Ten Point Test

Auto Trader Ten Point Test rating: 84%

The Volkswagen Golf GTi is the hot hatch. Over the last three decades, five generations of Golf have continued to grow in every dimension, but its appeal is stronger than ever.

But after a series of disappointing GTis, does the latest model have what it takes to convince the car-buying public the original hot hatch is still the best?

We took to the road to find out.

1. Looks 9/10

Unlike other performance cars, the Golf GTi has never been adorned with big bodykits, with Volkswagen preferring to keep its looks subtle. Only a black honeycomb grille with the GTi’s trademark red edging, deeper front and rear bumpers, chromed exhaust pipes and a GTi badge on the bootlid separate it from lesser models. Golf GTis come with a set of 17-inch alloys as standard, but many buyers go for the tasty optional 18-inch ‘Monza’ alloys like the ones fitted to our test car. The GTi is one of the few cars to look fantastic in white, and the colour scheme proved to be a winner; turning heads on every journey.

2. Looks inside 8/10

Buy a Volkswagen and you know what you’re getting: a quality fit and finish, stylish and tactile black and grey plastics and eyecatching blue and red dials – which are also very easy to read. But because this is the GTi, there’s a host of sporty accoutrements, including a flat-bottomed steering wheel with a chrome GTi band around the bottom spoke and alloy pedals, gearknob and handbrake. Our test car featured the standard tartan check ‘Interlagos’ upholstery which is evocative of the very first GTis. But whether opting for the standard or optional leather seats, they are very supportive and comfortable.

3. Practicality 8/10

Practical doesn’t mean boring. The latest Golfs are incredibly spacious, with plenty of head and leg room for back and front seat passengers. The boot is a captious 350 litres with the rear seats in place, rising to 1,305 litres with them folded. There’s plenty of space for luggage around the cabin too, with a handy mobile phone-sized ashtray and a cubby hole between the front seats.

4. Ride and Handling 10/10

Over the first two generations of Golf GTi, the model became a byword for performance and handling. And despite the Mk5 model we drove weighing considerably more, loaded with comfort and safety features, it still retains the exuberance of its predecessors. The steering is wonderfully direct, responding to the tiniest of inputs through the leather-trimmed steering wheel. There’s just a whiff of bodyroll as the car cuts through low and high speed corners without fuss. In spite of the stiffened suspension and the optional 18-inch wheels with low-profile tyres, the ride quality is excellent, soaking up all but the roughest bumps.

5. Performance 9/10

For many performance is the reason for Golf GTi ownership. And in its Mk5 guise, it doesn’t disappoint. It will despatch the benchmark 0-62mph dash in 7.2 seconds before hitting a top speed of 146mph. Its 197bhp 2-litre, turbocharged powerplant has masses of pulling power, even in sixth gear which makes overtaking and blasting out of corners safe, easy and – most importantly – fun.

View more pictures of the Volkwagen Golf GTi

6. Running Costs 7/10

At more than £20,000 before you start ticking the options list, the Golf GTi is a lot of money. Even more so when you realise that hot versions of the Golf-based Skoda Octavia and Seat Leon are considerably cheaper. But depreciation isn’t too scary, thanks to the huge demand for them – the Golf is consistently in the top two most searched for cars on autotrader.co.uk. Volkswagen says the Golf GTi will cover just over 35mpg, a figure which was confirmed during our time with the car. That’s not bad, considering the performance. There are no fixed service intervals as it is part of the LongLife Service Regime, which varies the service intervals depending how hard the car is driven. Emissions of 189g/km place it in the second highest Band F – currently costing £205 a year. New Golfs come with a three year/60,000 warranty and three year paintwork and 12 year bodywork cover.

7. Reliability 8/10

Golfs have a reputation for build quality and the car we tested was no different. The biggest concern for used buyers is the car’s past – many are thrashed and crashed, so service histories are vital.

8. Safety 9/10

The Golf scored a full five stars in the EuroNCAP crash test programme. All models get ABS with hazard warning lights which automatically flash under emergency braking, driver, passenger, front side and curtain airbags, ESP (electronic stability programme) and traction control. Whiplash reducing headrests are also fitted. The GTi tested here adds ventilated brake discs (to keep them cool under heavy use) and a tyre pressure warning light, which we found to be particularly effective after picking up a nail in the tyre.

9. Equipment 7/10

All models in the Golf range come with the basics, but the GTi features a host of sporty bits and two-zone climate control. They’re in addition to headlights which come on when the car is unlocked, automatic headlights, front fog lamps, a leather steering wheel and cruise control. The sat-nav system complete with a six-CD autochanger fitted to our test car was expensive at £1,845 and the steering wheel-mounted controls for the stereo were an additional £370. It also has the ‘luxury pack 1′ comprising electrically folding wing mirrors, rear reading lights and a passenger side mirror which lowers, allowing the driver to see – and avoid hitting the – kerb when parking. At £110, this seems like good value, if only to avoid scraping those alloy wheels.

10. X-Factor 9/10

While other hot hatches can match the Golf on thrills and price, there’s little comparison in the heritage stakes. You buy a Golf GTi mostly on its abilities, but the evocative badge sells itself.

Key facts

Model tested: Volkswagen Golf GTi 2.0 T-FSI 3dr
On the road price: £20,607
Price range: £12,115 – £26,415
Date tested: May 2007
Road tester: Stuart Milne