Few cars can claim to be genuine all-rounders, but the new go-faster version of the Golf Estate is efficient, fast and fun to drive. Is it worth the extra money over its rivals?
Words by:Paul BondFirst published: 9th December 2015
Auto Trader Verdict:
Nobody likes compromises, and the Golf GTD Estate demands precious few from its driver. It blends agility and speed with economy and space, and comes wrapped in a stylish, premium package. It might not be as exciting as the Golf R, but it’ll suit the majority of buyers better. It comes at a high price, though, so we’d be tempted to go for the Skoda Octavia vRS instead.
Need to know:
Practical estate version of hottest diesel Golf
0-62mph in 7.9 seconds; but just 115g/km CO2 emissions
On sale now, priced from £28,285
What is it?
For reasons we don’t fully understand, VW thinks that, if you are after a high-performance Golf Estate, you fall into one of two camps: wannabe rally-driver or mile-muncher. So, they’ll sell you either a 296bhp four-wheel drive Golf R or, instead, the 64.2mpg Golf GTD.
Now, this is a sensitive time to be reviewing a diesel car with a VW badge. Still, if you place the stigma of ‘Dieselgate’ aside for a minute, then the Golf GTD Estate is quite a package. Essentially just a more practical version of the (already fairly practical) GTD hatch, the estate costs £695 more than the standard five-door, but boot space rockets from 380 to 605 litres.
The elongated and oversized estate body does take some of the sheen off the GTI-inspired styling cues, as well as increasing overall weight, but the flared front and rear bumpers, 18-inch wheels and additional chrome trim are all still present and correct.
There is a small dip in performance, as the benchmark 0-62mph sprint takes 0.4 seconds longer than it does in the hatch, Likewise, CO2 emissions climb from 109 to 115g/km, meaning the estate sits one tax band higher for company car users. However, like the hatch, the estate is only available in a single trim, with almost all the equipment you could possibly need.
What's it like?
The Golf Estate is already a very competent family car, and an excellent all-rounder, but does slotting in a warmed-up 181bhp engine transform it from worthy load-lugger into a genuine candidate for the perfect one-car garage? It certainly makes a pretty strong case for itself.
While the VW costs quite a lot more than its siblings from Skoda and Seat (the Octavia vRS and Leon ST with the same engine and gearbox cost £25,675 and £24,340, respectively), it does have the nicest cabin of that trio by a distance, and is the most frugal, returning 64.2mpg.
The simple, logical dashboard is high-quality, soft-touch materials are everywhere you look, and the GTD’s wonderfully supportive black check cloth front seats, ball-shaped gearstick and sporty three-spoke steering wheel all make the cabin that bit more inviting for the driver.
If there is a slight pang of disappointment once you turn the key and hear the characteristic rumble of a diesel under the bonnet, that quickly disappears once you’re on the move. The GTD might not have the eye-widening, straight-line performance of the Golf R, but the muscular in-gear shove is more than adequate to make short work of most overtakes.
The GTD steers and handles very nicely, too, turning into corners sharply. It feels a fair bit more agile than the standard Golf Estate, because it uses the same steering set-up as the GTI hatchback. The combination of lowered suspension and wider, 18-inch wheels increases the feeling of grip and stability through corners, too, but does give the normally supple ride a bit of an edge.
Our test car came fitted with the optional adaptive dampers, which seem extravagant at £830, but do help regain some of that lost feeling of comfort. Unless you plan to take your GTD to the smooth roads of the continent, we’d leave the dampers in ‘comfort’ the entire time, and use the ‘Individual’ setting in the various drive modes to keep the softer suspension set-up if you do want to start ratcheting up the throttle response, steering weight and engine note.
On that last point, aural excitement is probably the one area where the GTD fails to deliver. It feels quick, potent, and reasonably economical (we returned mid-forties mpg on test), but it never sounds particularly exciting or special, so you often end up short-shifting through the slick manual gearbox and riding the torque up to cruising speed, instead of working the engine harder.
Naturally, boot space is generous. The low loading lip, wide dimensions and false floor in the boot mean this compact, narrow family car can swallow a massive amount of luggage. The Ford Focus STD might be a tad more exciting to drive, but it comes nowhere close in terms of practicality, with overall capacity hundreds of litres short of the 1,620 you get in the Golf.
Should I get one?
Quite possibly. November saw a slump in sales for Volkswagen, so now might be a good time to pick up a cracking deal on what remains an excellent car. However, Skoda and Seat have also seen a downturn, and we have to say that, no matter how good the GTD is to look at, and how smart it is inside, it is rather poor value when compared to its closest siblings.
Admittedly, it comes very well equipped, with sat-nav, a 6.5-inch touchscreen display (larger than the standard unit), DAB radio, adaptive cruise control, automatic lights and wipers, climate control, keyless entry and start, all-round parking sensors and an XDS+ electronic differential lock. However, our test model was nearly £30,000, which comes very close to buying you a BMW 320d Sport Touring instead.
Canny buyers will be aware that stepping up to a premium brand means you’ll have to pay extra if you want any of the equipment that the GTD comes with as standard, but the BMW steers, handles and corners with a level of engagement and poise that the VW can’t match.