IT may be a completely new car, but the eighth generation of Volkswagen’s timeless Golf hatchback is – on the outside – very much what you might have expected.

It is slightly larger, with a sharper look and the welcome addition of puddle lights and lighting under the door handles, but it is still very much a Golf.

Step inside though and you can see that the designers and technicians have been on overtime. This is where the new Golf gets slightly radical.

Gone are virtually all buttons. Instead, the interior is dominated by what VW calls a digital Innovision cockpit – fitted as standard – which features a ten-inch Active Info Display behind the steering wheel and a similarly sized central infotainment display. It’s all touch panels and sliders now unless you opt for the voice recognition system, which will even heat the steering wheel if you tell it your hands are cold.

It’s very impressive, and easy to use all this new technology, but more of that later.

For me, the introduction of the eTSI system is the most important development. It uses a 48 V lithium-ion battery and 48 V belt starter generator in lieu of an alternator and starter. The generator also acts as small electric motor that boosts torque when pulling away.

Matched with the brilliant DSG auto gearbox, it not only provides seamless progress but is also very clever at keeping an eye on fuel economy. As soon as it recognises the opportunity to go into coast mode, it will switch from four-cylinder to two-cylinder power with only a message on the info screen to indicate the switch.

Volkswagen reckons you will achieve an average of about 50mpg but I found that with a decent stretch of road that figure was nearer to 60mpg

Yes, this is the most intelligent and connected Golf yet, but rest assured that the interior still offers the same degree of comfort and quality materials that have become a hallmark of the name. It’s slightly more modern in there, but the changes are conservative, and space is virtually the same as that in the previous version.

Three trim levels are available - Life, Style and R-Line – and these are comparable to SE, SEL and R-Line in other Volkswagen models.

Several features are now available on the Golf. These include LED matrix headlights, a head-up display, adjustable ambient lighting with 32 colour options, the ability to use a mobile phone as the vehicle key and car-to-car wireless communication.

The Golf is available with a wider choice of electrified powertrains than ever before. These include three new 48V mild-hybrids and a powerful new GTE plug-in hybrid – Across the standard Golf range there are four petrol engines: a 1.0-litre three-cylinder generating 110 PS, and a 1.5-litre four-cylinder with 130 PS or 150 PS. A pair of 2.0-litre diesels offering 115 PS or 150 PS are also available.

The tested Golf Life 1.5-litre eTSI 150 PS 7spd DSG came with an array of standard safety and security features including hydraulic brake assist, automatic collision braking, an electronic differential lock for improved traction and handling and sensor-controlled pedestrian protection.

On the 10-inch high-resolution TFT dash display you will find customisable menus and information, plus a comprehensive audio package with six speakers, Bluetooth phone and audio connection, wireless smartphone charging and phone connection services.

This is without doubt the most comprehensive and advanced package ever introduced into a Golf, and it remains very much the car that sets the benchmark in its sector.

At a glance

Volkswagen Golf Life eTSI DSG

Price: £26,390

Engine: 1.5-lire turbocharged petrol with 48V mild-hybrid system producing 150PS

Transmission: Seven-speed DSG automatic driving front wheels

Performance: 0 to 62mph in 8.5 seconds; top speed 139mph

Economy: 49.2mpg combined

CO2 emissions: 130g/km

Star ratings

Performance: ****

Economy: ****

Ride/Handling: ****

Space/Practicality: ****

Equipment: *****

Security/Safety: ****

Value For Money: ****