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 Restyled in small doses, the eighth generation of the best-selling Volkswagen puts on a high-tech interior.  But the automotive icon, which marked the social success of an entire generation, has lost its luster.

Distributed since 1974 to more than 35 million copies, the Golf has always practiced change in continuity.  There is no question of shaking up a younger and slightly more affluent clientele than the average, which has made this model the leader in sales in Europe, with a loyalty rate to make the competition fade (40% of buyers already drove in Golf)  .  As might be expected, the eighth generation of Volkswagen’s bestseller undergoes this imposed exercise with reassuring consistency, but which masks a rather perilous change of era.  With the Golf, the German brand no longer plays on velvet.

 Volkswagen is focusing on a planned launch in 2020. The ID.3 compact zero emission.

 Imposing academicism as obvious is the privilege of automotive icons.  The guards of the Golf temple can therefore be reassured, the aesthetic modifications are introduced at homeopathic dose.  The silhouette is of a completed classicism and no fantasy, even instilled in subliminal mode, comes to shake up the cold elegance of this compact sedan.  No doubt, it is indeed a Golf.  The lights have just been refined, the front face has flattened and curved slightly, while the fall of the roof line becomes hardly more elusive.  However, the change is obvious when the door is opened.

 Now fully digital, the dashboard has kept pace with new standards.  The central screen, conspicuously turned towards the driver - thanks for the passenger ... - has been completely redesigned, with sophisticated menus.  Too bad the ergonomics of the touch keys have not been so well designed.  The very chic little control lever of the automatic transmission was inspired by what is done at Porsche, sister brand, but we also see that the house of Wolfsburg does not take care of appearances.  The foamed surfaces are partly replaced by a black lacquered coating which crosses the dashboard and is not very modern or really "premium".  Volkswagen, which is starting to feel the accounting effect of the sanctions imposed on it under the dieselgate and has to invest massively to electrify its range, is saving money.

 The Golf, which fortunately has lost nothing of its comfort, its road qualities and its driving pleasure (special mention to the steering, smooth and precise), widens its choice of engines.  The range of electrically assisted models now includes five proposals.  Three 48-volt micro-hybrids (the 150 hp version that we were able to drive is relatively placid, but economical and pleasant to drive) and a rechargeable hybrid offered in 204 or 245 hp.  Volkswagen insists a lot on the technological endowment of the new Golf, which poses as a champion of connectivity.  It incorporates the possibility of using the driver’s smartphone instead of a conventional key and, as an option, integrates the Car2X shared information system.  It is capable of receiving data from other vehicles in order to warn, upstream, of the presence of a sharp slowdown or an accident.

 A besieged citadel

 The eighth generation will be marketed in March 2020 at a price not yet specified (probably around 27,000 euros), but revised upwards given the enrichment of its level of equipment and the removal of the worst versions  endowed, too weakly distributed and with random profitability.  After all, at Golf pricing has never really been an issue.  This displayed serenity may well be just a facade.  By putting a strong emphasis on high-tech content, the manufacturer implicitly confirms an observation which, over the years, has become obvious: the Golf has lost its superb.  Her aura, which made her a discreet but obvious expression of social success and a certain good taste, is no longer enough to consider her as a model above the fray.  The car that has marked automotive history now reigns over a segment of compact sedans in bad shape and looks like a besieged citadel.

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 Volkswagen has largely anticipated this end of the cycle.  At the manufacturer, it has not escaped the fact that over the past twenty years, European Golf registrations have increased from 672,000 to 445,000 and that, since 2015, they have melted by 90,000 units annually.  Realistically, it did not hinder the emergence of SUVs, on the contrary, and organized competition within its own range with the recent T-Roc and T-Cross, which blithely siphon the customers of compact sedans.  The usual Golf rivals, who once seemed fascinated with the Beetle's heiress, have ceased to see his classicism as an inspiration.  Which has not been so bad for the BMW 1 Series, the Audi A1 or the Peugeot 308, among others.  Faced with these headwinds, the Golf, supplanted in 2018 by the Tiguan as the best-selling Volkswagen model in the world and whose contribution to the group's results is in free fall, remains a totem but no longer fits in the barycenter of the  builder strategy.  "We have integrated the fact that this generation will not exceed the production level of the previous one," admits unashamedly a responsible for marketing the Golf.

 These days, the world’s number one automotive company is focusing on a launch, also slated for 2020 but deemed otherwise more sensitive.  That of ID.3, a compact "zero emission" that should initiate a form of brand renaissance.  Volkswagen already calls it "Electric Golf".