Volkswagen Golf GTI – First Impressions

The new Golf GTI is certainly not hanging about. Usually it takes a year or two for sporty models to be added to a new model range but in the case of the seventh generation Golf the GTI is here within a few months of launch. It’s a sign of just how important this model is to the Golf.

Building on the sharper looks of the new golf, the GTI adds the usual subtle embellishments. 18-inch wheels now come as standard, although the familiar ‘telephone dial’ wheels of the last model have been replaced by the sharper-looking ‘Austin’ design. There are subtly revised front and rear bumpers, a spoiler above the rear glass and two exhaust tips but as with earlier generations the GTI neatly avoids the ‘Look At Me’ approach of some rivals.

Inside we have the familiar tarmac-patterned ‘Jacara’ cloth, covering comfortable and supportive seats. The dash is a highlight, with a large touchscreen built into a centre console that is angled slightly towards the driver. It’s a great cockpit and the ergonomics are faultless.

The GTI builds on the lengthy list of standard features on the Golf GT that we reviewed earlier in the year. Adaptive cruise, city collision detection, automatic bi-xenon headlights, DRLs, Bluetooth and multimedia support, climate control, parking sensors – all are standard.

How Does It Drive?

With 217bhp the GTI isn’t much more powerful than before (207bhp) but the engine is quite different in character. Where the Mk6 GTI would give its enthusiastic best at high revs, the Mk7’s engine delivers a stronger punch in the mid-range. That results in a GTI that is faster than ever but also with more accessible performance. You can still rev the nuts off the GTI if you want to and the exhaust note encourages you to do so, but if you feel lazy you can keep it in a high gear and make full use of the extra torque.

All of the controls are nicely weighted and the steering, with only 2 turns from lock to lock, is very direct. The 6-speed manual gearbox has a nice light, short throw and makes you wonder why anyone would want the optional DSG.

It’s the way in which the GTI covers ground that impresses the most. Across some very bumpy roads around Leicestershire it showed tremendous ability to carry speed without sacrificing control or comfort. The suspension has a wonderfully supple nature that allows it to flow along the road surface, but throw it into a corner and it remains stable and predictable. This was in a car fitted with the standard mechanical dampers, not the optional Adaptive Chassis Control, and it would be interesting to try the two systems back-to-back.

Power Pack

Look at the options list and you’ll find an enticing option labelled ‘Power Pack’. For £995 you get an extra 10bhp, larger brake discs and a mechanical limited slip differential. Travelling down the same roads as I’d previously taken the ‘standard’ GTI revealed that there wasn’t a noticeable difference in pace but the differential could be felt working through tight corners, pulling the nose in at the point where a standard GTI would just start slipping wide. The brakes felt strong, but so did the standard car’s, so you’d see more benefit from the bigger discs on a track day.

From Strength To Strength

The GTI might not be the most powerful car in its class but the effortless way in which it moves makes it feel much quicker than the figures suggest. It makes the most of any available traction, doesn’t give you an electronic slap on the wrist if you push hard, and won’t punish you for daring to travel down a pock-marked road.

Whether you need the Performance Pack is open to debate. For everyday use I would say you could easily live without it but if you fancy taking your GTI out onto a track then it could be worthwhile.

It’s another very strong showing from Volkswagen. Ever since the Mk5 GTI was revealed I’ve longed to buy one and in this, the seventh generation, Volkswagen have made it even harder for me to resist.

Volkswagen Golf GTI Specifications

Engine:2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbocharged petrol
Power:217bhp @ 4,500rpm
Torque:258lb/ft @ 1,500rpm
0-62 mph:6.5 seconds
Top Speed:153 mph
Weight:1,351 kg
CO2 Emissions:139 g/km (Band E)
Official Economy:47.1 mpg
Insurance Group:29
Price (OTR):£26,125

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Author: Chris Auty

Voted the Breakthrough Blogger of 2013 by SEAT and the Guild of Motoring Writers , Chris has lived and breathed cars since he was old enough to say 'faster'. With a penchant for hot hatches and an allergy to public transport, he would much prefer to drive a bad car than never drive at all. Fortunately his family has learned to put up with this obsession and the internet has provided a channel for his ramblings.

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