The Volkswagen Golf GTI is the car credited to have started the hot hatch craze back in 1976. Almost 40 years later, the GTI is still lauded for offering a blend of performance, driving pleasure and practicality which in many ways remains the class benchmark.
There are plenty of intriguing alternatives to the Golf GTI, however. Some have a greater focus on performance, others are more comfortable, and a few offer better value for money. We’ve picked out five of its closest rivals.
Alternatively, put the VW Golf GTI in our car configurator to see the savings on offer.
Skoda Octavia vRS
Under the skin, the Skoda Octavia vRS shares much with the Golf GTI – it sits on a slightly stretched version of the Golf’s platform, and shares the same 217 horsepower 2.0-litre turbocharged engine. It weighs a little more than the VW, and lacks the fancy adaptive dampers, so performance and body control aren’t quite a match, though it still offers more than enough speed and drama.
While it’s important for hot hatches to offer huge thrills for sensible money, it’s no good if they can’t cater for you and the family in everyday use. To that end the Octavia vRS is one of the most practical available. The extra 15mm added to the chassis compared to the Golf improves rear legroom, and the larger tailgate houses a huge 590-litre boot. Best of all, it’s cheap – at less than £24,000 it’ll save you almost £4,000 compared to the Golf.
See the savings on offer by speccing up a Skoda Octavia vRS in our car configurator.
Ford Focus ST
While the Golf GTI can consider the Ford Focus ST its closest rival, the Ford has traded some of the Golf’s pliancy for a firmer, sharper suspension set up. It helps the Focus to feel a little more playful when driving fast on road or track, and gives the ST a greater ability to change the car’s cornering line by lifting off or flooring the accelerator.
In a straight line, there is nothing to separate the two: both the Focus and the Golf cover the 0-62mph dash in an identical 6.5 seconds. However, the Golf gains points in the practicality stakes, boasting a bigger boot and a superior official fuel economy.
However, the Focus is the cheaper of the pair. Even in top spec ST-3 trim, which features electrically adjustable Recaro leather sports seats, xenon headlights, parking sensors and a touchscreen infotainment system, it still costs £1,500 less than the Golf.
Peugeot 308 GTI
The Peugeot 308 GTi is the first entry into this class for the French brand since 2001, and it has big shoes to fill. The 306 GTI-6 is regarded as one of the hot hatch greats, easily outclassing the equivalent Golf GTIs of its era.
This time, Volkswagen and Peugeot are much more closely matched. The 308 benefits from an impressively low weight – at 1205kg it’s 146kg lighter than the Golf – helping it cover the 0-62mph sprint 0.3 seconds quicker. Overall, the 308 has been set up to feel like a slightly softer, more refined choice, but one which undoubtedly feels great to drive.
Spend an extra £1,600 and the more extreme ‘270’ variant is within reach. Power jumps from 247hp to 266hp, a limited-slip differential improves sharpness and a gorgeous set of sports seats hug you more tightly through the corners.
Put the Peugeot 308 GTi in our car configurator to see what reductions are offered.
Kia Pro Ceed GT
Searching for the feel of a Golf GTI, but on a slightly tighter budget? In many ways, the Kia Pro Ceed GT feels like a toned-down version of the VW – it’s an exciting hatch that feels refined and easy to live with every day.
While the 0-62mph time of 7.3 seconds can’t quite match the Golf’s time, and the handsome interior is just a fraction behind in terms of quality, the Kia counters with an asking price that undercuts the GTI by a whopping £4,400.
See the savings on offer by choosing your ideal Kia Pro Cee’d GT in our car configurator.
Volkswagen Golf R
Arguably one of the closest rivals to the GTI not only comes from Volkswagen, but from within the Golf lineup. The Golf R is the pinnacle of the current range, featuring a 296hp version of the 2.0-litre turbocharged engine found in the GTI. Matched to a four-wheel drive system, this allows to R to slash 1.4 seconds from the GTI’s 0-62mph time.
Grip and traction are phenomenal, but otherwise the R offers similar levels of finesse and refinement as the GTI. The R is also offered as an Estate, boosting the boot capacity from 380 to 606 litres. Once you consider that it costs only £3,000 more than the GTI, the extra outlay for the added performance becomes very tempting…
Put the Volkswagen Golf R in our car configurator to see the savings available.
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