Had I travelled back in time? I was greeted by a golf ball style knob on the gear shift and tartan upholstery and for a moment all too brief my mind went back several years to the original VW Golf GTi, a car that I aspired to own, but funds were never enough to grant my wish.
I was about to take the wheel of the latest Golf to be adorned with the famous GTi badge, the Performance version with a two litre turbocharged engine delivering a pleasing 245PS and driving through a very slick six speed manual transmission. This particular model gains an extra 15PS over the standard car. Stories abound of an even more powerful Golf GTi arriving next year (325PS) have been mentioned. When I asked a VW spokesperson, he simply stated that anything is possible and suggested that I take a closer look at the Golf TCR concept revealed earlier this year.
Since the very first Golf GTi took to our roads there have been many challengers and many have fallen by the wayside. In a way this German favourite has become something of a yardstick, by which others are judged. Worth noting that as time has evolved the GTi has grown in size, has greater levels of comfort and of course as technology in the car improved, it gained in this respect. The best way to simply describe its progress, rests with one word mature. It has gained a worldwide fan base and with every new model it continues to gain new customers I have to admit every time and there have been many when I climbed onboard the Golf GTi and always it delivers something special for me.
On this occasion my test car was a three door and it is worth noting that across the motoring spectrum with hatchbacks the five door variants are more popular, at least with this VW offering there is choice. Performance, comfort and handling are the three key elements for me regarding this car. Rest to 100kph (62mph) comes up in 6.6 seconds and if you can find a venue top speed is 250kph plus (155mph). So unless you have access to Mondello Park or Kirkistown race circuits you are never really going to experience the full Golf GTi.
With Pirelli low profile tyres keeping me firmly on the road, handling was sharp and the ride is much smoother than the early models, a testament to fine engineering. With front wheel drive, an XDS diff lock and well sorted lowered suspension I was able to arrive safely in and out of corners in a manner that few others can equal. Driving Mode Selection includes Eco, Normal, Sport or Individual modes One irritation I had with the original Golf GTi was the soft brake pedal, I never felt confident, I can not say that of the seventh generation model. It is so easy simply to focus on the performance side, but that is merely a part of the story and for many the most important, however the Golf GTi in its current form is a very well appointed set of wheels. The latest technology is a key feature, with an Active Info Display, an easy read 12.3 inch high- resolution TFT dash display screen with customisable menus and Driver Personalisation profile which are set up to four profiles, individually named and assigned to a key to preset radio stations, phone connectivity and contacts, default address in nav system and Car-Net ‘Guide & Inform’ settings. For those tight urban car parks, parking sensors, front and rear, audible with optical parking display via vehicle’s audio system and on the practical side a split folding rear seat backrest 60:40. Safety is key and this member of the Golf family is extremely well kitted out.
For me it is a car with two personalities, at the weekend you could enjoy taking part in a motor sport event, while it can be a means of getting to work or taking the family on an outing. The Golf GTi for me is the complete business and for now 245PS will just be fine.