Volkswagen directly translated from German means ‘people’s car’ – and you certainly can’t deny that’s true when it comes to their range.
From simple city cars like the Up! to the highly advanced best-selling Golf GTE plug-in hybrid, the company has a foot in the door of possibly every popular market niche. Add to this a dizzying range of trim levels, there’s a wealth of choice. A car for everyone.
With its roots starting in 1937, Volkswagen is far from done. The company has plans on the horizon to expand hybridisation, electric mobility and digitalisation.
Until then, they still have some of the most popular cars out there today.
History of Volkswagen
Volkswagen was born in May 1937 when the German government, then under the rule of Adolf Hitler, formed a state-owned car manufacturing company. It was named Volkswagenwerk – the People’s Car Company.
Hitler’s idea was to develop and mass produce a fast, affordable car that could carry up to two adults and three children. The Austrian automotive engineer Ferdinand Porsche was in charge of the project, and come 1939, the KdF-Wagen was ready to be revealed at the Berlin Motor Show. It was the original Beetle.
However, shortly after World War II began – putting a halt to Volkswagen’s production line. Following the war, with the factory in ruins after heavy bombing, it became a focus of the regeneration of Germany.
Production of the Beetle increased rapidly, and by 1955 had hit one million sales. By 1972, it had become the best-selling car in history.
Around the mid-60s, Volkswagen started to branch out, acquiring different subsidiaries, which led to the Volkswagen Group.
Since that time, Volkswagen has gone on to produce some of the top-selling cars around the globe, from the Golf to the Polo, and continues to build on its reputation as a manufacturer of high quality cars for the people.
Up! is Volkswagen’s smallest, sophisticated city car. Much like the Polo, it feels bigger than it really is with its cubic, friendly design that can happily accommodate a family of four.
Up! comes with a choice of six trim levels, from the entry-level Up! to the Up! GTI.
As you’d expect, short journeys is where the baby of the VW family shines. It’s light, nippy and fun to drive. However, it’s a pretty stable and powerful car on the motorways too, with decent enough suspension to not leave you battered and bruised like some other small cars.
There’s no question it’s a Volkswagen either. If its distinctive sporty front design doesn’t give it away, the Up! also adorns the new Volkswagen roundel boldly displayed on its front.
As standard, and for much of the range, it’s fitted with a 1-litre, 60bhp petrol engine with a five-speed manual gearbox.
However, at the top of the range sits the more powerful Up! GTI, and, as you’d expect it fares best on the performance front.
It’s the only model available with the 115bhp turbocharged engine, alongside sports suspension, exhaust and body kit.
For the forward-thinking motorist, there’s also the electric-powered and amusingly named e-Up! that’s even nippier in parts. With a relatively short range of 100 miles, it’s not one for longer journeys, unless you’re quite partial to motorway service stations.
There are seven model variants of the VW Up!
- Good all-round drive
- Great build quality
- Spirited petrol engine
- More expensive than some in its class
- Jerky optional automatic gearbox
Classed as Volkswagen’s flagship supermini, the deceptively spacious Polo has a lot going for it. Much like its older sibling, the Golf, it’s a serious car. Smooth and comfortable to drive, it’s practical as well as affordable to run.
With five different models to choose from, ranging from Match to R-Line, as you climb the range you’re spoiled with sportier, sleeker designs and more tech.
However, even the entry-level model has plenty to offer and all come with an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto compatibility, aircon and rear parking sensors.
Performance-wise, most models are based on VW’s 1.0-litre, three-cylinder petrol powertrain offering a 94bhp and either a five-speed manual or seven-speed DSG transmission.
There are six model variants of the VW Polo.
- Incredibly spacious
- Brisk performance
- Handles well
- More expensive than some in its class
- No three-door option
There’s probably not much we can say about the Golf that hasn’t already been said before. Eight generations on, and the Volkswagen Golf continues to be one of the most popular cars in the UK, leaving most other hatchbacks in its shadow.
It’s simply a good all-rounder. It looks great, is practical, superb to drive, economical, fun and yet serious; all at the same time. And even if you were to find fault with one model, you could probably find another that’s more suited to you thanks to its expansive and diverse range.
There’s plenty of choice when it comes to engines for the Golf, with three petrols, two diesels and a range of petrol engines boosted by 48-volt mild-hybrid technology.
The entry-level is a 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbocharged engine that squeezes out a respectable 109bhp.
At the other end of the scale, there’s the Golf R with its 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine that delivers an impressive 316bhp. Not to forget, the e-Golf – although that’s not available in the eighth generation – which is friendlier on the environment and features an all-electric range of 144 miles.
Inside, there’s a host of tech and safety features, as you’d expect from VW. Even the basic Life trim comes with Volkswagen’s Innovision Cockpit, a 10-inch touchscreen infotainment system, as well as adaptive cruise control, road sign display, lane-keeping assistance and autonomous emergency braking system.
There are seven model variants of the VW Golf.
- It’s a Golf
- Excellent driving performance
- Looks great
- Touchy brakes
- Can be expensive to buy
The Golf Estate is for those who love the Golf but are just after a bit of extra space. From the front, the Golf Estate resembles the Golf in almost every detail. And inside, it’s a similar story.
There’s the same LED headlights and digital dashboard; the same dual infotainment displays; and the same recognisable large air intakes.
Of course, what is different is the size. The Estate is flatter, longer, looks even sportier and, as we’ve already touched on, there’s a lot more space available. Especially in the boot, where you have a whopping 611 litres to play with.
Under the bonnet, there’s a choice of a three-cylinder, 1.0-litre or four-cylinder 1.5-litre petrol engine, as well as a 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol with mild-hybrid tech. Add to that two 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel engines, and as we’re sure you’ll agree, there’s plenty of choice.
Most models come with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, except the mild hybrid, which comes in auto. For most, though, there’s an option to upgrade to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic if you wish.
What’s most different to the Golf hatchback however is the Estate’s rugged Alltrack variant, which stands 15mm higher than the standard Golf Estate, giving you better ground clearance. It also comes with four-wheel-drive, off-road bumpers, optional adaptive suspension and an off-road mode.
There are five model variants of the VW Golf.
- It’s a Golf, just bigger
- Strong driving performance
- Looks great
- Touchy brakes
- Can be expensive to buy
Whereas many electric cars are created by taking an existing vehicle powered by internal combustion and trying to shoehorn a load of batteries into the floor, the ID.3 was designed with electricity in mind.
The award-winning newcomer is a smooth, fun drive that’s aiming to spearhead VW’s electrification over the coming years.
It’s got off to a good start, too; catering for all kinds of needs. With the ID. 3, you have a choice of batteries, meaning if you’re more of a ‘short trip to town’ sort of person, there’s a smaller battery, or if you commute or like your longer drives, you can opt for the larger one that can do an impressive 340 miles on a single charge.
In the ID. 3, there are five trim levels taking you from Life to Tour, as well as a range of battery variants including Pure, Pure Performance, Pro, Pro Performance and Pro S.
As is the case with most EVs, the interior is airy, minimal and clutter-free, but still stacked with equipment. Even entry-level Life models come with Volkswagen’s 10-inch Discover Pro Navigation infotainment system as standard, as well as voice activation.
There are five model variants of the VW ID.3.
- Good looks
- Impressive range
- Refined build
- Expensive higher specs
- Some cheap interior materials
The ID. 4 takes what’s good from the ID. 3 and puts it all into a chunkier body to create a bigger, more practical electric car with an SUV look.
With a selection of trims to choose from, the entry-level City model is awash with tech from a 10-inch infotainment screen and 10-colour interior ambient lighting, to driver assistance systems such as lane assist and adaptive cruise control.
At the other end of the scale, Max gives the ID.4 a larger 12-inch infotainment screen with head-up display, sports seats with massage function and a range of driver assistance tools.
With a 201bhp electric motor, the 1st Edition ID.4 gets from 0-62mph in 8.5 seconds with a top speed of 99mph. Meanwhile, Pure Performance versions feature a 168bhp powertrain, with a 0-62mph of 9 seconds.
Range-wise, you’re looking at 211 miles for the cheaper versions, while the larger 77kWh models come with an official range of 323 miles.
There are seven model variants of the VW ID.4.
- Great to drive
- Decent range
- Practical build
- Expensive top specs
- Not the quickest EV available
Looking for an upmarket spacious car? You’ve found it. And even if the Passat isn’t roomy enough, you can lean towards the Passat Estate.
The philosophy of the Passat is style meets comfort and reliability. The result is a great driving experience.
Coming in five trim options; three internal combustion variants – SE Nav, SEL and R-Line – there’s also the GTE and GTE Advanced models offering high-performance plug-in hybrid technology.
Think dense, comfortable materials, chrome highlights combined with Volkswagen tech and a relaxing drive. Then add space to stretch out. And when things get bumpy, there’s the optional adaptive suspension with comfort, normal and sport mode to iron out any kinks in your journey, keeping it smooth and comfortable.
There are five model variants of the VW Passat.
- Very comfortable
- An exceptional amount of space
- Composed handling
- Not as exciting as other models
- Small touchscreen in comparison to rivals
Despite being the smallest of all the Volkswagen SUVs, the T-Cross is still a good size. Its boxy looks reflect its personality – this SUV is made for comfort and practicality. Its size makes it perfect for city driving and parking, but it’s seamless and quiet out on the open roads, too.
There’s nothing too complicated about it when it comes to engine line-up either. There’s a 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine with either 94bhp or 113bhp.
Next up is a 1.5-litre petrol unit offering 148bhp, and finally a 1.6 TDI diesel with 94bhp.
The 94bhp petrol and diesel models come with a five-speed manual gearbox, while the 113bhp petrol version features a six-speed manual.
The 1.5-litre meanwhile has a seven-speed dual-clutch auto transmission as standard, while it’s also possible to choose this as an option for the others.
Inside, it’s all very Volkswagen – well-built with a large infotainment system adorning the centre, comfortable seating and plenty of storage. There’s also lots of space and, if you find that’s still not enough, there’s even a sliding rear seat bench to create more.
There are six model variants of the VW T-Cross.
- Pleasure to drive
- Practical build
- Good infotainment system
- On the pricey side
- Lower-quality interior against some rivals
The T-Roc is an SUV-style spin-off from the best-selling VW Golf. The compact-sized 4.2 metre-long vehicle was designed to appeal to a younger market with a minimalist interior packed full of tech, bold colours and an off-road-style chunky exterior designs.
Inside there’s lots of space, with wider than average seats, additional storage around the cabin and a boot capacity of 445 litres.
The T-Roc is often affectionately dubbed ‘the Golf on stilts’, and if you like to sit up high, it certainly places you further away from the road than many other compact SUVs. With its slim windscreen pillars and large windows, there’s more visibility over traffic whilst still maintaining that small crossover SUV feel.
Thanks to its roots, it comes with just as much high-tech kit as the Golf, including a central touchscreen and intelligent navigation system. There’s also a host of connectivity features, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
And if you plump for the automatic version, the T-Roc boasts a whole host of driver assistance systems to help you on longer journeys.
The T-Roc comes with a choice of three petrol and two diesel engines and either front or four-wheel-drive, depending on the model.
The entry-level spec – the Active – is still relatively powerful; with a 1.0-litre petrol engine producing 115bhp and taking you from 0-62mph in just over 10 seconds.
But if you’re looking for more, there’s the respectable 2.0-litre, 150bhp diesel. While at the top of the range sits the 300bhp, 2.0-litre T-Roc R with a 7-speed automatic dual-clutch gearbox, boasting acceleration of 0 to 62mph in just 4.9 seconds.
There are six model variants of the VW T-Roc.
- Economical to run for most models
- Great to drive
- Good personalisation options
- Still a bit pricey
- Not as good value as some other competitors
Volkswagen has taken the best-selling T-Roc and turned it into an open-topped SUV. Just a bit longer than the T-Roc to balance out the weight redistribution, the Cabriolet is everything you love about T-Roc, but with the wind in your hair.
Not quite as sporty as your average cabriolet due to the increase in size, it’s still a stylish car. With a multi-layered fabric roof that lowers in under 12 seconds and tucks itself neatly away behind the rear seats, it’s a pure pleasure buy.
Performance-wise, it borrows its engines from the standard car, with a 115bph, 1.0-litre petrol engine with 6-speed manual transmission and a 150bph 1.5 TSI EVO with either 6-speed manual or 7-speed DSG auto.
There are three model variants of the VW T-Roc Cabriolet.
- All about performance
- Looks great
- Sturdy and robust
- Cramped headroom with the roof up
The Volkswagen Tiguan has amassed almost 6 million global sales since it was first launched in 2007. And with good reason.
It’s all the quality of a premium-badged compact SUV, but at an affordable price. It’s capable, looks great and, well, it’s a Volkswagen.
As standard for VW, inside there’s an easy-to-use 10-inch touchscreen infotainment display. There are also touch sliders and buttons for the climate control functions – much like you’d find in a Range Rover.
Tiguan models are mainly based around a 1.5-litre TSI petrol unit offering 130 or 150bph. Next up is a 2.0TSI petrol unit producing either 190bph or 245bph, and with both, you can have four-wheel-drive.
There’s also a 2.0-litre TDI diesel engine, as well as a PHEV eHybrid petrol model with a 1.4-litre TSI engine.
Move up to the R-Trim and you have the most powerful 320bph, 2.0-litre TSI petrol turbocharged engine with 4MOTION four-wheel-drive.
The Tiguan has two body shapes to choose from – either the standard five-seater or a seven-seat Allspace variant. This is a bold, wide, lofty car with strong looks and dynamics, making it the perfect compact SUV.
There are four model variants of the VW Tiguan.
- Quality interior
- Good off-road
- Fun to drive
- Not as economical as some
- Chunky price tag
The Touareg is Volkswagen’s large, luxury SUV. And while other luxury cars are all style, no substance, the Touareg expertly combines luxury with practicality.
For one, although built on the same MLB Evo platform as Porsche and Bentley, this SUV is just at home as a city cruiser as it is off-road.
The five-seater strikes an imposing silhouette with a chromed front grille and sharp detailing around the body.
Not quite as luxurious inside as some of its executive rivals, the Touareg mirrors most of the Volkswagen range, but vastly more digitalised. The interior boasts a 12-inch digital instrument cluster and a 15-inch touchscreen infotainment system. Volkswagen calls it the ‘Innovision Cockpit’.
For top trim levels, you’ll be privy to the all-wheel steering set-up, as well as various driving modes from ‘snow’ to ‘sand’ to ‘off-road expert’.
Engines range from the 3.0 V6 TDI which comes with an eight-speed automatic Tiptronic gearbox and all-wheel drive, to a 340bph 3.0 V6 TSI turbocharged petrol engine. There’s also the Touareg R PHEV petrol variant with 462bph if you really want to push the envelope.
There are five model variants of the VW Touareg.
- Sophisticated build quality
- Handles well
- Great standard spec
- Not the quickest
- Not great fuel economy
After six decades of making people carriers, you may think Volkswagen had peaked with the Touran. However, three generations on, and it just keeps getting better. It’s at the top of its game and VW are going all out to ensure it stays there.
Now with a spark in both its looks and performance, the Touran has borrowed a lot from the Golf. That means all the style, but even greater practicality.
With its 743-litre luggage bay that, with the seats folded, increases to a whopping 1,980-litres, it’s undoubtedly the biggest in its class.
It’s comfortable too, with the dashboard and instruments all geared towards driver usability.
With one petrol engine – a 148bhp 1.5-litre – and one 2.0-litre diesel producing 150bhp, there’s not an awful amount of choice under the bonne. But both perform admirably; taking you from 0-62mph in 8.9 seconds, and there’s enough power to make towing easy too.
There are four model variants for the VW Touran.
- Practical and spacious
- Contemporary interior
- Good safety spec
- Design lacks excitement
- The third row of seats isn’t ideal for adult passengers
As you’d expect from the experts in people carriers, the Sharan is another solid offering from Volkswagen. This seven-seat family car boasts ample space and sports plenty of tech.
Conservative looking on the outside, inside the materials are all soft touch and gloss, giving it a luxury feel that some of its competitors don’t possess.
And it’s incredibly family-friendly. Large rear doors slide open, so the worry of scratching the car next to you while you wrestle your child into their seat is eliminated. The central row of seats also slide forward independently, and with a tall roofline, it’s simple to seat all the family with no hassle.
There’s plenty of space in the cabin, too, with a 300-litre boot and clever storage all around.
You can also fold all the seats down – bar the front ones – giving you a whopping 2,297-litres, in case you fancy taking your sofas for a spin one day.
The Sharan offers one 1.4-litre petrol and two 2.0-litre TDI diesel engines; one producing 148bhp and the other 175bhp.
For maximum performance while looking after your running costs, you’re probably best with the 148bhp diesel.
There are three model variants of VW Sharan.
- Low running costs
- Family-friendly features
- Practical build
- Rivals are cheaper
- Exterior styling is a bit dull
Take the Passat and sprinkle liberally with dynamism – that’s the Arteon. Flawless to look at, its sleek silhouette is a head-turner. And it doesn’t stop there. Step inside and you’ll find fancy inserts and swish stitching.
The equipment in the Arteon is reasonably impressive for its class too, with an 8-inch touchscreen, Volkswagen’s Digital Cockpit Pro and electric adjustment, plus four-way lumbar adjustment for the driver’s seat.
The fastest option in the Arteon range was the 215bhp 1.4 TSI plug-in hybrid, until the Arteon R came along. With a 316bhp 2.0-litre petrol engine and four-wheel drive, it can hit 62mph from a standing start in a staggering five seconds.
There are three model variants of the VW Arteon.
- Innovative features
- Striking design
- Plenty of space
- Drive not as exciting as others
- Limited head room