It needs very little introduction. Afterall, the Golf GTi has been with us now for 37 years. So what’s new on this latest Mark VII?
For the first time two power levels are offered: the standard 220 PS GTI and the GTI Performance, a £980 option which increases power to 230 PS, adds larger brake discs and a front limited-slip differential.
Both variants benefit from a raft of technical advancements and driver safety assistance systems, including ADC (Automatic Distance Control) with City Emergency Braking, a Driver Alert System, PreCrash preventative occupant protection and Driver Profile Selection, which adjusts the characteristics of the car: from Comfort, Normal, Sport, and Individual.
Styling remains conservative for a hot-hatch, but visual clues include a red stripe across the honeycomb radiator grille, red-painted brake callipers, twin chrome tailpipes and 18-inch alloys.
The new 2.0-litre turbocharged direct-injection petrol engine (TSI) pumps out 220 PS and 350 Nm (258 lbs ft) of torque, resulting in an explosive a 6.5 second sprint to 62 mph and an autobahn storming 152 mph top speed. But it’s also cleaner, with a claimed 47.1 combined mpg and 139g/km of CO2 (manual version).
A slick close ratio six-speed manual gearbox is standard, although a six-speed DSG auto is optional. Both have their own character – the manual being more involving, although the DSG has its own rewards: lightening fast changes accompanied by a characteristic hiccup from the exhausts on upshifts.
Variable ratio steering – if slightly lacking in feel – provides progressive and smooth inputs; the body remains flat and stable even under hard cornering and there’s tons of grip. Yet for a sporting model the GTi’s ride is also impressively pliant: optional adaptive chassis control (£795) allows you to tailor the firmness of the car’s suspension.
Overall fit and finish and quality of cabin materials is class leading. The GTi’s classic tartan ‘Jacara’ cloth sports seats, red ambient lighting, bespoke steering wheel, gear lever and instrument cluster are stand out design features – adding to the sporty appeal.
The 5.8-inch colour touchscreen infotainment system, incorporating digital radio, Bluetooth, iPod connectivity and satellite navigation, boasts intuitive functionality.
Slightly larger exterior dimensions over the previous mark VI Golf give a more spacious cabin. Taller occupants are well catered for by 15mm more rear legroom. There’s also more shoulder and elbow room, whilst the boot has grown in size to 380 litres.
Volkswagen’s new GTi is a better proposition than its predecessor: being faster, more dynamic, lighter yet safer and boasting considerably higher efficiency.
True, it still might not offer the purest driving experience and, if you’re looking for raw thrills from your hot-hatch, you’ll be better off plumping for a Renault Megane Renaultsport 265 Cup, or a Ford ST, both of which ultimately offer more full-on fun. However, neither rival can match the quality, panache and breadth of all-round ability of the Golf GTi.
Volkswagen Golf GTI 2.0 TSI 220 PS, 3 door, 6spd manual
OTR Price: £26,330
Max Power: 220 PS
Max Torque: 350 Nm (258 lbs ft)
Max Speed: 152mph
Acceleration: 0-62 in 6.5 seconds
Claimed MPG (combined): 47.1
CO2 emissions: (g/km) 139
Insurance group: 29E
VED: Band E