The Volkswagen Golf GTI is the quintessential hot hatch. Six preceding generations and more than three decades have seen worthy competitors come and go, while the GTI has evolved from its punky, hooligan roots to something quite more.
The Mark 7 incarnation brought MQB (VW’s transverse engine platform for less costly models) sophistication to the GTI, with all the same improvements that the regular Golf received, such as less weight, more stiffness, better refinement and even more onboard tech.
As a result, this GTI’s the most mature one to date, which is something the mid-life facelift emphasises even more with a few choice updates.
Like the range-topping Golf R, the GTI gets 10hp power boost to bring its total to 230hp. Peak torque remains the same, but seriously, since Mark 5 onwards the GTI has always been properly, real-world quick.
More horses are nice but the vast majority of us won’t feel it. In fact, what you will feel first in the GTI is just how mature it is. The interior’s a step up from the normal Golf – this is more accentuated since the mid-range 1.4 isn’t here yet – it’s slathered in piano black, leather and red stitching.
You’d have to be blind to miss the new active instrument display, the same 12.3-inch unit that’s found in the Passat and Tiguan as well as most Audis now. It’s crisp, clear and really adds to the sense of high-tech onboard, though that’s not all. VW has also upgraded the infotainment system to the new ‘Discover Pro’ system.
It’s a major improvement, going to 9.2-inches and losing all its buttons. One or two should have stayed, but the system is sharp and responsive and wouldn’t look out of place on a Porsche. It packs full functionality, including navigation, phone connectivity, Bluetooth, and is paired with an excellent Dynaudio sound system.
Engage Sport mode and the GTI sheds that facade for a more aggressive one. The steering quickens, the revs build fiercely, the suspension firms up. Aim it at a piece of curvy road and the GTI delivers staggering poise and pace – it’s a wonder anyone still needs a Golf R or anything more when driving this machine in isolation.
And after all this time, it hasn’t lost that key hot hatch characteristic: That of being able to deliver involving, real-world speed in an instant, but without having to achieve ludicrous velocities to coax involvement and feeling from the chassis.
But the modern GTI’s best party trick is just how happy it is doing the daily grind as it is grinding lap times. Run along at a normal pace, select the accompanying drive mode, and the GTI is excellent company. Its Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC) works beautifully on most roads, and overall its ride quality is already better than the vast majority of crossovers, despite VW billing this as Sports Suspension in the equipment list.
In fact, given the long equipment list, the premium feel of the entire car and the wonderfully multi-dimensional driving dynamics, there really is nothing quite like it at this level, which brings us to the other big hot hatch characteristic that’s still intact: The price. It’s not chump change at close to $185k with COE, but we challenge you to find anything else with as much ability and the same price.
Volkswagen Golf GTI
Engine 1,984cc, inline four, 16V, turbocharged
Power 230bhp at 4700-6200rpm
Torque 350Nm at 1500-4600rpm
Gearbox 6-speed dual-clutch automatic
Top Speed 248km/h
0-100km/h 6.4 seconds
Fuel efficiency 6.5L/100km
Price $183,400 including Certificate Of Entitlement
Agent Volkswagen Singapore
Verdict: Stil the hot hatch to rule them all – and a little bit more.
Also Consider: Audi S3, BMW M135i, Seat Leon Cupra, Renault Megane GT Line