Volkswagen Golf Ambleside
Why it won...
Evolution not revolution – that’s the mantra that has led the Volkswagen Golf to decades of success. And the latest generation is no different. Building on the success of the MkV model, it adds a new layer of refinement and maturity to its already impressive list of attributes.
With a cabin to rival the best compact executive models, the Golf moves the game on when it comes to interior quality in the family car sector. Solidly built, classically styled and with plenty of space, it doesn’t break the mould, it simply does everything that’s required to the highest standard.
Sharp handling, impressive refinement and excellent comfort make the latest Golf the best yet in terms of dynamics – but that’s not the end of its talents. The legendary hatch also comes with an unrivalled engine line-up, including the German firm’s latest common- rail diesel unit and its acclaimed TSI petrol powerplants. Either way, there is something for everyone.
If we had one criticism of the Golf, it would be its conventional packaging – the VW does without the flat-folding seats and versatile cabin design that mark out some of its fiercest rivals. However, strength in depth is another of the Golf’s main assets, and there’s also an estate model to go alongside the three and five-door hatchbacks. What’s more, in the latest BlueMotion version, the Golf range looks set to have one of the most convincing eco-busting family cars in the business.
Last year’s winner is still a class act. With one of the most flexible cabins around, a huge 485-litre boot and some excellent engine options, it lost its crown to the new Golf by the smallest of margins. Its controversial styling continues to divide opinion, and it can’t match the VW when it comes to comfort or refinement.
The Mazda 3 is to the compact family car segment what the Mazda 6 is to the family car line-up. With its attractive and modern looks, sharp chassis and generous equipment, it makes some of its established rivals look and feel old. Only its relative lack of cabin and load space really lets it down.
When VW got its hands on Skoda, we doubt it ever expected to have a bona fide Golf rival on its hands. But after two generations, its family car has evolved into a capable family holdall. With acres of interior space, a classy cabin and typically attractive prices, the big Czech is an extremely appealing option.