When the first Golf GTI was announced, dozens of enthusiasts were so keen to buy this new sensation that they brought in left-hand drive versions rather than wait for the ‘official’ UK sales launch.
Blending performance with everyday usability, the GTI carved a niche of desirability that is hard to match. One of the original hot hatches, it was also loved as a Q-car – a seemingly everyday car with the performance that eclipsed its modest looks.
Those memories flooded back when I took to the Yorkshire dales in the seventh generation Golf GTI. Did the new car still have what made the old one special? One stretch of a curving moors road answered my question – I enjoyed it so much that I turned around and drove it again!
Of course, the latest GTI is much more powerful and sophisticated. For the first time, there are two power options from the sweet running 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine – the ’standard’ 217bhp or 227bhp if you go for the optional £980 performance pack that adds upgraded brakes and limited slip for the most demanding driver.
Either way you get a car that is a delight to drive, eager to rev up into the red or to pick up so strongly from moderate speeds thanks to the abundance of torque. Gear changing is via a six-speed manual with the traditional golf ball knob or the six-speed dual clutch automatic. Both work slickly so it is a matter of personal choice.
On the road the GTI feels tailored to the driver. The steering is quick, the suspension firm but surprisingly compliant and the driving experience is rewarding. It just feels fine tuned to cope with the extra power. Braking is equally impressive and is accompanied by pleasing popping sounds from the exhaust.
While there is little difference in sheer speed between the two models, the performance pack gives more urge at the top end. Acceleration to 62mph takes 6.4 or 6.5 seconds with potential top speeds of 152 or 155mph. But the figures don’t tell the whole story – there just always seems to be instant power on tap whenever you want it.
This two-litre engine has been tuned for efficiency too. With more restrained driving it returns a creditable 47mpg on the Combined Cycle and has emissions of 139g/km. This makes the Golf GTI an attractive choice for drivers who are downsizing.
Inside the GTI is roomy enough for large adults and a decent boot so this is a practical car to use daily. The interior lay-out and finish is to premium standard. Red stitching on the flat-bottomed steering wheel helps to set the tone as does a large touch screen in the centre of the fascia. It all says quality.
Prices start from £25,845 which reflects not just the engineering but also the sheer refinement and levels of equipment. There may be faster, flashier and and even cheaper sports hatches, but the Golf GTI is still the all-round class act.
Review by Derek Black. You can contact Derek here.