Compact estate cars never put much of a dent in the public consciousness and as neatly finished as this improved seventh-generation Golf Estate is, one suspects it's always going to remain a minority interest item. Still, it's good value in mid-range 'Match Edition' guise and, as you'd expect from Volkswagen, it's very well designed. No hurriedly cobbled together conversion, this estate is properly practical with up to 1,620-litres of load space available.
Get under the skin of this Volkswagen Golf Estate and you'll find a platform that's very stiff and is almost infinitely customisable, being based on the modular MQB chassis that underpins everything from the Skoda Octavia to the Audi A3. All but the entry level versions get variable drive settings (Eco, Sport, Normal and Individual) and this results in a car that can entertain or cosset as required. There's also the option of Dynamic Chassis Control to consider. This features adaptive damping and a Sport setting to really give the car's ride a dual personality.
Most of the engine ware in this Golf is carried over from before, but there is an all-new petrol powerplant - Volkswagen is calling it the '1.5 TSI Evo', a four-cylinder petrol turbo that uses 'Active Cylinder Management' to cut off two cylinders under light to medium throttle loads. This engine develops 150PS in its standard form, but there is also a 'BlueMotion' version developing 130PS. The other mechanical change made to the line-up is the replacement of the old 6-speed DSG auto gearbox with a more efficient 7-speed unit.
Otherwise, things are much as before. At the foot of the range, there's the well-regarded 1.0-litre TSI petrol unit, a three-cylinder powerplant developing 110PS. Most Golf Estate buyers though, tend to want a diesel - possibly the 115PS 1.6-litre TDI diesel, but more probably the 2.0-litre TDI, available with either 150 or 184PS. As before, only variants developing more than 120PS get multi-link rear suspension: below that level, your Golf will come with a less sophisticated torsion bean set-up. As before, there's a 2.0-litre turbocharged 4WD Golf R super estate model at the top of the range. And a 4WD Alltrack variant too.
The first thing you'll notice about this revised Golf Estate is probably its slightly sleeker front end. Many variants now get full-LED headlamps and the air intakes at either corner of the front bumper have been restyled too. Jewel-like LED tail lamps are now standard across the range and on top versions, there are smart animated flowing indicators too. Otherwise, things are much as before - which means that there's more space inside than you might expect. There's 605-litres of cargo space if you load up to the parcel shelf. Flip the rear seats down and you get a full 1,620-litres. At 4,562mm, the Golf Estate is 307mm longer than the hatchback, so do bear this in mind if you're already tight for parking space with a hatchback model.
And behind the thin leather-stitched multi-function steering wheel? Well, as ever, nobody does it better than this. It isn't that it feels especially plush, though the quality of materials used is excellent - and far better, incidentally, in this Wolfsburg-constructed Golf than Volkswagen's similarly priced but Mexican-built compact Jetta model. It's just that everything is of exactly the right quality and feels absolutely fit for purpose. In this revised model, the cabin has been given a lift by the addition of smarter decorative trim panels on the doors, the dash panel and the centre console, as well as classier seat covers.
The Golf Estate has never been one of the brighter stars in the Volkswagen firmament. It was always too small, too overshadowed by the hatch or too dowdy to really appeal. While this improved Mk 7 version isn't about to outshine the hatchback version, it at least addresses these other two issues reasonably well. It's usefully spacious and the styling is agreeably sleek.
The rest of the news is good too. The improvements in equipment and media connectivity are welcome and a number of efficiency measures mean that estate buyers who would have automatically looked to diesel engines should also now consider powerplants like the ingenious 1.5 TSI Evo unit with Active Cylinder Technology. Small estates will never be big sellers but, as Volkswagen has demonstrated, if a job's worth doing, it's worth doing well.Click here to find out more about our Volkswagen Golf Estate range