The Golf GTI is a hot hatch you can easily live with every day, but it lacks the excitement of other faster and sharper-handling hot hatches
The Golf GTI has a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine that produces 230hp, or 245hp with the optional performance pack.
It produces all its torque from just 1,600rpm – a geeky fact that means it has instant get up and go, along with great flexibility, so you don’t find yourself constantly having to change gear to make brisk progress.
The way the Performance Pack’s limited-slip differential drags you out of corners has to be experienced to be believed
Put your foot all the way down and the GTI can get from 0-62mph in 6.2 seconds, emitting a pleasing muted scream as it does so. That’s pretty quick, but a car like VW’s Golf R offers next-level performance that may prove too hard to resist if you sample it first hand.
A six-speed DSG automatic gearbox is optional, but has no effect on performance and, fitted with either manual or auto, the GTI should be able to return around about 44mpg. Not too bad for a quick car.
The GTI is a quick car you can enjoy without having to make compromises.
It’s much like the Golf R, in fact, but while the R is a good bit quicker and grippier in corners, the lighter GTI feels nimbler, although you would have to drive both cars back to back to notice the difference.
It’s worth specifying the £1,360 Performance Pack to make your GTI as fun as possible. It gets you bigger brakes and can be spotted by it’s red ‘GTI’ badges but the change you’ll notice most is the addition of the limited-slip differential. It sends power to the front wheel with the most grip when you speed out of corners, and in practice feels like the tyres have sprouted claws that dig into the road – firing you out of bends in a way that’s quite unnatural. It’s a feeling that even the Golf R can’t replicate.
But the GTI is a car you can still appreciate being in, even when you’re not blasting down your favourite B-road. It’s quiet and comfortable on the motorway in a way the buzzy Honda Civic Type-R can only dream of, so there’s no need to dread long-distance drives. To further develop its dual personality, it worth spending £830 on VW’s Dynamic Chassis Control. It allows you to stiffen up the suspension for less body roll in corners, or a softer setup for wafting down the motorway.
The GTI has a five-star NCAP safety rating and automatic emergency braking comes as standard. For an extra £630 you can bundle together Lane Assist, Light Assist and Traffic Sign Recognition – which means the car can warn you if you’re drifting out of lane, highlight road signs on the infotainment screen and even dip its headlights automatically to avoid blinding other road users.
In town, the GTI is as easy to drive as any other Golf – VW’s avoided fitting a big rear spoiler so you don’t have to worry about obstructions across the back window that stop you seeing out. All-round parking sensors are fitted as standard so parking is easy, and the Golf’s light controls mean you’ll have no problem making low-speed maneuvers.
That goes for the gearbox, too, it doesn’t have the short racey action you get in a Honda Civic Type R but it’s easy to use, to the point that you can do without the £1,415 automatic gearbox, although its quick shifts mean it’s a very popular option and worth considering if you want to give your left leg a rest.