospective owners will not have to join the queue, unlike some other new vehicle launches of late.


Volkswagen Golf R-Line 2021

Since its first appearance as the replacement for the legendary Beetle, the Golf has been Volkswagen’s staple vehicle, boasting over 35 million owners globally, with approximately 10,000 of those residing in NZ. We will get all four variants over the course of the year, with the base model Life and R-Lines currently on our shores, and the GTi and top of the line Golf R to come (in May and November respectively).

So what’s new?

Safety seems to be key for Volkswagen, and for the first time in a Golf, rear side airbags are fitted as standard across the range. The R-Line and GTi receive Park Assist with an Exit Warning System, Travel Assist, and Emergency Assist safety features. This has all contributed to a recent 5-Star ANCAP safety rating for all models.

The gear lever has gone and in place is a shift-by-wire toggle, which is quite cute, and with a bit of practice you’ll stop putting on the handbrake as you attempt to move the lever without glancing down at your hand.


Volkswagen Golf R-Line 2021

In another new twist, the Life and R-Line 1.4 TSI models come equipped with an eight-speed conventional automatic transmission instead of the famed Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG). The engine gives a fuel economy rating of 5.8L/100km and a CO2 rating of 132g/km.

Notable mentions

All models receive the latest MIB 3 infotainment system, with an eight-inch Composition Media infotainment system for the base model Life, and a 10-inch Discover Media Satellite Navigation system.

All models now also have the 10.25-inch Active Info Display ‘Pro’ as standard, which replaces the traditional instrument cluster with a digital screen of which you can customise to show a variety of information or functions. Wireless charging is fast becoming the norm in new cars, and the new Golf is no exception, 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 with a 10 colour palate in the Life model, and 30 colour choices across the rest of the range.

To help you stand out on the road, there have been four new colour choices added to the current six on offer. If you really want to make a statement, our recommendation would be the signature colour - Lime Yellow Metallic. This really popped on the day of the launch.

Travel with ease at the touch of a button

Travel Assist has been added to the R-Line models upwards, which enables assisted driving up to speeds of 210km/h. The system relies on features like Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) (longitudinal guidance) and Lane Assist lane keeping system (latitudinal guidance). Travel Assist is activated using the multifunction steering wheel.

For legal and safety reasons, drivers must permanently monitor the system. For this purpose, you must have at least one hand on the steering wheel, however, thanks to new capacitive sensor technology in the steering wheel, it is sufficient if the driver merely touches it. If the driver lets 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.

The cool factor

Aside from the familiar great exterior look and exceptional handling (as experienced on our short launch drive route), the eight-generation Golf has undergone an interior overhaul, and the resulting clean space is great.


Volkswagen Golf R-Line 2021

At first glance, it would seem simple but confusing at the same time (i.e. no clunky gear lever). You have Direct Access selection buttons in the centre console and a few nestled under the infotainment screen. Also you can now just swipe your finger over the temperature or volume control ‘touch sliders’ to adjust. Just like the car remote key fob, the buttons are integrated into a flat panel and are not really separate as we’ve seen in the past. It’s a very refined look, and gives an elegant and simplistic vibe. The steering wheel is new, and has the same button design as the centre console. The Tartan-look seat trim still lives on, as is typical of the Golf.

The previous Comfortline and Highline model names have been dropped in favour of a blend of both. This, in turn, allows more spec to be added to the new base spec Life model. While 2020 might have been a slow year for car sales in NZ due to the impact from Covid-19, 380 Golfs were sold, and a further 750 have been sold so far in 2021. Volkswagen NZ hopes to see annual volumes rise above 1,000 for the Golf, as seen in previous years, and it looks like they’re on track to do so.

But where’s the spark?

Unfortunately there’s no e-Golf or Hybrid variants of the new Golf on the horizon, but the VW group are in discussions to introduce low and zero emission vehicles to NZ in the next few years. Also, contrary to some rumours circling, there will be a ninth-generation Golf, so this is not the last hurrah. The ID electric range is still a few years away (possibly 2023), and when that time finally comes, we should be looking at receiving the ID.4 SUV. The future looks bright for VW.

At a glance


Volkswagen Golf 8 (Life and R-Line)


1.4 TSI


From $37,990, (R-Line $47,990

ANCAP safety rating

5 Star


110kW, 250Nm


Eight-speed auto

Fuel economy, CO2

5.8L/100km, 132g/km

Towing capacity

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



Seating capacity


Luggage capacity/payload

676kg payload

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 airbags, side and curtain airbags (front/rear)
  • Pedestrian and Cyclist monitoring
  • Lane and Side Assist
  • Rear Cross Traffic Alert
  • Driver fatigue detection

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