The latest Volkswagen Golf GTD diesel hot hatch is faster and more refined than ever, but can it still hold a candle to the iconic petrol-powered Golf GTI? The petrol car is faster and more refined than the GTD but can’t hope to match its efficiency and low CO2 emissions.
The seventh-generation Golf looks subtle, classy and upmarket rather than overtly sexy. It suits the Golf’s business-like image, but extroverts might prefer some of the more outlandish hot hatches. If you start to examine the subtler details, however, you can see some extra sporty details.
The GTD looks quietly aggressive with deeper bumpers than a standard Golf, a honeycomb grille, GTD badging and a boot-mounted spoiler. The GTI has the same sporty bodykit but adds angular 18-inch alloys and the bright red trim that’s become a hallmark of the GTI.
It becomes even harder to tell the two apart inside. Both feature the traditional GTI tartan seat cloth straight from 1975 (red in the GTI, monochrome in the GTD), with body-hugging side bolsters to hold you in place as you go around corners.
In fact, the only two differences we could pick out are the slightly different gear knob and the red stitching on the wheel and gearstick that’s exclusive to the GTI. Otherwise it’s business as usual – top-notch materials, tactile design and classy switchgear are used throughout their cabins.
The GTI gets the Volkswagen Group’s familiar 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine. It delivers 217 or 227hp with the £1,000 performance pack. That’s not a huge amount compared to the competition, but healthy reserves of torque help it accelerate from 0-62mph in 6.5 seconds and on to 153mph.
While the 181hp 2.0-litre TDI engine in the GTD loses out to the GTI in terms of power, it makes up for it with a thumping 280lb ft of torque. This helps it blast from 0-62mph in 7.5 seconds on to a top speed of 143mph.
Where the GTD runs rings around the GTI is, of course, fuel economy. The diesel returns an average of 67.3mpg compared to the GTI’s 47.1mpg.
Most testers agree that, on the road, the differences between the GTI and GTD are almost imperceptible. Both have plenty of grip, aided by VW’s clever XDS electronic differential, which helps increase traction in bends. Both have very little body roll in corners and ride comfortably.
Both also offer £800 optional adaptive dampers, which allows relaxed cruising in comfort mode, and a sharper, tauter driving experience in sport. The GTI narrowly has the edge, if only because it darts into corners a little more easily and it makes a better noise – things that will matter to potential owners.
Value for money and running costs
There’s little to separate the GTI and GTD in terms of price – the quicker GTI is only £500 more expensive with the same equipment. The biggest problem these cars face is that some rivals offer more performance for less money.
SEAT offers the more-powerful Leon Cupra for slightly less money than the GTI, and it offers a similar chassis, more power, more equipment, and the same build quality and practicality. The Ford Focus ST also offers more outright fun and similar equipment levels for thousands of pounds less.
If the quality and performance of VW’s hot hatches has swayed you, however, bear in mind that the GTI or GTD will suit you best depending on how you drive. Only those who do lots of motorway miles will see real financial benefit from picking the GTD so, for the majority who drive a mixture of roads, the GTI is the better choice.
If you prioritise the driving experience over running costs, the GTI wins, being both faster and more entertaining. The GTD, however, is a jack-of-all-trades car, offering much of the sporty talent of the GTI with much lower running costs.
Want an even faster Golf? Read our comparison of the Golf GTI and the Golf R – which includes four-wheel drive and 296hp. It’s a rocket-ship, but read our review to see if it’s worth the extra over a GTI?
Put either the Volkswagen Golf GTI or the Volkswagen Golf GTD in our car configurator to see how much carwow could help you save. Visit our deals page to see our latest discounts or check out our car chooser for help picking your next car.