Volkswagen Golf GTD (2013-2020) review
Volkswagen created the Golf GTD to appeal to buyers that want the looks (and most of the performance) of the Golf GTI, but with much cheaper running costs. The car competes with other fast diesels such as the Skoda Octavia vRS, Ford Focus ST and the SEAT Leon FR.
What's not so good
Find out more about the Volkswagen Golf GTD (2013-2020)
Like the rest of the VW Golf range, the GTD received some aesthetic changes in early 2017 – namely some slightly redesigned front and rear bumpers, plus standard-fit LED head and tail lights.
From the outside, it takes the form of an ever-so-slightly toned-down GTI, it gets a body kit, with a ground-hugging front bumper and roof-mounted spoiler; big alloy wheels and twin exhaust pipes. The subtle GTD badge in the grille is the only obvious clue that this fast hatchback is diesel powered.
Much the same is true on the inside, where the GTD gets the GTI’s trademark tartan interior trim (albeit in a subtle shade of grey) and a racy-looking flat-bottomed steering wheel. The same excellent quality – which sets the Golf above its rivals – is there for all to see.
While it may look very similar to the GTI, the GTD can’t offer the same thrills. It’s all about restrained performance, something the 181hp, 2.0-litre diesel engine serves up in spades. It surges forward with little sign of the raucous enthusiasm of its petrol counterpart. Obviously, the big win it scores over the GTI is fuel economy – the GTD can touch 70mpg; the GTI just 50.
The Volkswagen Golf GTD is designed to offer much of the fun of the GTI but with lower running costs.
Sports suspension, front and rear parking sensors, powerful Xenon headlights and two-zone climate control all come fitted as standard, and you can get it with Volkswagen’s huge 9.2-inch Discover Pro sat-nav/infotainment system.
Whether you should buy a Golf GTD depends on what you’re buying it for. If you want a smart, fast hatchback that is cheap to run then it’s a great car – if not very involving to drive.
The Volkswagen Golf GTD is no different to a standard Golf hatchback, so it has room for four adults and a decent boot, although you can find even bigger alternatives
Yes, it's true that the Golf isn't the biggest car of its type, but it still has enough room to take a baby buggy or a set of golf clubs
Room for passengers is good in the front and the back of the GTD and there are lots of adjustments to help the driver find a comfortable position. The seats are comfortable and supportive in corners.
It’s not surprising that the evergreen Golf has the storage areas figured out. There is a huge number of cubby holes in many shapes and sizes so you have a place to put your phone and a handy pullout tray below the passenger seat to hide valuables away from prying eyes.
The boot is the same size as the regular Golf, meaning you get 380 litres with the seats up and 1,270 when they are flat on the floor. That is the same size boot as in the Audi A3 Sportback and bigger than those in the Ford Focus ST and Renault Megane Renaultsport.
If you come to the GTD expecting the sporty, exciting handling of the Golf GTI then you might be a little disappointed.
Cheaper to run than a GTI at the cost of less exciting engine note and a duller drive
The Golf GTD only comes with one engine, and that’s a punchy 2.0-litre diesel with 181hp.
It’s the diesel’s grunt at low revs that you’ll first notice when you accelerate hard, and the acceleration will raise a grin. It’ll propel the GTD from a standstill to 62mph in 7.9 seconds and on to 141mph.
The trouble is, it doesn’t encourage you to wring it’s neck like the 2.0-litre petrol in the GTI. For two reasons, one – it doesn’t sound anything like as nice as the (admittedly electrically enhanced) petrol – and, two – it’s nowhere near as keen to rev, with full power hitting at 3,500rpm rather than the 4,700rpm the GTI requires.
On the other hand, the GTD plays the role of a relaxed, fast cruiser extremely well. It can overtake slow-moving traffic easily and deliver surging performance without the associated engine noise.
Buyers can choose between a six-speed manual and a seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox. Most people go for the more-expensive DSG – with no clutch to operate, it’s perfect for town driving and the quick changes mean there’s no loss of performance. The manual, of course, lets you choose exactly what gear you want at any given moment – something that will always appeal to enthusiasts who want complete control.
And there’s a lot for enthusiasts to like about the way the GTD handles. With lowered suspension and wide tyres wrapped around 18-inch alloy wheels, there’s very little body roll in corners and plenty of grip so you can dive into bends at speed, confident that the sporty Golf isn’t going to let go.
The weighty diesel engine gives the GTD a nose-heavy feel that’s lacking from the GTI, so it doesn’t have quite the same light, surefooted feel as that car. And you also notice a difference powering out of corners where the GTD’s sizeable torque – 280Ib ft available from just 1,750rpm – can light up the front tyres with little effort, especially in the wet.
Driven sensibly, though, the GTD makes for a calm and collected cruiser, with excellent high-speed refinement and suspension that remains calm and collected on all but the worst bumpy country roads.
An option worth considering is Dynamic Chassis control, which allows you to adjust the suspension’s stiffness depending on your mood, or the road you’re tackling. Choosing from Sport, Comfort or Normal – it effectively means you can switch between nailed-down handling or a cosseting ride.
The Golf GTD – like the GTI and R – gets the best versions of the Mk7 Golf’s interior, so you’ll struggle to find a nicer place to sit.