Judges from 23 countries have spoken and Volkswagen’s Golf Mk 7 is the word on everyone’s lips

The World Car of the Year is available to buy in Australia and it costs not millions but just $21,490. Accolades in the auto business don’t come bigger than World Car of the Year (WCOTY) – announced at the New York motor show by judges from 23 countries – and it might be imagined as the preserve of solid-gold Rolls-Royces. But the latest winner is the Volkswagen Golf Mark 7, the fourth VW in five years to be so awarded.

If the WCOTY should drive people into Volkswagen showrooms, it will not be surprising if they drive out in a Golf Mk 7 – it’s a new standard in small cars. The company explains that 29 million Golf sales since 1974 have given it cash to fund the kind of technical development typically found only in more expensive cars. Introducing innovations in lower-priced cars instead of letting them trickle down from the top represents the “democratisation of progress”, Volkswagen says. The Golf is the “embodiment of the people’s car”, designed to be affordable for millions.

The Golf Mk 7 will be what many people want – a sharply-styled hatchback with comfort, quality and a high level of safety and economy features, plus an opening price $500 less than its predecessor. The range starts with the 1.4 litre petrol 90TSI manual; $3500 extra buys a better-equipped Comfortline version. DSG automatic transmission is a $2500 option for both. The auto-only Highline costs $31,990 with a 103kW petrol and $34,490 with a 110kW diesel. All three aluminium engines are completely new and use less fuel.

The cars are significantly lighter (not easy in a small hatchback) thanks to new modular chassis platform construction and clever pruning of many components.

Every Golf has brakes designed to help avoid secondary collisions, driver fatigue detection, engine stop-start, seven airbags, hill-start brake, battery regeneration, tyre pressure monitoring, a useful two-level boot, 5.8 inch console screen that responds to finger swipes like an iPad and capped-price servicing. An option pack includes adaptive cruise control, frontal collision avoidance, self-parking and pre-collision preparation.

On the road, the Golf Mk 7 feels as sophisticated as its specifications suggest. It’s smooth, solid, quiet and all engines deliver a satisfying performance. Feature-for-feature, this Golf is a hole-in-one.

Prices quoted do not include statutory and dealer on-road charges unless otherwise stated. Prices correct at time of writing.