First Drive: VW Golf GTD is Wolfsburg in sheep’s clothing

Underneath the Golf GTD’s sensible skin lurks a spirit that just wants to have fun.

The VW Golf GTD blends potent performance and pleasing economy
The VW Golf GTD blends potent performance and pleasing economy

A bit like your dad dancing at a wedding, then, except that the GTD succeeds in its mission, swishing this way and that with a pace and nimble-footed flair that you’d scarcely believe possible from a diesel-engined car. Dad’s twerking masterclass, meanwhile, has ended in injury and several arrests.

Key to the Mk7 Golf GTD’s get up and go is a 182bhp diesel engine that delivers the bulk of its shove right in the middle of the rev range. Acceleration is brisk rather than startling, but it’s in the overtake that all that clout comes to the fore.

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By way of a bonus, if you bring the revs to the boil, the engine note switches from a brusque diesel thrum to a most unexpected racing-car rasp. Granted, it’s cheating – a “sound actuator” filters out the duff engine frequencies and feeds the pleasing ones into the cabin via a speaker hidden behind the dashboard – but it’s a funky little trick.

The morning rush-hour cornering test (it involves leap-frogging at least a dozen cars by zipping round Hermiston Gait roundabout in the middle lane that everyone else seems to ignore) hinted that the GTD’s chassis might possess hidden talents, and a cross-country canter to St Andrews for a photo of the Golf at the Home of Golf confirmed it.

The GTD sits 15mm lower than standard Golfs, on firmer springs too, and VW’s advanced traction control does a fine job of grabbing the inside wheels to sling the car round corners. Thanks to a steering rack pinched from the GTI, the flat-bottomed wheel needs only two turns lock-to-lock.

The GTI DNA in the GTD’s genes (try saying that quickly) extends beyond the chassis, so tartan cloth seats and a golf ball for a gearknob liven up an otherwise sober interior, while smoked lenses, 18-inch wheels and aerodynamic strakes on the bumper let the world know that you and your hatchback mean business.

Despite the taut set-up, the Golf proved comfortable during the 120-mile round trip to the East Neuk.

For go-faster looks, our five-door GTD can’t compete with the three-door GTI over there on the left, but our family of four was won over by the lack-of-faffness when it came to getting ourselves in and out.

And, as chief fuel-bill payer, I was also won over by the near-50mpg I averaged during my week with the Golf. That falls some way short of the near 70mpg VW reckons the GTD should return, but it’s still a full 20mpg more than I managed in the petrol-engined GTI, and for not a lot less in terms of real-world performance. Lower CO2 emissions than the GTI mean marginally cheaper VED too.

It’s not quite as quick or cool as its GTI sibling but, speaking as one who is wont to embarrass his children at family gatherings, the GTD’s mix of silly and sensible is right up my street.


Car Volkswagen Golf GTD

Price £26,220

Engine 2.0-litre, 4cyl, turbodiesel, 182bhp, 280lb ft

Performance Max speed 143mph; 0-62mph 7.5s

Economy 67.3mpg

CO2 emissions 109g/km