New Volkswagen Golf gets new styling, 100km EV range and ChatGPT

Major update for evergreen hatchback aims to right the wrongs of the Mk8 model

New Volkswagen Golf for 2024

Volkswagen has given the Golf, a model that celebrates its 50th birthday this year, a major makeover for 2024. In fact, in many ways this is less of a makeover and more of a mea culpa, and VW is reacting to severe criticisms of the Golf when it was originally introduced in 2019 as the Golf Mk8. This Mk8.5 features a number of significant updates.

On the outside, VW’s head of design Andreas Mindt has tidied and tightened up the somewhat droopy-faced styling that plagued the Golf on the introduction of this model. For the first time, now allowed by EU regulations, the superimposed VW logo on the grille will actually light up at night, while to the left and right of that new (optional) IQ.LIGHT LED matrix headlights can throw an illuminated beam for up to 500m (1,640ft).

Inside, VW has been answering for more of the Golf Mk8′s crimes with this new Mk8.5. Gone is the awkward and cheap-looking conjoined instrument and infotainment panel, and in comes a new free-standing touchscreen that measures either 10.4 inches or 12.9 inches across, depending on the spec of the car. It uses the latest MIB4 version of VW’s in-car software, which is claimed to be faster, simpler and better laid out than before. We can but hope.

New Volkswagen Golf for 2024

Significantly, while the awkward touch-sensitive “slider” controls for cabin heat and stereo volume remain in place at the bottom of the screen, they are now at long last illuminated at night. VW also says that the software improvements have made them more responsive than before. Thankfully, proper physical buttons make a return on the steering wheel.


Or you could just chat to the Golf’s dashboard to ask it to turn the volume or heat up or down.

The Golf 8.5 is the first VW model to get the new IDA digital voice assistant. First shown off a couple of weeks ago at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, IDA uses ChatGPT artificial intelligence to create what VW says is a system that: “Uses natural language not only to control functions such as the air conditioning, telephone or navigation system, but also to access online information from all conceivable areas – from weather forecasts to general knowledge questions.” Other new tech includes an automated parking system that can be controlled remotely from outside the car using your smartphone.

Under that newly sharpened bonnet, the engine line-up is largely carried over from before and the base model will use a 115hp 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol TSI engine. This, and the basic 2.0-litre TDI diesel Golf, are the only models that will get a manual gearbox. Even the enthusiast-favourite GTI (now boosted to 265hp) will be auto-only, alas.

The Golf won’t get an all-electric version – at least not until 2028 at the earliest, when it’s likely that the next Golf and ID.3 models will be combined into one model range – but this Mk8.5 does get significantly more electric range if you go for the 202hp e-Hybrid or the 270hp GTE model.

An increase in the battery capacity from 10kWh to 19kWh means that the Golf plug-in hybrid models now have a vastly more useful 100km electric-only range, and they can now be charged from a rapid public DC charging point, allowing for quick top-ups of the battery on a long journey. VW claims that with a full tank of fuel and a fully-charged battery, the Golf e-Hybrid has a range of up to 1,000km. The e-Hybrid and GTE can charge at 11kW on AC power, which is a significant improvement on the old models.

This Golf 8.5 has some heavy lifting to do. Quite apart from it needing to take a deep breath to blow out 50 birthday candles, it also has – some 37 million sales on from the original 1974 model – to restore the Golf’s reputation, and lift those sales back up. Once a European and Irish best-seller, the Golf has slipped behind the likes of the Peugeot 208 and Dacia Sandero in Europe, and has been usurped by the all-electric ID.4 in Ireland. Pricing will be crucial, but even the most affordable Mk8.5 Golf will likely cost more than €30,000 here – not cheap for a five-door hatchback.

Nonetheless, VW’s Irish-domiciled boss, Thomas Schafer, is convinced that the updated Golf has what it takes to do the job. “The Golf has been at the heart of the Volkswagen brand for half a century now, offering affordable mobility for all at the highest technical level,” said Schafer at the car’s reveal. “This is precisely what we are now building on with the new evolutionary stage – with even higher efficiency, comfort and quality and a new operating concept. The Golf does not get any better than this.”

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Neil Briscoe

Neil Briscoe

Neil Briscoe, a contributor to The Irish Times, specialises in motoring