Volkswagen is giving its iconic compact car a facelift. To remain competitive in a segment dominated by crossovers, the Mk8.5 Golf spices things up with a sharper exterior design, a new infotainment system, and some much-needed mechanical improvements. While the US will only get the GTI and Golf R, the standard Golf will still be available in hatchback and wagon body styles throughout Europe.

VW is showing the updated Golf in several flavors. The hatchback comes in eHybrid and GTE plug-in hybrid forms, as well as the America-bound GTI. The more practical Variant estate is shown in the R-Line guise. The only ones missing from the lineup are the all-wheel-drive R and the GTD performance diesel.

The biggest changes on the outside are the redesigned LED light fixtures, with the more expensive Golfs featuring a full-LED headlight setup with an illuminated VW badge. At an additional cost, customers will be able to opt for a more sophisticated matrix LED setup with a high beam almost twice as powerful as the regular high beam. At the rear, the fancier taillights feature 3D-like graphics with three selectable patterns – similar to what Audi offers on some of its models.

2024 Volkswagen Golf eHybrid facelift (European model)

With the Golf facelift, VW is adding four new metallic paints (Crystal Ice Blue, Anemone Blue, Oyster Silver, Grenadilla Black) and five alloy wheel designs ranging from 16 to 19 inches. Each trim level available (Golf, Life, Style, R-Line, GTE, and GTI) gets discreetly updated bumpers, and all models from the Style grade above have a black roof.

Mirroring the pre-facelift Golf, the more practical of the two body styles won't be offered in eHybrid, GTE, and GTI specifications. Hopefully, the Golf R Variant performance wagon will continue.

VW already showed the updated cabin earlier this month at CES. Yes, the hot hatch is reverting to conventional buttons on the steering wheel, and it should be the same story with the Golf R. It's important to note the lesser Golf Mk8 models sold in Europe came with traditional controls with only the pricier ones receiving the frustrating touch-sensitive keys.

2024 Volkswagen Golf Variant R-Line facelift (European model)

2024 Volkswagen Golf Variant R-Line facelift (European model)

2024 Volkswagen Golf GTI facelift (European model)

2024 Volkswagen Golf GTI facelift (European model)

The biggest change inside is the next-generation infotainment system with a large tablet-style screen that measures 10.4 inches on the cheaper Golfs and 12.9 inches on the more expensive models. The dreaded sliders for controlling the air conditioning system are still there, but they're (finally!) illuminated. An optional head-up display will also be available.

The entry-level Golf will be equipped with a 1.5 TSI gasoline unit rated at 113 or 148 horsepower, both sending power to the front axle via a six-speed manual gearbox. A mild-hybrid version of the same engine, dubbed 1.5 eTSI, has the same outputs but comes exclusively with a seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission.

Should you need more oomph, there's a bigger 2.0 TSI with 201 hp and a seven-speed DSG. Interestingly, there's no mention of the smaller three-cylinder, 1.0 TSI engine that used to be offered on the cheapest pre-facelift Golf.

On the diesel side, the tried-and-tested 2.0 TDI is going to have 113 hp and a six-speed manual or 148 hp and a seven-speed DSG. Both versions of the oil burner are solely front-wheel drive.

2024 Volkswagen Golf eHybrid facelift (European model)

2024 Volkswagen Golf eHybrid facelift (European model)

2024 Volkswagen Golf GTE facelift (European model)

2024 Volkswagen Golf GTE facelift (European model)

Those who don't want a diesel can still get the eHybrid with 201 hp, a six-speed DSG, and front-wheel drive. The electrified model uses a bigger lithium-ion battery pack (from 10.6 kilowatt-hours to 19.7 kilowatt-hours) good for up to 62 miles (100 kilometers) of electric range. The previous Golf eHybrid had maximum range of 50 miles (80 kilometers).

The plug-in hybrid model now supports AC charging at 11 kilowatts (instead of 3.6 kilowatts) and can take DC charging at up to 50 kilowatts, in which case it'll need 25 minutes to juice up the battery from 10% to 80%. With the battery completely charged and a full tank of gas, VW estimates you'll be able to cover up to 621 miles (1,000 kilometers) before having to refuel.

As for the more exciting versions, the Golf GTE has a combined output of 268 hp delivered to the front axle via six-speed DSG. Much like the regular eHybrid, it switches from the old 1.4 TSI engine to the 1.5 TSI unit featuring variable turbocharger geometry. Compared to its predecessor, the electrified hatch packs an extra 27 hp.

2024 Volkswagen Golf GTI facelift (European model)

2024 Volkswagen Golf GTI facelift (European model)

2024 Volkswagen Golf GTI facelift (European model)

2024 Volkswagen Golf GTI facelift (European model)

Saving the best for last, it's the updated GTI with its Alfa Romeo-styled wheels. Sadly, the hot hatch has lost its manual gearbox in place of a seven-speed DSG, which routes 261 hp to the front wheels – or 20 more hp than the pre-facelifted model.

VW also had a more potent Clubsport version in Europe before this facelift, making 296 hp, but it's a no-show for the time being. The car VW brought to CES may have been a Clubsport, alluding to the car's launch in the United States.

The Golf R is likely to break cover later this year while a return of the GTD is in doubt seeing as how diesels have fallen out of favor in the aftermath of the VW Group's messy scandal.

2024 Volkswagen Golf Variant R-Line facelift (European model)

We might be looking at the final significant update for the VW Golf in the internal combustion era, after half a century on the market and about 37 million units produced. The ninth generation of Europe's best-selling car ever has been confirmed strictly as an electric model on the VW Group's Scalable Systems Platform. It will enter production near the end of the decade in Wolfsburg, Germany where it'll be assembled with other SSP-based cars.

It remains to be seen whether the two will peacefully coexist before VW decides to go EV-only. One thing is certain – the German brand has pledged to produce only electric cars in Europe from 2033, so the ICE Golf's days are numbered regardless.

Gallery: 2024 Volkswagen Golf facelift (European model)

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