2023 Volkswagen Golf Life Hatch

Let's take a look at this economic 110TSI Life spec of the Mk-8 golf to see how it comes to other premium hatchbacks under $40k!

Jacob Brooke
Expert reviewer
Updated on
February 9, 2024
Saucey score


  • Very efficient drivetrain
  • Driver assistance tech is top notch
  • Premium interior and great practicality!


  • Lack of physical climate controls
  • I don't know... a little boring?
  • Pretty substantial price increase
Car specs

110kW + 250Nm

$37,490 + On-roads


5-Star ANCAP

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It’s been a few years since the latest Mk-8 iteration of the Golf landed on Australian shores and no doubt you have seen plenty driving on the road. So what’s the big deal with this small hatch and why does everybody love it so much? Today we are taking a look at all the big changes with this newest generation of the Golf, seeing if its interior and exterior styling is up to scratch, as well as testing its 0-100km/h launch and driving characteristics to see if it’s worth the hype! 

Specifically, we’ll be testing the “110TSI Life” spec of the Golf, which is one up from the base model, and represents a sweet spot for most buyers looking to get a new premium hatchback for under $40k.

How much does the 2023 Volkswagen Golf Life Hatch cost?

The 2023 Volkswagen Golf Hatch range is available in the following 5 trim levels (all prices excluding on-road costs):

  • Golf (base)  - $35,190
  • Golf Life - $37,490
  • Golf R-Line - $40,490
  • Golf GTI - $55,490
  • Golf R - $66,990

We also have the following options in the Wagon:

  • Golf Wagon - $36,890
  • Golf Life Wagon - $39,490
  • Golf R Wagon - $69,990

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What do we think of the exterior looks of the 2023 Volkswagen Golf Life Hatch?

The Mk-8 update to the Golf certainly caused a stir in the looks department, with most of the changes to its face - some even calling the front “melted”, among other things, and generally, the reception was somewhat mixed. I personally find the design to be rather refined, with a sleek and minimal chrome bar running across the front, which integrates nicely with the thin LED daytime running lights that act as light bars along the top of the headlight fixture. The headlights themselves are bright LEDs, as well as the taillights.

The 2023 Golf Life is available in the following colours:

  • White (No Cost)
  • Atlantic Blue Metallic (+$700)
  • Dolphin Grey Metallic (+$700)
  • Pomelo Yellow Premium Metallic (+$900)
  • Deep Black Pearl (+$700)

Our test car is optioned with the Dolphin Grey Metallic, a great everyday option, however, for those wanting to stand out from the rest of the Golf crowd, the Pomelo Yellow is for you.

In the Life spec, we get nice “Ventura” design 17-inch alloys which look great, but they are wrapped in some pretty average economy tyres. Even still, it’s a nice upgrade over the 16-inch alloys in the base Golf. The wing mirrors are power-folding, with blind-spot monitoring as standard across the range.

The side profile goes relatively unchanged, a small spoiler is visible at the rear with piano black accenting, and the B pillar also gets the same piano, which integrates nicely with the windows. Unfortunately, only the R-Line spec and up get rear privacy glass.

The rear of the car is pretty minimal, with the standard VW badge/boot release mechanism front and center, with “Golf” spelled out proudly below it. What is not so nice about the back of the Golf Life is the black plastic cladding used at the bottom, it serves no purpose apart from cheapening the look of the car and hiding the exhaust tailpipe. At least the R-Line fixes this with a glossy black finish instead, as well as chrome exhaust tips.

Available as part of the “Comfort & Style package” for $2000, you can get a panoramic glass sunroof, as well as numerous upgrades to the interior. 

What’s the interior and connectivity like of the 2023 Volkswagen Golf Life Hatch?

The “Comfort and Style package” also adds a nice faux-suede seat trim, as well as custom ambient lighting. The Life spec we tested came equipped with the other option, the “Sound and Vision package”, which costs $1650 and adds a premium Harmon Kardon sound system and heads-up display. While I would personally go for this package due to the improved audio quality, I will admit the panoramic sunroof in the Comfort and Style package makes it a tough decision.

As for the rest of the interior, materials are good throughout, and since we don’t have that aforementioned Comfort and Style pack, we get cloth seats. The seats themselves are comfortable, with multi-way manual adjustment including lumbar support (Life spec), and I actually didn’t mind the cloth material, which has a nice grip to it that holds you in place. The cloth extends to the armrests, including the classic VW centre adjustable armrest design with a large storage inside.

The technology inside the Golf has taken a step up in the Mk-8 version. We get a large 10.25-inch “Digital Cockpit Pro” on the Life spec, which is crystal clear, bright, and offers a clearer layout with a digital speedometer. The “Pro” version, which is an upgrade over the base “Digital Cockpit” allows full customization of the digital instruments.

We also get a 10-inch touch infotainment display in the Life spec, an upgrade over the base 8.25-inch display, and it runs seamlessly, with Wireless Apple Carplay and Android Auto on the Life and above (Wired for the base).

The controversy about the infotainment system largely centers around the updated climate controls. In the Mk-8 iteration, Volkswagen decided to do away with physical climate dials, opting for a more “digital” control system, with the climate settings mainly being controlled through the screen. They also placed these touch buttons below the screen to quickly change temperature and fan speeds, however, the buttons don’t have any feedback and are easy to miss - especially at night - resulting in a lot of frustration from misclicks. While I certainly sympathise with the complaints, my experience has been that the system works decently when you adjust it through the infotainment screen, and avoid the touch “sliders” below the display. While this is certainly a compromise, it wasn’t as much of a dealbreaker for me as others had made out.

The Life spec also gains keyless entry-and-go, which is nice to have, and even without the additional option packs, comes with a 10-colour interior lighting setup. Storage inside the cabin is also excellent, with the central armrest, a spacious glovebox, cupholders, and large door bins that can fit up to three large bottles, as well as a small storage slot next to the tiny shifter.

I absolutely love the steering wheel, it is a premium, leather-wrapped unit with nice feeling buttons, and small paddle shifters, and a sporty D-cut design. The textured grip also feels very premium, with a satisfying thickness.

Finally, connectivity is excellent in the 2023 VW Golf. We get two USB-C ports up front, as well as a Wireless charger with plenty of storage next to it, and a 12V socket.

What about the Back seats of the 2023 Volkswagen Golf Life Hatch?

The back seats are fantastic in the 2023 Volkswagen Golf, due to its 2.6 metre wheelbase. We get boatloads of space, with good legroom, headroom, and toe room. This is clearly a step up over some other small hatches which seem very squished in the rear.

There is a third zone of climate control, with a small Digi-analogue temperature gauge and touch controls that work most of the time.

Storage is also good in the back with three mat pockets on each side, a fold-down central armrest with cupholders, and door bins.

The seats are the same cloth material as up front, with some bolstering and quite an upright seating position, leg support could be improved slightly.

In very Euro fashion, we also get a central pass-through to the boot, which can also accommodate longer items such as skis.

How much can you fit in the boot of the 2023 Volkswagen Golf Life Hatch?

The boot space and practicality of the Golf is - just like most of the rest - a really good story. We get a substantial 374L of capacity in the Hatch, which extends to 1230L with the second row of seats down. These numbers are both increased by about 300L each in the Wagon version. The seats also fold almost completely flat, meaning you can take advantage of the high aperture of the boot and fit larger items easily.

In the Life spec, we also get a space-saver spare wheel, taking up most of the under-floor storage. There are also deep storage pockets on either side of the floor, and the whole boot is lined with a soft carpet-feeling fabric.

What’s under the bonnet of the 2023 Volkswagen Golf Life Hatch?

This is also good news to most fans of the VW Golf - the classic EA288 engine is returning in the base, Life and R-Line trim levels.

This turbocharged 1.4-litre 4-cylinder petrol engine pumps out 110kW of power, 250Nm of torque to the front wheels, and now does so via an 8-speed Aisin torque-converter transmission, which is renowned for its reliability. This replaces the 7-speed DSG (Wet Dual Clutch) of the Mk-7.5 Golf and about a million other Volkswagen products.

The drivetrain is extremely efficient, boasting a combined fuel efficiency of 5.8L/100km, and I found this to be pretty accurate to real-world figures. All Golf models require 95RON premium unleaded, apart from the Golf R which requires 98RON.

How does the 2023 Volkswagen Golf Life Hatch drive?

The driving experience of the 2023 Volkswagen Golf Life Hatch is pretty well-rounded - with a blend of performance, efficiency, and comfort. While there are areas for improvement, my overall impression was pretty positive.

The main update to the driving experience of the Mk-8 Golf Life is the new 8-speed Aisin gearbox. Obviously, this change has raised some eyebrows, though I would argue that it makes for a smoother ride around town than the previous DSG, especially in stop/start traffic. However, it's important to note that some driving enthusiasts might miss the rapid shifts and more engaging nature of the Dual Clutch transmission.

The steering in the Golf Life Hatch does not feature progressive steering, but it is still weighted nicely, offering a good balance between responsiveness and ease of use. Fortunately this feature is available on the R-Line and above.

The 1.4-litre turbocharged engine delivers some punchy performance, making it enjoyable to drive in various conditions. While it may not be the most powerful option in the Golf lineup, it offers enough power for daily driving without sacrificing fuel efficiency. The fuel consumption is impressive; at times I was getting as low as 5.1L/100km, making the Golf Life Hatch an economical choice in the segment. 

The 0-100km/h launch came in at 8.92 seconds, not bad for an economic little hatchback!

The Travel Assist system works well, offering adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assist, contributing to a more relaxed driving experience, particularly on long journeys or in heavy traffic situations.

Ride quality is another strong suit of the 2023 Golf Life Hatch, thanks to the independent rear suspension. It provides a comfortable and compliant ride, absorbing most road imperfections with ease. However, it's worth noting that the economy tires, which come standard on the Life spec, do somewhat limit grip in more demanding driving situations. Upgrading to higher-quality tires could further enhance the driving experience. This was evident around Saucy Corner, where I did experience a little understeer around the first hairpin.

Is the 2023 Volkswagen Golf Life Hatch Safe?

The 2023 Volkswagen Golf achieved a 5-star ANCAP safety rating for all models built in  2021 and onwards, including a 95% score for Adult Occupant protection, 89% for child occupant protection, and 80% for safety assistance.

The standard suite of safety technologies include:

  • Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB)
  • Pedestrian/cyclist detection
  • Blind-spot monitoring
  • Front and Rear Cross-traffic Alert
  • Adaptive Cruise control with Traffic jam assist
  • Parking assistance
  • Reverse parking camera
  • Front and rear parking sensors
  • Multi-collision braking
  • Lane-keep assist
  • Travel assistance
  • Emergency Assist with safe exit warning (Life model and above)

How much can the 2023 Volkswagen Golf Life Hatch tow?

The 2023 Volkswagen Golf Hatch and Wagon both have a braked towing capacity of 1500kg.

How much does the 2023 Volkswagen Golf Life Hatch cost to service?

The Golf comes with either a three- or five-year servicing plan and is backed by a five-year, unlimited km warranty.

Servicing is required every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever comes first, and the packages are priced as follows:

  • Golf three-year service plan - $1450
  • Golf five-year service plan - $2400

Final thoughts - should you buy a 2023 Volkswagen Golf Life Hatch?

The 2023 Volkswagen Golf Life Hatch is an impressive small hatchback that offers excellent value for money. With its refined exterior styling, comfortable and well-equipped interior, efficient and reliable drivetrain, and impressive safety features, it's hard not to recommend the Golf Life Hatch to anyone in the market for a new premium hatchback under $40k.

The Life spec strikes a great balance between price and features, providing enough creature comforts and technologies to keep most buyers happy. The new 8-speed Aisin transmission is surprisingly a welcome addition, and the overall driving experience is enjoyable and engaging.

While the touch-based climate control system might be a controversial change, it isn’t a dealbreaker for me, as there are workarounds and the climate controls work well through the infotainment system. 

In conclusion, if you're looking for a premium hatchback that delivers a comfortable and well-rounded driving experience without breaking the bank, the 2023 Volkswagen Golf Life Hatch should be pretty high on your list.

Saucey score breakdown

Maintenance Costs and Warranty
Fuel (or EV) Efficiency
Interior Design and Features
Value for Money
Technology and Innovation
Is it fit-for-purpose?
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Jacob Brooke
Jacob Brooke, a respected voice in the world of automotive journalism, brings a wealth of knowledge and insights to his reviews at CarSauce. His keen eye for detail and passion for all things cars shine through in his in-depth analysis and honest evaluations of the latest models of cars. Join him as he guides readers through the car-buying process and explores the exciting world of motoring.
Car specs

110kW + 250Nm

$37,490 + On-roads


5-Star ANCAP

Buy a Car!
No Obligations, Hassle Free.

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