★★★★ | Volkswagen’s Golf GTi redefined the go faster car in the 70s. With its hatchback styling, it started the Hot Hatch trend that we have seen go from strength to strength. It was then seen as the benchmark for all GTi’s in the 80s and thanks to high insurance premiums and a lack of love GTi’s felt in the 90s, it lost its way.
It tried to bounce back with lacklustre attempts in its Mk4 guise but then love for the GTi returned. Volkswagen saw the errors of their ways and addressed the situation.
Now in its 7th generation, the Golf has stayed true to form. Its design is simple both inside and out. While some manufactures have opted for garish add-ons and bulges in places, VW have not. Likewise, they have not tried to redesign the hatchback with pointless styling that can date very quickly. Outside they have ironed out a few lines, placed emphasis on simplistic looks and then added some Golf GTi design touches.© VW
The red line along the grill blending into the front lights is a nice touch. Inside it is all very Golf. There is no mistaking that you are in anything else other than a Golf. This Mk7, like my own Mk2, is like slipping into comfy slippers and that is why the Golf is still ahead of the game with a philosophy VW had perfected from the days of the Beetle. Make changes only where needed and do no more other than to make it better.
Anyway enough of the old and more of the new. On the road, this is one quick car. 0-60 comes up in just over 6 seconds and reaches legal speed limits before you realise. Add to this the almost sumptuous comfort and you soon lose sense of what fast actually feels like. Standing starts feel quick but soon blend into a senseless wonder of how fast you are actually going.
What aids this is the 5 road settings. There are soft settings, hard settings and mixture settings where you can choose the damping rates, gear changes and steering feel. This Golf doesn’t compromise you in any way. You can have a fast Golf with comfort or a fast Golf with a spine-jarring sporty ride.
The economy is a marvel too. Father in the passenger seat, we managed around 40 mpg on the way to Bognor. After l had kicked him out, l managed 17 mpg according to the computer. With fuel figures like these, you could be hard pressed to find a car that has so many life skills. Todays GTi is to all men and women a satisfying car to pilot if you want a Golf that will take you places without fuss or a full on GTi with excitement to match that red stripe in the grill. It doesn’t scream at you that it is can be a flat out fast machine. It’s identity is the GTi badge. Subtle and discreet.
All this fun from a Golf that now has a faster model in the range coming out soon is to the GTi’s benefit. The GTi has a crossed over identity. It’s not the fast thrills and frills GTi it used to be. Then again it isn’t a GTi that you can’t live with if it is to be your only car. 3 or 5 doors, space for 1 to 5 and luggage space to match. It’s practical. It is put together well. Above all, it’s a Volkswagen.
VW’s philosophy just gets better and better. It doesn’t age either. You could be forgiven for having a mind blank when trying to figure out if this is the mk7 or 6 or is it a 5? It’s not a 5. You know it isn’t a 5. However, the shape isn’t too dissimilar to the Golf 2 generations ago. This time they have made it look sharper. Squared off those rounded shapes, flattened a few lines. Golf doesn’t have swoops and curves. It remains crisp and sharp for an entire production run and continues to do so when it is replaced. The major contributing factor is that Golf is so on the money all of the time. Others fail to emulate it. It’s almost like VW’s design team have a crystal ball.
I still marvel at its on-road ability. I can’t actually place it as an out and out performer because it is everything you could want. So we shall set it to comfort and drive it. You can drive it fast. The DSG auto box changes smoothly. The ride is compliant. It glides along. It’s very Golf.
Change the settings and add a little magic and Golf becomes more GTi. Changes are sharper, steering becomes more communicative requiring increased input. The gliding becomes more ‘Jack Rabbit’ and this time it darts around the road.
Roundabouts become playgrounds. Entries and exits are now flatter and quicker. Using the steering wheel paddles for gear changing allows you to now choose when the changes happen. This allows full access to the 227bhp available at 4500rpm. Stretch it further and it’ll reward you even though you are well past the peak torque at a lowly 1500rpm.
Inside it remains Golf. The retro check GTi fabric on the seats is also another nice touch. At night there are red lights that appear within the red strip of the front doors. It’s a shame this doesn’t stretch to the rear doors.
It’s still expensive and on paper at least, it seems a little behind the times. 40 years on it is still the GTi king. There is no getting away from that fact. You cannot deny the Golf GTi that title.
In a time where excessive add-ons are the norm, the subtlety of the Golf rewards you with a competent car that to drive is both rewarding or comfortable or both. It’s just that l don’t know which one of the two rewards is the better?
Retro GTi touches
Generic VW dashboard
Red lighting not in the rear doors
Car – Volkswagen Golf GTi DSG
Price – £30,925
MPG – 44.1(combined)
Power – 227bhp @ 4500rpm
0-62mph – 6.4 seconds
Top Speed – 154 mph
Co2 – 149 (g/km)