Review: Golf GTI

GTIOne car that is firmly imprinted in the memories of nearly all car enthusiasts the world over is the Volkswagen Golf GTI.

There was a time when it didn’t matter if you were a celebrity footballer, a lawyer, a school teacher, a car salesman, the early mark Golf GTIs were followed intensely by the masses in magazines, on the track and out and about around town.

It was an automobile built to near perfection, with outstanding engine build, refined tuning and monstrous acceleration couple with a design look and feel that made nearly everyone on the planet want one.

The result was like a complex mathematical equation that just sort of…worked.

In the 00s while there were some respectable releases from the iconic German brand, Audi brought out the A3, BMW gave their 3 series a makeover, Ford released a stunningly good Focus and Honda produced an almighty Civic Type R.  The point is the market had become even more competitive and with shows like Top Gear wowing the public with the latest hot hatches you could say we had other things on our minds for a year or two.

That was until now!

The current Volkswagen Golf GTI is every bit as hypnotic as some of those early Mark I editions.

Built well beyond its years one of the first things that you know when investing in the latest model is that it’s always going to be a people pleaser. Driving such a modestly attractive vehicle can only leave colleagues and onlookers thinking good things about your choice of vehicle.

1a_v1Its power, hidden under the understated exterior is however a dark horse, like a superhero hiding behind a pair of respectable spectacles, the multi-link rear and MacPherson strut front suspension leave the GTI riding 15mm lower than your standard model.

Its turbocharged 2.0-litre engine produces 217bhp without question, and that feels far greater with the models added quality of innovation and engineering.

Despite this, it’s completely compliant when it comes to regs, passing Euro6 emissions with flying colours, which is largely down to the reworking of its cylinder head.

Cooled inside this are the exhaust gases, before they leave for the turbocharger, and further to this the GTIs dual-injection system is a wondrous addition bringing direct injection fused with multi-point injection. The dual mode lift on the exhaust valves, the stop-start, reduced internal friction and intelligent control of the cooling system finish the car with dazzling style and performance to match.

You can happily switch your mental picture of what exactly this car is to you, just by changing its settings. In comfort mode, we felt as though we were being chauffeur driven gently bouncing on soft pillows through fluffy clouds – quite seriously. It is a wonderfully smooth ride thanks to its MacPherson strut front suspension. Then onto eco mode, what was most impressive here wasn’t the efficiency, although it is perhaps the most efficient hot hatch money can buy. No, it was oddly the strange sensation of control and calm driving it at the 30 speed limit on normal roads. Unlike some performance vehicles that simply egg you on to increase the speed due to a boisterous chip or two, the GTI is as much family car as it is commuters paradise or weekend adventure getaway.

Trying out something different, we were lucky enough to test the six-speed dual-clutch automatic model. Having never chosen an automatic over a manual, and there may be people reading this who are die-hard manual drivers like I had been, I was astounded at not only how quickly I made the transition to auto, but how much I preferred it.

The car is well designed so has steering wheel gear shift for those who want the manual option as a backup, but the general lack of gear stick and clutch did two things.

right1_v1Firstly it made you stop focusing on the gear changes that so often distract you from other things while on open roads, or trying to make a traffic jam less jerky and miserable. Second, this meant I began to drive differently, looking more at the steering, the other settings in the car, and the handling more than I think I would have in a manual. This was an unusual welcome change, and one which I would seriously consider making for the long-term, given the chance.

For those looking for a powerful engine, the GTI certainly doesn’t disappoint. In sport mode, you feel the changes in each of the 3 S settings as the car accelerates and the pull keeps reeling you in. Gorgeously satisfying, for those who want complete customisation there is also an individual mode which allows for a wide range of personal touches that suit your driving experience down to the exact level of air blowing gently on your face as you cruise along the motorway enjoying the comfort of one of Volkswagens greatest achievements.

And, for those looking for even more, there is a performance-kitted variant bringing an added 10bhp, although torque stays at 258lb ft. Even more unique, you get ventilated brake discs as opposed to solid rear ones and sports a fearless looking front differential.

Inside, the car boasts a wide range of luxury fittings and fixtures, notably with the Golf’s classic Tartan upholstery – a reoccurring legacy of the Mk1.

However, don’t let that modesty get the better of you if you’re after something, well a little bit more in your face. For the avid Volkswagen GTI recurrent investor there’s a heap of sports seating choices available.

Such is the comfort of the interior; it’s not hard to believe this superpower has been building these works of art for 4 decades.

Yes there’s your essential height adjustment and manually adjustable lumbar support but you’ve also got a profound red lit trim set in chrome along the sides which at night gives the car a near different soul. The Performance Sat Nav will cost quite a bit to upscale to the full model, but the entry level system is still acceptable, and the sound system and telephone/Bluetooth connection is on par with many of the best. The stitched leather steering wheel is something to behold and for a car under 30K it takes your car far closer to a luxury executive one, than simply a standard spec hatch.

After a week with the latest VW Golf GTI we can safely say this is one of the most enjoyable cars you could hope to drive, and as if you’re looking for your next purchase, you should take some time to explore it as a serious contender for the hottest hatch of 2015.

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