The Auto Trader expert verdict:
The Volkswagen Golf GTI is an icon on Britain’s roads and this latest incarnation further cements its legendary status.
Reasons to buy:
- Great looks
- Brilliant handling
How good does it look?
The past couple of years have seen a resurgence of white cars, and it’s certainly a colour which suits the Volkswagen Golf GTI, setting off the red pinstripe on its grille and subtle bodykit to perfection. Darker paint makes the GTI a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it hot hatch, which couldn’t be more different in approach to the rally-spec Focus RS. We love the 18-inch ‘telephone dial’ wheels, which look more like they were designed for a concept car than a racer.
What's the interior like?
We’ve yet to drive a hatchback which betters the Golf’s interior for quality and ease of use. The major controls are clearly labelled and built to last, and the flat-bottomed steering wheel and the gear lever are among the best to hold in any car. The standard sports seats adjust particularly well for height, and matched to the rake and reach movement of the steering column, it’s easy for anyone to find their ideal driving position. The tartan seat fabric is a nod to the original GTi, and lifts the cabin ambience – but we found it wasn’t to all passengers taste.
How practical is it?
The Volkswagen Golf has a big 350 litre boot, which can be extended to 1,300 litres with the rear seats folded down. There’s plenty of space for rear occupants, and an extra seat compared with the Scirocco coupe. Various levels of VW’s Park Assist can be chosen as options, ranging from front and rear parking sensors, to a rear parking camera and automatic parallel parking which reverses the car into a space for you.
What's it like to drive?
The GTI feels light and fluid on the move, and conveys enough feel to the driver to be entertaining, without being uncomfortable or tiring. Choosing Adaptive Chassis Control (ACC) helps tune the experience further, with ‘Comfort’, ‘Normal’ and ‘Sport’ being best suited to the motorway, A and B roads and track driving respectively. The new XDS differential helps provide more grip to the front wheels when you need it most – powering out of a tricky bend. It makes the Golf feel even more unflappable than before, and it can alleviate situations where traction control and ESP might have cut in before.
How powerful is it?
The GTI might have been left behind in the hot hatch power race by the Ford Focus RS and Renaultsport Megane, but it rarely feels anything but quick in the real world. There is a useful pull from low revs, accompanied by a snarl from the exhausts. By 2,000rpm the turbo is working hard and speed piles on. Acceleration from 0-62mph takes 6.9 seconds with a top speed of 149mph– a figure which would have amazed owners of the 1976 113mph Mk.1 Golf GTI. The engine almost makes gathering speed seem too easy. A slight increase in volume and response near the red line would give it an added edge.
How much will it cost me?
Unlike some performance cars which have a thirst for fuel all the time, the Golf’s appetite for unleaded petrol depends very much on how you drive it. This is down to direct fuel injection, clever valve timing, turbocharging and long gearing. Make the most of the GTI engine on a demanding road and consumption dips into the mid twenties. Let the low-down torque do the work and use high gears and you can see the mpg climb to the 43mpg we obtained.
How reliable is it?
There were few problems with the 2004-2009 Golf GTI, and many of its components have been carried over to this latest model, which is also proving reliable. There has only been one recall, which addresses an issue with cars fitted with the DSG semi-automatic gearbox.
How safe is it?
A Euro NCAP crash test score of five stars has been accomplished with a full complement of airbags and electronic safety devices, fitted as standard. A new type of impact sensor judges the severity of a crash and deploys airbags intelligently. This is a reassuringly safe car to drive.
How much equipment do I get?
Sitting at the top of the range, equipment levels are good and feature USB and iPod connectivity, an eight speaker stereo, dual-zone climate control, tinted rear windows, rain sensor, dimming rear-view mirror, red brake callipers, body kit, GTI interior styling pack and cooled glovebox. Optional extras include bi-Xenon headlights which turn into corners, Park Assist, DVD touchscreen radio and CD and navigation unit and a Dynaudio sound system.
At £23,000 the latest GTI is in reach of a huge number of UK motorists, and it’s a great sign of design and engineering progress a car this good will find its way on to so many driveways. Time to start saving.