How does a brand manage to bridge the gap between electrification and the present? The Volkswagen Golf 1.5 eTSI is the embodiment of the dilemma.

In the past months, we presented you with a review of the new Audi A3 and of the new SEAT Leon, this time around we present you our opinion on the new Volkswagen Golf 1.5 eTSI. These cars have a different past, now share the MQB platform, and presumably have a shared future. That future is a perspective I’ll take into account during this review. Why? Because Volkswagen, like any automotive manufacturer currently, is at a crossroads. They’re having to bridge the gap between becoming an EV only brand and still selling internal combustion engine (ICE) cars to keep the cash flow going. So this eighth generation of the Golf might be one of the most important, yet confusingly placed of all generation to date.

What is it?

Shaped up like it’s differently branded siblings, the dimensions only vary marginally. So the most interesting thing is to compare this Volkswagen Golf 1.5 eTSI with its predecessor. That translates into 3 centimeters more length, which is beneficial for the rear occupants. But to be totally fair: this Golf doesn’t really have a true ‘dad’ so to say. No, it’s the first of its kind. Slapping mild-hybrid (MHEV) technology into a Volkswagen Golf is frankly very new. The previous-gen GTE has a different approach, as that’s a plugin hybrid (PHEV). This Volkswagen Golf 1.5 eTSI is a new thing, confronting massive amounts of drivers with hybrid tech. Albeit mild, with millions of people buying each generation that impact is far greater than what the GTE has achieved.

Around 40 million Volkswagen Golfs have been produced since it all started. Since the year 2013, the first traces of electrification have found their way into the car’s DNA. Fast forward to 2020 and Volkswagen has not bestowed the spearhead role of electrification onto their ever succesfull Golf. No, they’ve given this to a new kid in the block: the ID.3. A shame, yet understandable choice. That last-mentioned EV will set you back at least €37.990 for the 58 kWh model, far more than the €31.760 of this DSG equipped 1.5 eTSI. EVs simply aren’t cheap enough yet to be ‘the Golf.’

How does it drive?

Being so popular means the car appeals to a lot of people in some way, and that translates into it being a friend to all in many of its characteristics. It is nothing like the pronounced SEAT Leon FR, no instead it is much, much more on the rational side of the gamma. Bumps and imperfections are cushioned way softer, but you have more body roll in the Golf. Steering is less direct but pleasantly forgiving and mellow for everyday driving. That feeling is also integrated into the steering wheel itself, it being softer to hold than in the FR. In terms of drivetrain, the Volkswagen Golf 1.5 eTSI is a direct copy of the SEAT Leon FR. Gas response and braking are somehow softer to operate. It does offer the same consumption figures too, with all the benefits of the MHEV in city usage.

Power is identical with 150 horsepower and 250 Nm. Zero to a hundred is also done in the same swift 8.5 seconds.

Inside the family hertiage

So what about that crossroad I mentioned? Is it noticeable? Well, the eTSI engine is one thing you can see as a sign on the wall. Another is the interior: it’s noticeably similar to that of the SEAT and Audi. They simply have to, to cut costs. Every penny saved is a penny to use in the EV arms race in the automotive industry. Where it stands out is the quality materials used. It’s literally in between the level of those two I mentioned earlier. Beau didn’t have the ‘Ergo Seat’ option though, offering the driver a small massage functionality. The seating is, again, good but nothing too exciting.

Using the car’s driver assistance and infotainment was similar to that in the SEAT. Yet, the Golf has another advantage here for some: there’s less customization available. Want it safe in every way? This is the car for you. Rational to the fullest extent.

Family lines continue to run deep

Dressed in silver, this Golf showed of its shapes proudly. Its conservative design remains, as for many of its conservative traits. Volkswagen has a difficult time ahead, drawing buyers into their EV, and keeping Golf buyers satisfied simultaneously. Yet, the brand may rest assured that this Golf 1.5 eTSI with DSG will keep buyers happy for years to come. The quality is there, the updated infotainment is too, and the MHEV tech makes it a respectable all-rounder. Entry-level German quality is what it embodies, and if you want more? Then open your wallet further and buy that marvelous Audi A3.