The Volkswagen Golf GTI is the original hot hatch – a car that’s pretty quick but also practical, although it’s now overshadowed by the seriously rapid Golf R
The Volkswagen Golf GTI is a sensible family car with space for four people, a well-built interior, a decent-sized boot and the performance to worry sports cars. It’s available in a practical five-door form, or a sportier-looking three-door version – either way, the Golf’s red exterior highlights and familiar badge mean people who might not spot the Golf R will recognise the GTI.
The current Golf GTI came out in 2013, and was updated in 2017 with a power increase from 220 to 230hp, new bumpers and lights, and a new infotainment system with a larger screen.
It’s not as quick as the Golf R – which has 310hp – but because the GTI doesn’t have the faster model’s grippy-but-heavy four-wheel-drive system, it feels nimbler in corners. The GTI isn’t as focused as models such as the more extreme Ford Focus ST, but its suspension is more comfortable and it’s quieter inside.
A six-speed manual gearbox is standard, but if you live in town it’s worth considering the six-speed DSG automatic that will give your left leg a rest from operating the clutch. Whichever you choose, the VW Golf GTI should be able to return more than 40mpg, which is fine for a quick car.
The Golf GTI is a fantastic performance car with very few compromises
You’ll be safe in a GTI – the Golf was awarded five stars when it was crash tested by Euro NCAP and, although that was under 2012’s less-strict testing regime, standard features such as automatic emergency braking and active cruise will lower the chances of you being involved in an accident at all.
The Golf’s interior feels better built than most models costing the same price and GTIs get tartan seats and manual cars get a golf-ball style gear knob that is a throwback to the 1970s original – little touches that add character that’s missing from other Golf cars. The sensible stuff remains, though – there’s space for four people, plus a boot that’s a decent size and full of useful hooks.
The best thing about the GTI is that it’s a Golf – so it’s well built, practical and comfortable – the GTI part means it’s also quick. Other hot hatches will be faster round a track but they’ll struggle to match the VW’s ability to be brilliant to live with everyday.