• Volkswagen Golf Mk8 vs Mk7 - a design comparison

Is the 2020 Volkswagen Golf Mk8 the better looking car?

After seven successful years on the market, the Golf Mk7 was retired to make way for the eighth-generation hatchback. Unveiled at the 2019 Tokyo Motor Show, the Golf Mk8 brings a new design to the table. However, much like all recently introduced new-generation Volkswagens, the new Golf is an evolution of the outgoing model. Is the new design different enough to be considered a new generation? Let’s find out in the comparison below.


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The first thing that catches the eye is the new headlamps and grille assembly, which is significantly narrower than before

The front fascia is actually a notable departure from the old generation. The first thing that catches the eye is the new headlamps and grille assembly, which is significantly narrower than before. The old Golf grille was already narrow compared to other Volkswagen models, but the German designers turned into an even thinner strip. Given that two-thirds of it is closed-off, it probably doesn’t it even contribute to the cooling system. The tiny grille also makes the Volkswagen emblem on the nose seem bigger than before.

The headlamps are also smaller. Actually, they’re half the size of the outgoing Golf. And they have a different shape as well. The two bulbs in each headlight are clearly separate now, with the outer part of the lens larger than the inner element. The outer lights also have C-shaped LED strips. The upper section of the C is part of a longer stripe that runs at the top of the headlamp until it meets the silver insert in the grille. This forms a bright line that runs the entire width of the front fascia. This isn’t a new feature, but it was relocated at the top of the grille and lights. On the old Golf, it runs at the bottom of the grille and into the lower part, but not at the bottom of the headlamps.

Volkswagen Golf Mk8 vs Mk7 - a design comparison Exterior
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LED headlamps are standard on all Golf models now

The bumper isn’t a dramatic change from the outgoing model, but it now falls in line with the rest of the Volkswagen lineup. The grille retains the wide design of its predecessor, but it’s taller, and it becomes a bit bigger to the sides. The center section is the one that draws air into the engine, as the side elements are closed off and features body-colored and silver highlights.

The engine hood is also similar to larger Volkswagen models, as it features two character lines on each side. The lines that descend from the bottom of the A-pillars to the inner corners of the headlamps remain unchanged, but the new design includes two additional lines placed toward the center. This feature gives the hood a more muscular look. Finally, the entire fascia sits a tad lower than before. The nose is lower, and the headlamps were moved closer to the grounds, which contributes to the Golf’s wider and more planted stance.


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Arguably the most important change is the beltline, which now runs higher on the body

The profile of the Golf didn’t change all that much into the new generation, but this isn’t a surprise. Much like the 911, the Golf retained its overall shape since the first generation, although it became increasingly bigger. If we were to draw a line around the profile and ignore all the details, these cars would be almost identical. Some of the details, like the windows, the fenders, and the doors are indeed very similar. However, Volkswagen made seemingly minor changes that affect the looks in a rather significant manner.

Volkswagen Golf Mk8 vs Mk7 - a design comparison Exterior
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Arguably the most important change is the beltline, which now runs higher on the body. It starts from the top of the front wheel arch, passes through the door handles, and continues to ascent until it meets the upper corner of the taillights. On the old model, it goes through the front fender wheel arches, passes below the handles, and stops just as it meets the rear fender. Because the new Golf has a character line on the rear fender as well, it looks as if the roof sits a tad lower, mainly because the C-pillar seems shorter. This feature alone makes the profile look a bit sportier.

The dent above the side skirts is also different, as it follows the direction of the beltline instead of having a straight, strip-like design. The rear quarter windows have a more angular kink, while the roof is a bit more angled toward the rear. Finally, Volkswagen introduced new wheels, including a cool double-five-spoke design that you can see on the model shown here.


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The taillights have a more angular design now and the inner elements are thinner

Just like the front fascia, the rear end is a notable departure from the Golf Mk7. Sure, the overall shape is the same, but everything else is different. The taillights have a more angular design now, and the inner elements are thinner than the outer blocks. The design looks crisp and seems inspired by larger Volkswagens, like the Passat and even the Arteon.

The character line on the tailgate is higher on the new model. That’s because it’s a continuation of the beltline that defines the profile. Now it runs through the upper section of the taillights, acting as a fine trim line between them. By contrast, the Mk7 has a lower character line that runs behind the Volkswagen badge placed just above the center of the tailgate. The revised beltline on the Mk8 adds width and a touch of elegance to the rear end.

Volkswagen Golf Mk8 vs Mk7 - a design comparison Exterior
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Down below, we can see a much wider bottom of the tailgate. This also contributes to the wider stance, but more importantly, it provides a wider loading area, meaning you can load bigger items with less effort into the trunk. The bumper sports a more angular design, while the thin red lights are now placed closer to the top. The license plate recess isn’t as deep as on the Mk8. The apron is actually very similar to the old model. It looks a bit like a diffuser, and it features fake exhaust pipes at the corners. The chrome trim adds a nice contrast to the gloss-black paint.

Final words

Volkswagen Golf Mk8 vs Mk7 - a design comparison Exterior
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The Golf Mk8 is a notable improvement over the old model, but only as long as you keep your eyes on the details. That’s especially available for the profile, where almost 90 percent of the features are identical to the outgoing hatchback. The front and rear fascias save the model’s identity, but I’m okay with the fact that Volkswagen kept some features from the old model. Just like the 911, the Golf is famous and popular with customers for keeping strong ties with earlier generations, so Volkswagen is making most of it. From a design standpoint, the Golf Mk8 is nothing less than I expected it to be.

Ciprian Florea
Ciprian Florea
Senior Editor and Supercar Expert - ciprian@topspeed.com
Ciprian's passion for everything with four wheels (and more) started back when he was just a little boy, and the Lamborghini Countach was still the coolest car poster you could hang on your wall. Ciprian's career as a journalist began long before earning a Bachelor's degree, but it was only after graduating that his love for cars became a profession.  Read full bio
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