We review the new Volkswagen Golf GTi and discover there’s no substitute
It would be pretty hard to argue that the Volkswagen Golf GTi is not the most iconic hot hatch. It’s a symbol of success; the racy hatchback that looks majestic on the gravel drives of the nation’s fanciest addresses.
It’s a change from years ago when the GTi was a little on the classless side. These days it’s the chariot of choice for the aspiring Made in Chelsea types before they graduate to Audi or BMW.
It is now without question the grownup of the hot-hatch group. For its prowess, quick steering, and immense torque on tap, the GTI is the small performance car you should pick either for a daily commute through the city, or a cross-country drive. Ride quality is great; the interior is definitely the quietest of this class; and the standard seats are genuinely comfortable.
This latest version has a little of the heritage, courtesy of that tartan trim interior that’s not to everyone’s taste. And there is the badging of course and the obligatory red piping. But unless you cough up a further £600 for the 18in “Austin” alloys that turn heads all on their own, there are few out there who would be able to distinguish it from a well-maintained regular Golf.
The 220bhp 2-litre engine hums along at low revs with little or no indication of its potent potential. It also delivers impressive fuel economy figures for a car that hits 60mph from a standing start in 6.5 seconds and climbs to 153mph.
It also costs just £195 more than its predecessor and, thanks to a camera-based emergency braking system, has fallen five insurance groups, which is nice…
Perhaps the greatest success of the Golf GTi though is how it manages to balance on the social tightrope, it’s neither too flash nor too insipid. It doesn’t seek attention yet it demands respect.
Rivals might be meaner, faster and more uncompromising, but the Golf is the only one with the scent of first-class about it. The rest are more Gary Megson and David Batty, to the GTi’s Liam Brady and Michael Laudrup.
Volkswagen Golf GTI
Tested: Five-door hatchback, with four-cylinder, 1,984cc turbocharged petrol engine, six-speed manual transmission, front-wheel drive
Price/on sale: £25,845 to £28,895
Power/torque: 217bhp @ 4,500rpm/258lb ft @ 1,500rpm.
Top speed: 152mph
Acceleration: 0-62mph in 6.5sec
Fuel economy: 37.7mpg/47.1mpg (EU Urban/Combined)
CO2 emissions: 139g/km
VED band: E (£125)
Our Verdict: Great build quality, classy design inside and out, powerful engine and a clever differential. Your ultimate deft drive.