In a surprise move, Volkswagen Passenger Cars Malaysia (VPCM) has given the media a preview of the Volkswagen Golf Mk8. The backdrop you see here is the paddy fields of Sekinchan, an unusual location for a media gathering. This was coming, as VPCM opened registration of interest for the Mk8 Golf and teased it earlier this month, just that we didn’t expect it today.

We have here the eighth generation Golf in two flavours – the R-Line in white and the iconic GTI in red. Both will be launched in the first quarter of 2022 (which is just around the corner) in CKD locally assembled form. While CKD Volkswagens rolling out of Pekan aren’t a new thing – having started in 2011 with the B7 Passat – this is the first time that the Golf is being assembled here. It’s a big deal, especially for the GTI, which was only ever made in Germany and China.

Some are already licking their lips at the prospect of lowered CKD prices, but we have no indication from VPCM, for now. The CBU Golf Mk7.5 was launched in 2019; then, the 1.4 TSI R-Line went for RM166,990 while the GTI was priced at RM239,990.

To the cars. We don’t have a spec sheet, or any official info for that matter, but we’ll try our best via eyesight and questions. We’ll have a separate piece for the GTI, so this post will see us focus on the R-Line, which will take over from the Passat Elegance as VPCM’s most affordable model.

Big news first. We’re not getting the Mk8 Golf as a 1.5 eTSI mild hybrid. That one pairs a 150 PS/250 Nm Active Cylinder Management (ACT) engine to a seven-speed DSG, 48-volt belt starter generator and a 48-volt lithium-ion battery.

Instead, Malaysia is getting what Australia gets, as speculated by this website back in June 2020. That means a carryover 1.4 litre TSI engine from the Mk7.5 Golf, but with an eight-speed torque converter automatic instead of a DSG dual-clutch gearbox. The engine is still great – it makes 150 PS and 250 Nm at 1,500 to 3,500 rpm, the same max output as the newer 1.5 eTSI.

Volkswagen Australia said then that the TSI-8AT combo was chosen due to emissions regulations in the country – not because it’s the most strict, but the other way around. Europe has stricter emissions standards, and because of this, the Golf’s home continent is top priority for the newer and cleaner powertrain combo.

If the 1.4L meets Australia’s current emissions standards, it would be more than clean enough for Malaysia. We’re guessing that not many local Golf prospects would be moaning over the lack of cylinder deactivation. As for the 8AT replacing the DSG, the 1.4L TSI is currently manufactured in conjunction with the 8AT (this combo also goes into other VW Group products), so it’s a matter of convenience. What do you think of this new combo?

As for equipment, the R-Line comes with the namesake sporty styling package (badges now show just the ‘R’ without the ‘Line’), 17-inch ‘Valencia’ alloys, LED Plus headlights and upgraded LED taillights on the exterior. It looks much like a GTI without the hot hatch’s signature cues (honeycomb grille, red pinstripe) and unique/larger wheels, but only the hot hatch has real visible tailpipes – the ones here are decorative trim.

Inside the Mk8’s newly minimalist cabin, you’ll find manual fabric seats (nice suede-like combo with an R logo), a fully digital instrument cluster and the latest MIB3-powered touchscreen infotainment system with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It’s all very modern and digital – the only knob you’ll find is for the wing mirrors; the lighting controls and cluster between the central AC vents are touch sensitive, and the buttons on the steering are also capacitive.

In terms of safety, the R-Line gets the usual six airbags, ABS and ESP. However, it doesn’t come with any driver assist tech like autonomous emergency braking (AEB). VPCM said that it is working to bring ADAS to its cars, but looks like it hasn’t made it to the Golf. One thing of note is that there are Isofix points on the front passenger seat, not just the rear seats.

VPCM says that CKD locally assembled Golf Mk8 range will be launched “very very soon”, most likely in the first quarter of next year. No price yet, but the Golf R-Line is set to be brand’s most affordable model in Malaysia, undercutting the RM182k Passat Elegance. The CBU Mk7.5 Golf R-Line had a 2019 launch price of RM166,990 – how much lower can the CKD go? Possibly tempting new price aside, what do you think of the latest Golf with an 8AT instead of DSG?