Can Outgoing VW Golf Hold Its Own Against New Ford Focus And Kia Ceed?

VW is all but ready to unveil an all-new generation of the Golf, the eighth since it first launched its best seller in 1974.

However, with Ford and Kia offering the new Focus and Ceed, respectively, and the Golf MK7 being around since 2012, does the VW still have what it takes to be on compact hatch buyers’ list?

Despite its age, the Golf is still one of the most complete packages in the compact hatchback segment; it offers great build quality and practicality, as well as a surefooted feel down the road that’s combined with high levels of comfort.

The newer Kia Ceed combines smart looks with pretty generous levels of standard kit and good value for money. If you want a comfortable hatchback, the Kia delivers, especially within city walls.

Ford’s latest Focus is bigger and roomier than ever, thanks to the new platform that underpins it. It offers the most room for rear passengers compared to the other two, making them feel like they’re sitting in a car from a class above.

The Focus has always been hailed as the most fun-to-drive car in its class, and the same is true for its latest iteration. However, this doesn’t come with any compromises, as the new Focus also comes with class-leading levels of comfort as well.

Of course, with the Mk8 on the way, VW will have an all-new contender that could very well change everything in the segment. Since it won’t be available until February 2020 at the earliest, though, the current car is the one customers will cross-shop with its rivals. Should they go for it, or has it been overtaken by the younger Focus and/or Ceed? Carwow delivers is verdict in the video that follows.


  • Loquacious Borborygmus

    The Golf is bland but every generation of the Focus has just got uglier and uglier.

    • Ben

      Yes, bland such as oats for breakfast. However, you can’t say its a bad breakfast. Its safe(design), ages well and that’s what Volkswagen have always designed the Golf to be.

      • Loquacious Borborygmus

        My post wasn’t really about the Golf.

  • Ben

    An observation of mine is that the chassis and build of a Volkswagen was originally meant for an Audi, but materials and technology were scaled back to meet a price requirement. This means you get that bank vault like feeling and buttery smooth 4 cylinder engine because they were designed for an Audi’s level of expectation.

    The inverse would be a Cadillac feels just like a Chevy because the bones of the vehicle were only built to Chevy expectations. Things were added into the vehicle to justify the price gap, but the bones were never meant to be high luxury. Now obviously, this is just my observation. I don’t know if Volkswagen carries this mantra when designing their platforms, but that’s what my body tells me when inside a Volkswagen products. The bones were designed to a much higher standard than the competition.

    Volkswagen is much like Toyota in the sense of “You’ll drive what we give you”. The Volkswagen could be more stylish or have more innovative technology, but at the end of the day Volkswagen knows the Golf’s build quality, clean design that ages very well and buttery smooth 4 cylinder is too good for most consumers to pass up.

    • Rocket

      Yes, Audi borrows it for a few of their lower end models, but the Golf’s MQB platform was designed for VW’s. Smaller cars built on the MQB architecture do have a refined feel, but the larger the cars get, the less impressive the final product. The Tiguan, for example is merely so-so, and the Atlas isn’t even that good. There’s a reason Audi uses their own MLB platform rather than the MQB toolkit for the A4 and models above.

    • Seats & a steering wheel

      It’s perceived quality, unfortunately VW and Audi have a reputation for poor mechanical and electrical reliability. I owned a MK4 in the past and it looked and felt beautiful but even that car with its relative simplicity couldn’t hold a candle to a Toyota or Mazda or Nissan equivalent for fuss free motoring and maintenance.
      The used car market tells you what you need to know, people aren’t tripping over themselves to buy a 4 or 5 year old Golf (or Focus) but a similar age Corolla or Mazda3 are highly sort after.

      • Ben

        Hey, preaching to the choir man. I’m a proud Toyota owner (4Runner TRD Off Road), but Volkswagens are still sought after in the used market. Try finding a hugely discounted Golf R. Not gonna happen. From anecdotal experience of mine, Volkswagen has always had great quality and even reliable engines. Their engines are not bullet/idiot proof like Toyota engines, but as long as you follow the manual, you’ll be okay.

        That wasn’t always the case and in the early 00’s buying the wrong model meant your wallet was going to be assaulted by frequent withdraws for electrical problems mainly. However, in the past 10 years Volkswagen has truly regained their quality standards and is currently offering one of the best factory warranties on their vehicles, competing with the vaunted Hyundai/Kia warranty.

        And to your point, you can get a used Toyota incredibly cheap. I was just looking at a V6 Rav4 limited as a city car the other day for only $8500 I believe and that was a 2012. Just because a car is affordable on the used market doesn’t mean it wasn’t wanted. Toyota does cash in on their brand’s name value and delivers most of the time, but even Toyota can slip up to.

    • TheLeadFoot

      This is analogy is totally not true though – the MQB platform the Golf is built is was never a luxury platform. It quite the opposite actually, this is a mainstream platform that the Audi A3 is forced to share with a ton of very downmarket plebeian vehicles. Something like an A6 is absolutely not built on this kind of platform.

      So funny how everyone always gives VW the benefit of the doubt but not GM. When was the last time you were in a Cadillac? GM has bespoke platforms for its larger vehicles just like Audi (the Omega platform). They also sometimes share with Buick or Chevy, but again, this is JUST like VW (I.e. how the Q7 shares it’s platform with the Toureg). I don’t find fault in sharing platforms across model lines AT ALL. Every company does it, and it’s the smart thing to do if you want to remain in business and make money. Engineering so so sophisticated now that you can make vehicles feel completely different while utilizing the same basic platform components.

      • Ben

        The MQB platform is merely a modified strain of the same engineering used to make the MLB platform that underpins the Audi models that you and I consider luxury vehicles. The only divergence in engineering is to make one chassis suitable for transversely mounted engines while the MLB platform was the same, but modified for longitudinally mounted engines.

        You could also attribute this to marketing in a sense. An Audi driver doesn’t want to hear their chassis has the same engineering designation as a Volkswagen chassis, regardless if they do. A few letter changes doesn’t mean they aren’t virtually the same chassis. Volkswagen has been doing this for quite sometime.

        The last time I was in a Cadillac was today, a 2016 Cadillac CT6. I was passenger and rode in the car many times. Before that, a 2016 Cadillac XT5 about 3 weeks ago. Listen, I understand Cadillac is working to distance themselves from their blue collar roots. The most recent example was Cadillac making it well known their BlackWing engine would not fall into Chevy’s grubby little hands.

        However, my bum told me when I was sat in those vehicles it felt like an upscale Chevy. Its not shaming Cadillac or Chevy. Plenty of Chevy vehicles have a decent ride. All I’m saying is that the bones of some Volkswagen vehicles feel like they punch well above their segment, price point, brand or expectation. Meanwhile, I feel like I’m in a very nice Chevy when inside a current Cadillac. Personal opinion.

    • bd0007

      All of Cadillac’s RWD platforms were developed for Cadillac first and foremost and hence, why they have been lauded for their driving dynamics.

      Unfortunately for Cadillac, they can’t seem to get the other stuff correct.

      • Ben

        You are correct in that Cadillac’s RWD offerings, mainly the ATS, was a stunner of a vehicle and had handling characteristics surprise many journalist. But I wasn’t talking about comparing an Impala to a CTS going up a mountain road. I’m talking about day to day feeling. The “x” factor so to speak. When you step up into a vehicle such as an Audi, Mercedes, BMW and Volvo to an extant, you feel the quality in the smallest details.

        I’m saying that Cadillac doesn’t feel like that big of a bump from Chevy. My eyes tell me different. Cadillac has done well for themselves using leathers, suede, open-pore woods, and satin metals. However, the feeling of the vehicle does not produce the same level of quality your eyes take in. If I had to make a crude analogy, its like taking fine furniture from a meticulously designed home and stuffing it into an average home.

        Yes, the tech is great, the materials are great, but the actual bones of the vehicle under your butt just don’t feel special. The vehicle feels like a gussied up Chevy and at the price point Cadillac charges nowadays, that’s not fair to the consumer. Just my opinion.

  • yonceous

    this review wasn’t fair, you can’t compare a fully loaded Ford to a base Kia to a midrange Volkswagen

    • Christian

      did you watch the review? Wash your mouth! This review was made by Sir Watson… He TELLS why….

    • Rocket

      The winner wasn’t chosen because of its features and content, and he made that quite clear.

  • Six_Tymes

    good review, thanks for posting. I’m going to check out all 3 myself next month

  • Bash

    Personally it’s easy to pick the VW out of those specific three hatches, it would have been different though if they put the Hyundai instead of that KIA. Of course I mean the N.

  • Seats & a steering wheel

    Long term reliability and cost of replacement parts puts most of these cars out of contention IMO. VW has what I call perceived quality but simply doesn’t hold up over time, same with the Focus which again has very high ‘new car appeal’ but has left many owners shaking their heads saying ‘never again’
    Given these are utilitarian type vehicles, you’d put a Corolla first, Mazda3 second and Hyundai i30 third. For short term testing VW and Ford will probably impress most but I doubt the ownership experience, esp medium to long term, will be as good as its Japanese or Korean competitors. You just ask yourself would you buy a 4-5 year old Golf or Focus?..or would you trust a Corolla or Mazda3 of the same vintage?

  • MarketAndChurch

    My heart wants the Focus, my mind tells me the Carolla, maybe the Mazda3 is a good middle ground.

  • PzAOK1

    No, they are not the same. MQB was developed by VW for B to D-segment cars, MLB was developed by Audi for D to E-segment cars. They are different and have different choice of componentes and systems.

    • Ben

      They are the same architecture, but as I said modified to suit transversely mounted engines (MQB) and longitudinally mounted engines(MLB). The MLB platform is obviously strengthened to be used in heavier and more powerful vehicles, but the bones are nearly identical. However, if I am wrong that the two chassis are not cut from the same cloth and share nearly identical architecture, show me your credible source and I’ll stand corrected.

  • Rocket

    No, they’re not the same. They don’t share the same firewall/pedal box/dash-to-axle, and as a result their drivetrains cannot be shared, which ultimately distinguishes them as separate platforms. It makes no difference what other components they share.

    • Ben

      I understand your confusion, but as I said, the MQB platform is majority the same, but slightly modified to house transversely mounted engines while the MLB platform is suited to longitudinally mounted engines and transmission choices.

      This coincides with your observations of the finished products be somewhat different. However, they are in fact the same platform, but used in different applications. Isn’t that the point? The MQB and MLB are strains from the modular chassis program developed by the Volkswagen group. The front portion of the MQB has a modular component different than that of the MLB platform, but they’re mainly the same.

      There are exceedingly few situations where a platform is changed and is an absolute carbon copy of another chassis used in another application. However, if you feel I’m wrong I’ll gladly look at a credible source of information saying so and stand corrected.

      • Rocket

        No confusion here. It’s the firewall, dash-to-axle and engine configuration that define the two toolkits, or “platforms” if you prefer, and those components are not shared between MQB and MLB. I have no doubt they share some other chassis components, but by VW’s own classification they are different architectures.

        • Ben

          Have you got a credible source I can review?

          • Rocket

            There’s plenty of information out there describing the concept of MQB and why it can’t be used for a longitudinal drivetrain.

            “But amid all that difference, there will be constancy. Certain dimensions are fixed, including the critical one between the pedal box and the front-wheel centre line – and, once that’s set, many engine-bay dimensions follow along. Which is why the engines all have certain physical sizes and mounts too, and the crash protection beams. This stuff is among the most expensive portions of a car to develop and the production line also has to be built around it. Standardising it saves fortunes and allows the plants to build whatever demand dictates. The steel platform can be built in a range of wheelbases and there are various levels of suspension system, several suites of driver aids, different levels of entertainment/navigation. The important fact is they all use common physical mounting points and electrical architecture.”


            “Volkswagen Group has three “assembly kits,” or uber-flexible platforms to handle the vast majority of its product line in an efficient, cost-effective way. NSF is its new small family of cars, featuring the Up. MLB is modular longitudinal kit for Audi A4, A6 and A8. MSB, the modern standard drivetrain kit, covers front-engine cars like the Porsche Panamera.

            The VW brand is responsible for MQB, its modular transverse kit that will underpin the company’s most popular models, including the next Passat in about five years, the upcoming Audi A3, the next TT and the all-new Golf VII, expected to launch late this year.

            It works this way: New gasoline and diesel engine families are designed so they fit in all MQB model engine compartments precisely the same way. VW plans also to offer hybrids, plug-in hybrids, battery electrics, compressed natural gas and even fuel cell powered cars and crossovers. The relationship between the
            engine and front axle, and the front axle and firewall is standardized across the component set. Wheelbases, interior packages, rear suspension designs and trunk packaging will all vary, while the standardized engine package accounts for 60 percent of the target value of each vehicle.”


            This one from Jalopnik is pretty informative but too detailed to paste large pieces.



  • Rocket

    What you stated quite clearly is that they’re the same platform – one version for each engine layout. But they’re not. What you linked about supports my argument, not yours.

    As for what a platform is, VAG uses the firewall/engine area to designate the “platform”. It’s why they call it a toolkit, not a chassis, because everything is built around the engine/firewall. Vehicle size and body type have nothing to do with it. By VW’s own definition, they can’t be the same. You don’t seem to be grasping that whole concept.

    VAG’s platform family consists of three distinct toolkits, not three versions of the same toolkit. If you can prove otherwise, please do. But you’ll need to disprove VW’s own info to do so. Good luck with that.

    • Ben

      If you’d like to continue to build a straw man argument over your misunderstanding, go right ahead. But you seem keen on proving a point that was never contested. They clearly are from the same strain of chassis development, as indicated by the source provided. Obviously, as stated before, they are in fact modified to fit different applications. I’ve said it to you and you’ve attempted to read it. They share many of the same build techniques as I described above. The only difference is how the engine is to be mounted, as you have found with your own research.

      …showing the vast similarities between the architecture between MQB and MLB. They are in fact the same platform, but only modified to house transversely mounted engines and longitudinally mounted engines respectively. It other words, they’re the same.

      If you would like to live in a world where an Audi shares absolutely no striking similarities to a Volkswagen Group developed modular chassis, I think you’re up a creek. Its apparently our reality regardless how the words are appropriated.

      • Rocket

        Your reading comprehension needs work. The article you linked states that MQB and MLB share the same design concept, but applied to different drivetrain configurations. Nowhere does it say that the architectures are related to each other. From the article:

        ” MLB uses a core matrix of components across a variety of platforms. This means that the cars built on MLB will be able to share a common engine mounting and this includes all drivetrains; petrol, diesel, hybrid, electric and even natural gas.”

        “The other platform which follows the same principle at the core is the MQB platform which allows VW to engineer a variety of Front-wheel drive, front mounted, transverse engine…”

        “MQB products share components, manufacturing processes, and primarily the positioning of the engine, front axle and pedal box which is what we’ve seen in the MLB as well. What it also does is allow engines to be positioned longitudinally in the engine bay, and for power to be channeled to all four wheels.”

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