Volkswagen Golf GTI review

We test the new Volkswagen Golf GTI.

What’s this?

Following the introduction of the eighth-generation Volkswagen Golf, it is now time for the hotly anticipated Golf GTI. It is the original hot hatch and has long been the benchmark in the segment. While the regular Golf may not be winning everyone over with its exterior design, the GTI looks fantastic, especially in this Kings Red colour.

Signature styling cues include the red stripe across the grille, which is now enhanced by an illuminated LED light bar that runs beneath it, while the optional five-LED fog lights on either side of the front bumper are just as eye-catching. These, along with the black inserts around the mesh grille, help to accentuate the car’s width. Ride height is reduced by 15mm, and 19-inch alloy wheels fill the arches nicely.

Fuller side sills, in black, add to the car’s presence while GTI badging on the front wings is matched with a larger GTI logo at the centre of the boot lid. Beneath that, real exhaust pipes jut from either side of the black diffuser. There’s no reduction in boot space in comparison to the regular Golf, with its 380-litre capacity being expandable to 1,270 litres when the rear seats fold forward.

The cabin is markedly different thanks to the new sports seats that feature a mono form design upholstered in a fresh take on the signature GTI tartan. Elsewhere it is an all-digital display for the dashboard for a modern look. There’s still a dimpled golf ball made into the top of the manual gear shifter, but the dual-clutch automatic transmission gets a small toggle switch on the centre console.

How is it to drive?

Under the bonnet of the GTI is a reworked version of the 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine that now produces 245hp - matching that of the previous generation’s GTI Performance. Torque output is 370Nm and is available from 1,600rpm. Even with tightening emission regulations, it is only a tenth of a second slower from 0-100km/h, taking 6.3 seconds.

What’s more noteworthy is the chassis work that the engineers have performed for the GTI. Revisions to the suspension setup include a new aluminium front subframe that saves 3kg in weight. The front is 5 per cent stiffer and the rear gains a 15 per cent increase, resulting in much sharper dynamics. At higher speeds it provides greater composure, with less pitch and roll during braking and when cornering.

The electrically assisted steering is well-judged, thanks in part to the standard fitment of a variable ratio rack. Traction when accelerating out of a corner is excellent as a result of the enhanced XDS front differential.

When is it coming to Ireland?

We’ll have to wait until closer to the end of 2020 before the Golf GTI arrives in Ireland. Only then will Volkswagen confirm full pricing and specification details, but we expect it to carry a price in excess of €45,000.

Any juicy technology?

One of the most interesting additions to the Golf GTI is the Vehicle Dynamics Manager (VDM). This enables the driver to more finely tune how the car performs in terms of chassis setup, with 15 stages available. 

Carzone rating

Dismiss the lack of horsepower at your peril. Yes, there are other rivals, such as the Ford Focus ST and Hyundai i30 N, that outgun the GTI on power, but the chassis is so well-sorted on the Golf that, in the right pair of hands, it will still prevail. If you appreciate handling over outright engine output, then you won’t be disappointed.

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