THE hot hatch genre has had more comebacks in recent years than the Rolling Stones, although increases in power, running costs and asking prices have seen some cars move away from their previously broad customer base and into the hands of dyed-in-the-wool enthusiasts.
Sure, an increasing number of five-door models have helped make them family friendly, but silly horsepower and a prodigious thirst for unleaded can easily dent the monthly budget. Enter the diesel hot hatch, a concept that takes the best of the GTI genre and blends it with sensible running costs. It’s appropriate, then, that Volkswagen has chosen to put much effort behind its Golf GTI alter ego, the Golf GTD.
For the driver seeking a rounded, rapid yet affordable driving experience, this latest generation Golf GTD appears to be one of those rare cars: one without any obvious drawbacks. Boasting 109g/km CO2 and 67.3mpg in six-speed manual gearbox guise, the financial element is certainly attractive, especially to company car drivers.
There’s more to the car than its on-paper frugality, however. For it to have even an ounce of GTI-like credibility it’s got to look the part. Fortunately the GTD’s bodykit, lowered stance and big wheels ensure that it can stand shoulder to shoulder with its GTI relative.
It’s a similar story inside. From the tartan upholstery pattern to the 21st- century twist on the GTI’s famous golf ball gearknob, the only difference is that you’ll still have some fuel money left at the end of the month, unlike your GTI-driving friends.
The GTD is all about making rapid progress without breaking into a sweat. Diesel power gives the GTD 280lb.ft of torque, which is gets you to 62mph from rest in 7.5 seconds. It’s also sufficient to allow hassle-free acceleration irrespective of what gear you’re in, and opens up new and safer opportunities when it comes to overtaking – there’s no hanging back, building up momentum and making a dash for it with the GTD.
Elsewhere, it delivers a measured ride with a good balance of compliance and roll control to allow for comfortable cruising punctuated by the occasional corner-attacking moments synonymous with a B-road blast. The GTD’s largely vice-free character ensures there are no surprises, while grip is carefully controlled by a solid suspension set-up and intelligently programmed electronics – including a trick electronic differential control – should you be pushing that hard. Weighty steering and a slick manual gearshift, or the equally slick optional DSG unit, should satisfy even the keenest of keen drivers
The overriding feeling when driving the Golf GTD is the one you get when driving a premium Grand Tourer. Power and torque is never in short supply and making rapid progress is bordering on effortless. It’s still an engaging and rewarding experience, though, and one that allows you to remain relaxed regardless of how much wheel-twirling you’ve done.
As befits the overall premium feel of the Golf GTD, standard equipment levels are high: lots of safety kit plus climate control, xenon headlights, DAB radio and Bluetooth connectivity. Optional kit includes sat-nav, keyless entry and ignition, parking camera and a high-end audio system.
Probably the best compliment you could pay the GTD is to say that it’s like a Golf GTI, but it’s not a Golf GTI. If you’re excited by the buzz of holding on to every gear and squeezing every last drop of power from an engine, then diesel isn’t for you.
The Golf GTD’s appeal operates at a higher cerebral level, and rewards drivers who recognise that you don’t need to mash the throttle to maintain a rapid pace and put a smile on your face. In other words, the GTD is a GTI for grown-ups.
CAR Volkswagen Golf GTD 5dr
PERFORMANCE Max speed 142mph: 0-62mph 7.5 seconds
MPG (combined) 67.3mpg
CO2 EMISSIONS 109g/km