• We test hot diesel Golf hatchback
• Looks like GTI, costs from £25,285
• Average economy 67.3mpg; CO2 emissions 109g/km

The Volkswagen Golf GTD could be one of the most desirable real-world cars available to order. For a start, the Golf has already been declared the 2013 World Car of the Year, the GTD looks as good as the iconic GTI hot hatch and it returns more than 60mpg. Convinced? We travelled to Munich to see if it really is the ultimate all-rounder.

We already know the Mk7 Golf is a great car, but what makes the GTD special? Its 2.0-litre TDI engine is breathed on, for a start, with variable valve timing and other trickery pushing its power up to 181bhp. Its torque is even more impressive, with 280lb/ft at 1,750rpm giving the front tyres a real work out. That’s more than a brand new Porsche Cayman S, which musters 272lb/ft at 4,500rpm.

So does the Golf just spin its wheels up? Surprisingly, no. The GTD gets a system called XDS+ as standard, which can apply the brake on an individual wheel if it senses any slip, helping to avoid spinning tyres and understeer.

Despite the GTD being a relatively straightforward model, you can change its character in two main ways. The biggest decision is whether to stir a six-speed golf-ball gear knob or if you should choose the DSG dual-clutch gearbox with paddle shifters. Then, you can decide to stick with standard suspension or spend £800 on Adaptive Chassis Control (ACC), which has adjustable dampers with Comfort, Normal and Sport settings.

We sampled both gearboxes and concluded the manual is the best choice overall, and not just because we’re tight with money. Go for an overtake in the DSG-equipped car and it will decide to downshift on your behalf, sending the revs sky high, when you wanted to surf the engine’s wave of torque. In the manual, it’s possible to keep the car in a higher gear and enjoy its flexible engine with greater finesse.

With a longer wheelbase than the Mk6 Golf and 15mm lower suspension than a standard Mk7 Golf, the GTD is incredibly planted. We kept it in Comfort and Normal modes on the Autobahn, where it easily sat at 140mph without making our palms sweat. Sport mode significantly sharpens things up, as does the ‘progressive steering’ rack, fitted as standard to the GTD. This gives the steering a quicker response the further you spin the wheel, reducing its turns from lock-to-lock from 2.75 (as in a standard Golf) to 2.1. In practice, this means even hairpin turns can be tackled without shuffling your hands on the wheel. Turn through a bend and it feels natural, and makes the GTD feel more agile nose than its predecessor.

There is a worry, however, that the chassis could be just too composed and grippy for its own good. We failed to find any Tarmac as challenging as a British B-road during our test outside Munich, but even the sharpest bends we encountered left the Golf completely unflustered. While this is impressive, it also makes the GTD a little dull to drive just for the fun of it.

But, with the knowledge that most of us spend more time in traffic than tearing around, its 67.3mpg fuel economy and 109g/km CO2 emissions are perhaps more useful and incredible facts. This diesel GT is more parsimonious than the original 105bhp Golf BlueMotion of 2007. How times change. It also beats contemporary rivals including the Vauxhall Astra BiTurbo (55.4mpg), Mercedes A-Class 220CDI (64.2mpg) and BMW 125d (60.1mpg).

There’s a lot to like inside, too, and even if the tartan sports seats aren’t to everyone’s taste, there’s no doubting the level of build quality on display. Standard equipment includes dual-zone air-conditioning, Bluetooth, DAB, bi-xenon headlamps, 18-inch alloys and a sports steering wheel, pedals and instruments. The boot measures 380 to 1,270 litres (with the seats folded flat) and there’s room for five occupants.

All in all, the Golf GTD is a highly desirable and fantastically accomplished car. It does so many things so well, and at £25,285 it represents good value. If you rate driving fun above all else, we’d say you need to go for the edgier GTI, but the rest of the time the GTD is a hard car to beat.

By Andy Goodwin

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