Motoring Writer IAN LAMMING enjoys a round of Golf courtesy of Volkswagen’s eighth generation hatchback

IT’S suddenly occurred to me that there have been eight versions of the ubiquitous golf and I’ve driven every one – ouch, that makes me feel old.

The latest – ooh I don’t know, let’s call it Golf 8 – comes 45 years after the original with more than 35 million of them produced to date; so that’s good then.

This unique success story is probably because Golf begets Golf and it looks very much like its parents. Nothing too radical, nothing too racy, just a Darwinian evolution of a conservative brand.

With Golf 1-7, and now 8, you know what you are going to get and that predictable, friendly, class-crossing nature has obviously suited loyal buyers over the decades.

For something relatively plain Golf has always appealed to a diverse cross section of society – those looking for good value, those looking for a premier brand, those in retirement and those looking for a hothatch to pimp their rides. Strange that.

New Golf will continue to fit the bill. Its new clothes freshen the look without moving away from the winning formula. Get past the lime green livery and it looks sufficiently different to prompt ‘ooh, that must be the new Golf, then’, from passers-by in the supermarket car park, but it’s not so different that it risks alienating the stalwart fans. Score one for reinventing the wheel.

But the faint-hearted might be stopped in their tracks by the interior which boasts an awful lot of tech. It’s the dash you see, well there isn’t one, well not as we know it. Where once stood conventional clocks now resides two ten inch screens of variable displays depending how the fancy takes you.

We are all becoming accustomed to the touchscreen gubbins of central display units and Golf 8 has one of those of course. But in front of the driver the dashboard has gone all virtual, the controls of which sit on the steering wheel. You can have it set with conventional speedo and rev counter but there are a host of other options including satnav map. It’s great scrolling through when you are stuck in traffic – just keep pressing the ‘view’ button to get the graphics changing.

Compared with previous generation Golfs, many of the interior buttons and switchgear have been removed, replaced with sliders and touch panels for all key functions. Many of these functions can also be controlled with a new, optional, natural voice recognition system. This allows you to tell the car that your hands are cold and the heated steering wheel will automatically be activated.

VW is expecting the most popular variant to be the Golf 1.5 TSI in Life trim. That’s lucky then as that’s what the test car is.

The 1.5 litre engine is a humdinger. It is supremely smooth and refined, lusty when you need it thanks to a turbocharger and 130PS power reserve and stupendously economical – 60mpg on a long run according to the trip computer. There’s a nice six speed manual gearbox and sharp steering making Golf a lot of fun to drive round the bends and the suspension is exceptionally controlled and compliant to protect you from jarring as it bounces over our crumbling roads.

Technology stretches from the standard LED lighting and adjustable ambient lights with 32 colour options to a host of safety devices too numerous to mention, which should make new Golf virtually impossible to crash.

Over the years it has been virtually impossible to find serious fault with Golfs because they never over promise and consequently always over deliver. There’s an honesty about them that people appreciate and the latest version will do nothing to change that.

Fact File
Engine: Golf Life 1.5 TSI
Power: 130PS
0-62mph: 9.2 secs
Top speed: 133mph
Combined MPG: 52.6
Transmission: six speed manual
CO2 g/km: 122
Price: £31,485.00 including options