First Drive - Volkswagen Golf 8 Launched. Life Plus And GTI Models Driven

clifford chow
19 May 2021

Volkswagen’s new iconic hatchback presents a technological jump from the car it replaces, with Mild Hybrid technology debuting within their model range.

Singapore - 19 May 2021- Volkswagen Singapore launches the all-new Golf Mk8! We braved driving and shooting in the heavy downpour to bring you our first drive of both the “bread-and-butter” model, and the GTI industry benchmark).

At launch, the Mk8 Golf is available in ‘Life’ and ‘Life Plus’ trims, a fancied-up ‘R-line’ and the GTI. Those who are familiar with the previous Golf lineup, will easily run parallels of the new trim nomenclature with the previous Mk7’s ‘Comfortline’ and ‘Highline’ models.

Volkswagen’s new iconic hatchback presents a technological jump from the car it replaces, with Mild Hybrid technology debuting within their model range.

The new Mk8 Volkswagen Golf keeps to tradition with its signature design that includes its characteristic C-pillar; while its side profile bears strong reference to the Golf before it… And likewise, the previous Golf to the one before... you get what I mean. The front end with its headlamps playing into the extension of the grille’s chrome strip, and neatly sculpted rear are the biggest hints that this is the new Golf 8.

The Mk8 Golf is close to its predecessor in terms of dimensions, being moderately longer, and having a near-identical wheelbase, and buyers can be assured that the new Golf’s interior accommodates well. Currently, there is no accurate information about how much cargo space is available, but at a glance, the boot is comparable to the one in the previous car, and boasts the same principle of a double height floor board, and it also has additional storage space underneath. 

Those who are well acquainted with the brand’s previous three generations of hatchbacks, will be quite familiar with many of the physical button and switch placements in the Mk8 model; why change a good thing? What is new is the 8.25” ‘Composition’ infotainment system which is standard for both the ‘Life’ and ‘Life Plus’ trim cars, that gives support to both Apple and Android devices. Navigation this round is even more intuitive, since the interface is designed to function quite similar to how a smartphone operates.

All cars are now equipped with Volkswagen’s Digital Cockpit Pro, which not only provides improved delivery of drive information, but is also now highly customisable with different colour themes.  

Volkswagen Golf Life Plus

The Volkswagen Golf Life and Life Plus are both powered by the group’s new 1.5 litre turbocharged engine, first seen here in the Skoda Kamiq and Scala sister cars. The new engine, when applied to the Golf, includes 48V Mild Hybrid technology, very much like the setup in the all-new related Audi A3

The new 1.5 litre delivers 150hp and 259Nm, and gets help from a 48V starter generator, which gives the car an additional boost of torque, especially when starting off. Gear changes are taken care of via a quick-shifting 7-speed DSG (DQ200 for those who want to know); what is new is the shift-by-wire gear knob, a first for the Golf. The 1.5 litre engine also gets Active Cylinder Management (ACT) which shuts cylinders two and three down when cruising, helping to reduce consumption and emissions. Coast mode allows the engine to switch off when you lift off the throttle, essentially allowing you to glide without consuming fuel for short distances. This helps with delivering a combined 4.8L/100km (20.8km/L), and slotting all three models of the 1.5 litre Golf into the VES A2 band.

Our short drive reveals a car that accelerates effortlessly, and without much of the lag associated with turbocharged cars. The “vanilla” 1.5 litre reaches 100km/h in just 8.5 seconds, almost a second quicker than the car it replaces. Like previous Golf hatchbacks, the Mk8 delivers excellent handling even in the wet. What is impressive though, is that the Life Plus trim car comes equipped with an adjustable two-stage adaptive suspension, meaning that you can enjoy either a pliant ride, or benefit from the added stiffness if you would like to take advantage of the Golf 8’s rigid MQB Evo architecture, slipping the car around corners at more entertaining speeds.

While the base ‘Life’ model is equipped with 17” ‘Ventura’ alloy wheels, the ‘Life Plus’ model is equipped with larger 18” ‘Dallas’ wheels. Additionally for the ‘Life Plus’, LED ‘Plus’ headlights are standard equipment, and are designed to illuminate corners. They also perform better in poor weather too. Rear lighting also receives LED treatment, complete with dynamic turn indicators.

Volkswagen Golf GTI

The eighth reinvention of the GTI is differentiated by its distinctive honeycomb design on the front bumper, complete with inset LED fog lamps which are arranged in an X-formation. The GTI is equipped with 19” ‘Adelaide’ alloys, and also features uprated brake disks. Like the previous GTI, the present car also receives split tail pipes on its far left and right corners. I have to say that Volkswagen had also gotten it right with the GTI’s neater rear apron design.

On the inside, one can expect electric semi-bucket seats with three memory settings, and with the uprated “Discover Pro” infotainment system (also found on the R-Line trim Golf), it is endowed with additional physical buttons for directly toggling functions like music volume. Buyers will also be treated to active climate ventilated front seats, and while it is not necessary here in our tropical climate, you also get yourself a heated steering wheel. 

The proven 2.0 turbocharged engine that powered the previous-generation GTI sits in the Mk8, and now delivers 245hp and 370Nm. Cogswapping is through a 7-speed DSG (DQ381). The new GTI clocks the century sprint of 6.4 seconds, which is the same as its predecessor.

Built into the GTI is an all-new Vehicle Dynamics Manager, which closely integrates control of the electronic differential locks (XDS (then again if you look at that acronym, it is a laughing face above a chicane…), and includes a nifty 15-stage adjustable intensity for its Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC), allowing you to set the suspension up just the way you like, when driving in ‘Individual’ drive mode.

In ‘Sport’ mode, the GTI delivers pronounced simulated engine noise piped into the interior, via its premium 10 speaker, 480W Harman Kardon audio system. Acceleration as expected is rapid, and with more enthusiastic driving, you can even coax a few pops from the exhaust. With the electronic differential locks, even with this front-wheel drive setup, the Golf GTI easily takes on heavy acceleration from a standstill with very limited wheel slip, and eggs you on around tight twists and turns, without much fuss.

How Much?

The Volkswagen Golf Life, Life Plus and R-Line are all powered with the 1.5 litre turbocharged engine, coupled with the  fuel-saving mild hybrid drivetrain. Prices start from $125,900 where Life begins… The Golf GTI will set you back $205,900. All prices are inclusive of COE*.

*Prices accurate at time of publication. 

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