Volkswagen Golf GTI just got groovier

THE Volkswagen Golf GTI returns and, with each generation, becomes just that bit more polished. The slightly underwhelming Mk 6 model makes way for a car new from the ground up. It’s a big step forward but little of the original GTI DNA remains.
The new Golf GTI has been built from the ground upThe new Golf GTI has been built from the ground up
The new Golf GTI has been built from the ground up

The big news for enthusiasts is that this GTI is available in two different power outputs. The standard car offers 217bhp between 4,500 and 6,200rpm, enabling it to hit 62mph in just 6.5 seconds before reaching a top speed of 153mph. That’ll be quick enough for most, but for those who think that’s just a good start, there’s a 227bhp GTI Performance model which covers the sprint in 6.4 seconds and reaches 155mph. If these gains sound small, consider this. The GTI Performance also gets bigger brakes and an electronically controlled mechanical front axle differential lock for improved cornering.

Both cars get a “progressive steering” system which means low effort at parking speeds but a smooth, natural feel when moving from small steering angles to larger ones at speed, something that has often escaped designers of electrically-assisted steering systems. A six-speed gearbox is fitted as standard to both cars, with the option of a six-gear DSG twin-clutch transmission for those who don’t fancy a clutch pedal.

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This is a seriously good looking car. Some of the detailing is quite exquisite, such as the red grille-piping extending inside the headlamp clusters, the smoked rear light lenses and the honeycomb grille, while the 17-inch Brooklyn alloy wheels also look the part. I predict that most customers will opt for the bigger 18 or 19-inch alloy wheel options. Red, black and white production paint finishes hark back to the Eighties heyday of the Golf GTI, while the bigger roof spoiler is neatly integrated to the roof line and door pillars.

The original Golf’s “Jacky” tartan seats have been reprised, this time called “Clark”, and fitted with height adjustability and an adjustable lumbar support. There are even sliding drawers incorporated beneath. The flat-bottomed steering wheel is a delight, with a circular hub and a deep dish with audio, telephone and cruise control buttons mounted on two of its three spokes.

The dash is finished in an interesting capping which at first looks a little like carbon fibre but is in fact a technical finish that manages to escape the essential cheesiness of fake carbon. There’s also a set of drilled pedals and a big alloy foot rest.

The Volkswagen Golf GTI has grown up, become more refined, smarter and, yes, better in virtually every regard. It doesn’t need to constantly remind its customers of its roots. It’s become the go-to car if you want a quality hot hatch. Yes, it now campaigns in the upper echelons, pricewise, but the value proposition nevertheless looks good, with this Mk 7 model promising some really strong residual values that take the edge off the cost of ownership.

Volkswagen hasn’t forgotten about driving enjoyment as the Golf enters middle age. This one’s still got the chops to entertain with its clever front axle diff lock signalling that it’s not for people who merely want the most expensive Golf.

There are some formidable vehicles in the hot hatch division, but the Golf GTI operates almost in its own sub niche. It’s all about authenticity, something true hot-hatch buyers don’t need unsubtle history lessons to understand.


CAR Volkswagen Golf GTI

PRICE from £16,285

PERFORMANCE Max speed 153mph; 0-62mph 6.5secs

MPG (combined) 47mpg