Platform review: Volkswagen Golf Mk7
Hi Oppo! I was originally thinking about writing up a review of my daily ’19 Alltrack, and attempting to convey both how much I like the practicality of a lifted wagon and handling of a fairly small car, while also outlining some of the faults and challenges of this somewhat fussy automobile. But, it seems more relevant to write up a review of the mk7 platform as a whole, since its specific upsides and downsides are mostly shared across all cars. This is based on driving the aforementioned Alltrack, my old daily e-Golf, and a prior Golf Sportwagen in the family.
Full disclosure: One of these three cars is my daily, one is my old daily, and my parents used to own the third. I’m very biased to like these questionable little hatches/wagons.
I personally like the looks of all mk7s with an emphasis on the wagons-the extra glass, longer profile and roof rails really form some nice lines. The look of the car, which has been around in one form or another for 7 years, is maybe a bit bland, but a nice contrast from the angry and angular shapes more common now. The only minor usability problem is that the rear badge flips up to be the trunk release. This folding system also houses the rearview camera which keeps it nice and clean, but don’t try to have someone access the trunk while the car is in reverse or gear!
The whole car dates back to 2013, and whether you consider this to be a good thing or a bad thing is purely personal preference. It’s effectively very similar many older VWs like the MK4-6 golf and B5/B6 Passat. If you like intuitive controls, very easy to read dials, and logical switchgear, it’s excellent. If you like flashy touchscreens, voice controls, or other fancy tech (the center display is B&W on most mk7s) it’s terrible-everything is controlled through buttons and dials, like a car should have, IMHO
Materials are quite good, mostly vinyl “leather” with cloth seats on base models. The extremely warm heated seats are fantastic, though the seats themselves are a bit short on bolstering. The top trim SEL and GTI/R fix this (and seats can be swapped).
It has lots of utility! MK7 hatches can fit 53 cubic feet of stuff behind the front seats, which is more than plenty of smaller CUVs and most hatches. The wagon is the true winner here- 66 cubic feet of cargo space is SUV territory. Both hatch and wagon have false cargo floors for a spare tire/extra storage, and there are several hidden compartments in driver’s reach.
The USDM golfs got a couple of drivetrains-there was an excellent TDI for ’15 only, but then things happened… Most use the 1.8 or 1.4 liter turbos. The 1.8T has a bit of turbo lag, and is quite torquey but doesn’t have a ton of top end beyond 5000rpm, even with a 7200rpm redline. AWD, when optioned, is typical VW transverse Haldex-most of the torque goes to the front wheels but it can send lots of power to the rears as needed. It’s quite good at splitting power in rough weather or at high throttle.
Most transmissions are 5/6 speed manuals or 6/8 speed autos. But, some cars (GTI and any AWD automatics) get the lovely DSG dual-clutch automatic. DSG shifts are very quick in auto/manual modes and unlike most automatics in 2020 the DSG doesn’t “learn” behaviors-it always shifts the same, great if several folks drive the car. It’s a very predictable transmission cause it physically cannot skip shift, and I find it far more fun than a normal automatic.
There’s also the GTI and R 2.0L drivetrains (4cyl turbo, but more of it), and the wild card: the e-Golf. It’s a blast: the electric motor makes torque instantly with zero lag and perfectly linear throttle response, as expected for an EV. Range is mediocre at about 130 miles summer and 80 miles in the snow with the heat on full, but as a city car it’s an ideal drivetrain.
I have not (yet) driven the MK7 R or GTI to compare, but have driven a MK6R and most of the competitors to the Golf: Focus, Impreza/Crosstrek, TNGA Corolla, Mazda3. I can safely say of those cars listed the Golf is as fun as the best of that group (MK6R/Mazda3) to throw around corners if not more enjoyable. The e-Golf has the best suspension damping for really hooning on both smooth and rough roads, and the Alltrack has slightly better steering feel if set to heavier “sport” steering. The longroof Golfs can get a bit jumpy at the rear end on aggressive drives-I plan on swapping rear shocks/springs eventually to remedy this. Otherwise driving impressions are fairly good-throttle and brakes are both a bit “jumpy” on gas golfs until you learn the muscle memory- the top half of the pedal travel is mostly what you use but modulation is easy.
Much as I love these cars they do have the typical slew of VW problems. I won’t go into a full complaint list here, but the things to watch are sunroof leaks (very common on the wagons-get a slicktop if at all possible!), interior rattles (common but hardly problematic, fixable, helped by no sunroof too), and general care and feeding is a bit more fussy than the average Civic/Corolla. The turbo engines like 91+ octane ideally but can run 87 with potential losses in power on the stock tune.
The flip side to this fussiness is the modification potential and aftermarket support is through the roof, and Golfs are quite modular. More power? Sure. New seats? Sure. Higher/lower? 100%. Even more power? Definitely. There are tons of options and I’ve already done basic modifications-yellow fog lights, debadge, Rokblokz mud flaps, and slightly larger all-weather tires for starters.
Safety tech is available on these-the base package is just front/rear emergency braking and blind spot monitor, which is already plenty of tech in my book, and both work well and are very non-intrusive, most importantly. Fancier trims get radar cruise, lanekeeping, and parking assist.
2020 brings the end of the manual wagon in North America, and the end of Volks selling a “wagen" here too with the MK7 ending. But, parts and support for these cars will stick around, and they are fantastic if you want a sharp little hatch/wagon with tons of practicality. If you don’t mind a bit higher maintenance car, it’s a fantastic “quiver of one” to borrow a ski/bike term. You trade the reliability of (some) other compacts for more space, a better interior, better handling, and generally more fun. And it always has a bit of spirit in its step for the twisty roads we all love.
I really should have gotten an Alltrack over our Sportwagen. Oh well
For what features? If I could've gotten vinyl and safety tech on an AWD sportwagon like the higher trim CA spec ones, I probably would have haha! The suspension tuning is definitely better on the GSWs.
@spacekraken I think some of the higher trim features/sunroof. A little more clearance
@carsoffortlangley Ah yeah navigation/better sound and climate control would be nice. But the sunroof is a bad idea if you don't luck out and get one that seals well. I don't think the clearance matters that much, have taken the E through some pretty tough roads before
@spacekraken Yeah, we took our Sportwagen on an FSR. It was OK, but I would have preferred a little extra peace of mind.
@carsoffortlangley Nice shot! Yeah I can see how it would come in handy at times and I do take it on FSRs too.
You got the experience one of the
bestworst features of the shape of the car too-the rear window collects dust like crazy haha
Those Alltracks are real lookers. Especially in that fantastic shade of blue. Understated but very classy. Great review! I think the Mk 7 has been one of the best generations of VWs in a while.
Stapleface last edited by
I really should have gotten an Alltrack over our Sportwagen. Oh well
Funny, I prefer the Sportwagon over the Alltrack. Maybe because years ago I had a Crosstrek and kind of wish I got the Impreza Sport instead? The black cladding bugs me.
@WhoIsTheLeader thanks! Tend to agree, my favorites are the mk7, mk1 and the mk4 in Jolf/Jetta wagon form.
@Stapleface Definitely planning to get it painted to match, or possibly removed altogether if I keep the car a long time (10+ years). Though 303UV or another plastic treatment goes a long way towards keeping plastic fresh looking.
I totally agree on the GSW looking better than the AT, but find I like the 'trek more than the impreza? Not sure why, but the impreza just looks off proportion wise to me when super low to the ground-and they are genuinely too low and scrape the splitter on ramps a Golf doesn't. Maybe it's cause it has a more serious AWD system and the ground clearance can actually get put to use (speaking from experience lol). To each their own, for sure
@spacekraken That's almost exactly what I would say. The mk6 wasn't bad though. My high school basketball coach has a bright red manual two door mk6 Golf that is the exact perfect size to fit four people and 12 basketballs with no wasted room. I always liked that thing. Very comfortable back seat too even for tall people.
BeaterGT last edited by
Great pics! I heavily considered picking up a GSW/AT last year but my frugal side won out. The MK7s sure do photograph well.
@BeaterGT Thanks! They sure do. I doubt I'd ever put the time/money into it but a full on R conversion on the wagon would be a fun project. And I'm sure the LGT is more fun to drive than the GSW/AT haha!
@WhoIsTheLeader Yeah the MK6 is fun and the design has aged so well. My buddy's manual R (also bright red) is a blast, though they definitely feel less well put together.
@spacekraken The one I know had been rebuilt after a crash so I can't say all that much for the original quality. It did have body colored bumpers that look better than the half black plastic ones that originally came on the base specs.