It was the MK4 that cemented buyer opinion on what a Golf is: well built, respectable and easy to drive. It was podgier and heavier than its predecessors, but the extra weight was used to good effect: it's safe, and a pleasant cabin to be in. It's pricier than most rivals, but buyers perceive the investment to be worth it.
All models find homes quickly. As a result, residuals stay strong. Golf is a favourite among hot hatch buyers, so GTis, TDi PDs and cabriolets command the highest prices. Specification is good, though not generous. All hatchback models have a split/folding rear seat, height and reach adjustable steering column, tinted glass and a stereo cassette. 4MOTION is the range topper with 24 valves, four-wheel drive, traction control and a high spec.
DRIVING AND PERFORMANCE
This Golf lacks the edge that gave its predecessors such a fearsome reputation, but this doesn't mean that it's dull to drive. It's refined and steering is precise with good feedback. The ride is smooth and the result is a competent and relaxing drive.
The cabin is impeccably finished and still puts some bigger models to shame. The interior design is well detailed and incorporates lots of high quality materials. Space is well used and seats are supportive.
Golf has some fine petrol engines from the humble 1.4 to sporty 1.8T and smooth V5. The best diesels include the 1.9 GT and GTi that benefit from common rail technology. They're fast, quiet and return 49mpg – not bad for a car with sporty credentials.
SAFETY AND SECURITY
Golf performs as well as anything in its class with a Euro NCAP crash rating of four stars. ABS, driver, passenger and side airbags are standard. All models have an immobiliser, with SE and above getting an alarm.