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VW Golf takes its final petrol-powered swing with bug-fixed, ChatGPT-enhanced Mk8 refresh

A photo of the refreshed VW Golf Mk8 in GTI guise
Volkswagen Golf GTI The refreshed Volkswagen Golf Mk8 includes a more powerful GTI version - though it's automatic only

THE Volkswagen Golf has entered its 50th year of production in 2024, writes David Roy, and a newly refreshed Golf Mk8 is about to go on sale – the final version of the very last internal combustion-powered iteration of VW’s iconic best-seller.

Revamped front and rear

Initially available in hatchback form only (although an estate is also due later in the year – hurrah), the updated Golf has received a revised front and rear-end, with the most obvious updates only apparent at night.

Yes, the Mk8.5 gets a cool illuminated Volkswagen logo in the middle of the front grille as an optional extra, plus newly redesigned IQ.LIGHT LED matrix headlights which feature high-performance main beams with a range of up to 500m.

Meanwhile, round the back, the brake light clusters have received a revamp to match.

There are also some new alloy wheel designs to choose from, plus four new paint colours.

A rear-end view of the new Volkswagen Golf
Volkswagen Golf The refreshed Mk8 gets revised rear lights and new alloys
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That’s infotainment

VW has done its best to rectify the myriad problems of the original Mk8. Thus, inside, you’ll find a totally redeveloped and simplified MIB4 infotainment system replacing the buggy and much-hated MIB3. It uses a free-standing 10.4-inch or optional 12.9-inch touchscreen and allows drivers to create their own ‘shortcuts’ to quickly access favourite features.

An interior view of the new Volkswagen Golf showing its 'floating' touchscreen
Volkswagen Golf The updated Golf Mk8 features a new and improved infotainment system

On the console below, you’ll find “ergonomically optimised” touch-sliders for fiddling with cabin temperature and radio volume. These are illuminated for ease of use at night – unlike those in the previous Golf.

And, in what can only be described as another victory for common sense, a revised multi-function steering wheel replaces the hated haptic pads of old version with Proper Buttons.

A photo showing the new Volkswagen Golf's steering wheel, which features the return of real buttons
Volkswagen Golf Even the steering wheel looks pleased about the return of real buttons to its multi-function controls

It’s good to talk

It’s no exaggeration to say that this development might have been the biggest headline surrounding the refreshed Mk 8 Golf, were it not for the news that the updated car also heralds the arrival of a new ChatGPT-enhanced IDA voice assistant.

VW claim that, using “natural language” (whatever that means), drivers will be able to ask the IDA to control functions such as air conditioning, telephone or navigation, as well as seek out online information, “from weather forecasts to general knowledge questions”.

Hopefully, you’ll never hear it respond to a command with the spine-chilling statement “I’m afraid I can’t do that, (insert name here).”

A photo of a man using the Volkswagen Golfs ChatGPT-enhanced voice controls
Volkswagen Golf The updated Golf features a new ChatGPT-enhanced version of the IDA voice assistant

Powering-up

1.5l TSI petrol-engined cars in 113bhp or 148bhp tune will be available, along with a mild hybrid eTSI option (power output tbc). The latter starts in electric-only mode by default before deciding when the TSI engine should kick in, offering just over 66 miles (WLTP) of electric range.

There will also be a pair of new plug-in hybrid drivetrains: the 201bhp eHybrid or the 268bhp GTE. Both come with the DSG dual clutch gearbox and pair a 1.5 litre petrol engine with a larger 19.2kWh battery, offering an electric-only range of around 62 miles (WLTP) when fully charged.

The plug-ins now come equipped for AC charging up to 11kW and DC quick-charging up to 50kW.

Show and go

The refreshed GTI model utilises a 2.0 litre petrol engine and gains an extra 20bhp over the previous version, offering drivers an impressive 261bhp, and is no longer offered with a manual gearbox - surely sacrilege?

Rev-head farmers will also be gutted: the diesel-powered GTD - the oil-burner equivalent of the GTI - has also been discontinued.

Golf GTI Clubsport and Golf R models will arrive later this year.

Parking made easy

A photo of the latest VW Golf parked up on the street
Volkswagen Golf The updated Golf will take care of parking for you whenever needed

A newly enhanced Park Assist Plus function allows the Golf to assesses potential parking spots for suitability as well as doing the actual parking, while an optional Park Assist Pro system unlocks remote parking via smartphone.

Meanwhile, a new Area View system utilises four cameras to create a 360-degree view of the surrounding environment on the touchscreen for safer manoeuvring.

Swing when you’re winning

“The Golf does not get any better than this,” enthuses Thomas Schafer, CEO of Volkswagen Passenger Cars, of the latest incarnation of VW’s best-seller, which will go on sale in the Spring.

However, with the first all-electric generation of the Golf drawing ever closer, he may hope there’s still room for improvement.