By Mark Nichol
You’re not really supposed to talk about the Volkswagen Golf without using the word ‘icon’. That’s just the rule. But it’s fair enough really, because since 1974 the Golf has been, 1 or 2 blips aside, the benchmark for family hatchbacks. It’s the standard by which others are judged. But that of course means that, well, they’re everywhere, right? If the 'icon' is what you're after, take a look at our best Volkswagen Golf lease deals, but if not what alternatives should you be looking at? What else gives you the sort of space, refinement, and quality that you just know you’ll get from today’s Golf? Let’s find out...
Volkswagen Golf Vs SEAT Leon
Range Highlight: 1.5 TSI FR
It’s a bad old trope in car journalism (and among those who know a bit about a car’s underneath bits) that the SEAT Leon is ‘just a Golf in a frock’. There’s some truth in that - the Leon has always been built on the same chassis as the Golf and shares lots of its parts - but it’s also a bit demeaning to a car that has a very different, distinct character. Today’s Leon is arguably better than today’s Golf in a few key ways.
Released in 2020, the current Leon is a little sharper to drive than the Golf, very nearly as refined, has cabin quality on par, and an infotainment set-up that’s easier to get to grips with. And because it uses broadly the same engines and gearboxes as the Golf - some of the very best on the market - there’s a broad span that goes from the 65mpg efficiency of the 115hp 2.0-litre diesel to the pace and excitement of the higher-powered petrol FR models.
Volkswagen Golf Vs Ford Focus
Range Highlight: 1.0 EcoBoost ST Line
Volkswagen Golf vs. Ford Focus is one of the oldest rivalries in cars. The Focus replaced the Escort in 1998 and almost instantly became a classic, firstly because of its slashy, avant-garde looks, and also because its innovative rear suspension gave it joyous handling traits. It was so much more fun than the stodgy Golf of the day.
That basic difference has stayed pretty much the same. So with today’s Focus, you’re getting a car that’s more involving to drive than the Golf, if lacking a little bit of the Volkswagen’s refinement and sophistication - albeit the Focus has near-enough caught up in the cabin quality stakes now, too. The Focus’s 1.0-litre EcoBoost turbo petrol engines are a particular highlight: characterful, economical and punchy.
Volkswagen Golf Vs Peugeot 308
Range Highlight: Allure Hybrid 180
The brand-new Peugeot 308 is the best version yet - you’d expect that - but it’s also had something of a character shift. This time around Peugeot has traded sportiness for soft-riding comfort, giving the 308 a gentle, wallowy feel that makes it a brilliant motorway car especially. It’s also the first 308 available with a hybrid powertrain (2 of them, in fact), which means it makes a very tax-efficient company car because of the low CO2 ratings.
It’s also a far more interesting thing to look at than the Golf, inside and out. That said, it’s lacking in rear space compared to the Volkswagen, both in terms of passenger rear legroom and outright boot volume. Probably not lacking enough to be a deal-breaker though.
Find our latest Peugeot 308 lease deals for unbeatable prices on this competitive hatchback.
Volkswagen Golf Vs VW ID.3
Range Highlight: Life Pro 58kWh
What better alternative to the Volkswagen Golf than the car that will ultimately become the Golf? That’s right. See, in its charge towards the electrification of all its cars, Volkswagen has stated that it will no longer produce a new Golf after this version. Instead, the electric-only ID.3 will become its Golf-sized hatchback (why Volkswagen has chosen not to make electric Golfs is a conversation for another time).
So, while the ID.3 is broadly the same size as a Golf, with a similar footprint on the road and comparable interior space, it feels very different. The cabin quality doesn’t feel quite as good, but in exchange you’re getting an extremely refined and interesting-looking hatchback with a lot more personality, plenty of choice (there are a couple of battery sizes and a wide range of trim levels) and a unique rear-wheel-drive layout. Bigger battery versions (77kWh) have a quoted range of 340 miles - more than enough for the vast majority of drivers - but even a 58kWh version will suit most.
Volkswagen Golf Vs Toyota Corolla
Range Highlight: 2.0 Hybrid Design
The Toyota Corolla has never been known as the most exciting car on the planet, but it’s still the best-selling car of all time, so it’s been doing something right. The latest model - the 12th, which came out in 2018 - did an awful lot to dispel the idea that it’s a choice purely of the head, rather than the heart.
It’s only available with hybrid drivetrains - one with 122hp and the other with 184hp - which means that it’s very economical, and the higher-powered one in particular is a peach. It’s much quieter and smoother than older Toyota hybrid set-ups, and it makes for a car that’s genuinely involving to drive. Add that to excellent build quality and reliability, a spacious cabin and striking looks, and the Corolla is a really appealing family hatchback.
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