Incredibly, 2016 will usher in the fortieth birthday of this iconic fast German motor. Now in its seventh iteration it has matured like a fine wine to the extent that it now transcends the ubiquitous term ‘hot hatch’, demonstrating that a car can evolve into a vehicle suitable for grown-ups without losing the fun factor that made it so popular all those decades ago.
The model tested here is perhaps the most similar to the original in that it has just the three doors and a proper, slick old-school manual gearbox with the regulation six ratios. Those with growing families yet retaining an urge to relish an adrenaline fuelled driving experience will be happy to learn that the VW Golf GTi is also available with five doors and, if you must, the flappy-paddle DSG auto.
If it seems as if this review is turning into a glorifying eulogy you wouldn’t be wrong. It really is this good. The fact is, the GTi is a very complete car. Maybe no longer the fastest or loudest in its class it has instead become a pure drivers’ car that can also handle the day-to-day chores with aplomb.
The standing start sprint to 62mph takes a comparatively modest 6.5 seconds but that’s not what this car is about. Instead, with 217bhp and a reasonable torque figure of 258lb/ft it will demolish a twisting, turning road with breathtaking ease as we experienced on a fast-flowing and blissfully empty ten mile section of the A4 between Marlborough and Hungerford. Handling is perfectly controlled and it all happens in total security thanks to an array of safety and driver aids plus, in the case of the test car, Volkswagen’s Dynamic Chassis Control with variable suspension settings to suit – Sport, Normal and Comfort.
Comfort is to the fore. For a three door car access to the back seats is relatively straightforward as the figure-hugging front seats slide and tilt with ease. Once in the back, passengers declared that for once, they were really snug with sufficient space on offer. If the back seats are to be used often then maybe the five door would be the better buy. Isofix is standard for the ankle-biters.
Safety is handled by the technology known only by acronyms – ABS, HBA, ASR and ESP to name but four that go about their business quietly and efficiently, keeping the car on the tarmac. Some manufacturers shout about their high tech gadgets but this VW is more restrained. For example, if the car is judged to be too close to the vehicle in front a discreet but obvious warning appears in the dash. There are emergency braking systems, adaptive cruise control and a host of other useful kit to numerous to mention here, some of which will be found on the comprehensive options list. There’s a detailed specification of the test car below.
Our car was fitted with the Discover Navigation Pro touchscreen navigation/DVD system with voice activation. There’s an absolutely brilliant 8” screen with many handy gadgets; the whole option costs adds a healthy £1765 to the final bill but is so good it should get the automatic tick, as should others – like the DCC mentioned earlier – even if your wallet or credit rating does flinch a bit.
If the Golf GTi is too rich for your blood at around £27,000 then there are other, tamer versions of the Volkswagen Golf of the same quality build standard. If you are of the green persuasion then this reviewer can attest to the fact that Golf GTE hybrid is outstanding but it is expensive, as is the e-Golf, even with the government grant.
Those lusting after a bit more power are catered for too as Volkswagen, to celebrate the 40th anniversary, are offering the Clubsport special edition with a power-maxing boost function, improved aerodynamics and a heritage design package. Potent. If you leave this page with the idea that I really recommend this great all-rounder then you would be entirely correct. But then of course, there’s the Golf R….