Road test: Volkswagen Golf GTI seventh gen continues legacy
STAUNCH hot hatch fans and Volkswagen alike have welcomed the new Golf GTI with open arms.
While purists have been salivating at the thought of the revered performance model on the all-new MkVII platform, VW Australia is desperate for a sales injection.
With supply of the outgoing model virtually drying up this year, it has hit the German brand's numbers.
About 15% of Golf sales in Australia are the GTI, making us one of the manufacturer's biggest markets for the hatch, in terms of model split.
This new offering has seven more kilowatts of power and 70 extra Newton metres of torque than its predecessor.
But the extra poke and additional standard features comes with a $1000 price premium over the outgoing model. That won't faze the staunch GTI followers; they will be more than willing to put down $41,490 for the manual or $43,990 for the dual clutch DSG automatic.
Carbon-look inlays on the dash and leather steering wheel with red stitching create a sporty ambience to set it apart from the standard Golf.
Bucket seats wearing the trademark GTI tartan provide nice support laterally and at the base.
There are some hard plastics in areas which can take a battering, like on the door bases and centre console, but the overall feel is utilitarian rather than overtly athletic.
Twin cup holders in the console are handy, while each door can also house a bottle.
With a considerate driver and front seat passenger who don't slide too far back, there is reasonable space in the back for two adults. Three could be accommodated although it would be tight.
On the road
Tackling some of the twisty terrain used in Targa Tasmania, the Golf GTI managed to find traction and poise despite Mother Nature's best efforts to unsettle the ride.
Heavy rain would have most offerings tip-toeing through the twisties but not the Golf golden child.
It took our best efforts to get the front-wheel drive hatch to lose grip but it quickly regained its composure and delivered surefootedness like no front-wheel drive should.
The Golf GTI boasts a new "progressive steering" functionality for sharper performance. It enables the driver to really have fun in the bends, with lock-to-lock taking just two turns as opposed to three in your standard Golf.
We sampled both the six-speed dual-clutch automatic and the six-speed manual…each shining depending on individual persuasion.
The manual is a slick-shifting affair and is a real joy to change cogs, while the auto is equally adept at doing the work for you and is responsive when you make use of the steering wheel-mounted paddles.
Power is available low in the rev range and it really pulls like a dentist from above 1500rpm. Overtaking can be done in a flash with the punchy turbocharged four-cylinder responding to each prod of the right foot.
The ride is firm - what you'd expect of a performance offering but not uncomfortably so - and there is some tyre rumble courtesy of the low-profile rubber.
What do you get?
Standard equipment includes sat nav, 18-inch alloys (up from 17s), adaptive chassis profile, driver profile selection, sports leather-trimmed steering wheel, the trademark tartan seats, red ambience lighting and a 14.7cm colour multi-function touchscreen display.
The safety suite includes seven airbags, anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control, along with a system which monitors steering control and alerts you if you are fatigued.
Among the optional $1300 safety equipment is radar cruise control and a function which automatically applies the brakes if you are involved in a crash.
Other items on the options list are Vienna leather ($3150), sunroof ($1850), Bi-Xenon headlights with LED running lights ($2150) and metallic paint ($500).
Insurance may be an issue for some drivers, depending on age and history, but there should be no worries in terms of high consumption costs. It runs on premium unleaded and should average about seven litres for every 100km.
Servicing prices are capped for the first six years.
Performance doesn't come at the cost of common sense. Five doors (the three-door has been deleted from the range), enough space for the family and a good-size boot.
It has awesome alloys, honeycomb inserts front and back, rear spoiler and aerodynamic enhancements along with twin exhaust pipes.
This is a hot hatch with presence, although it doesn't shout its credentials.
The legend continues. Volkswagen has built an enviable reputation for the Golf GTI and generation seven raises the bar once again.
It manages to walk the tightrope of being easy to drive day-to-day and then hold its own at the track.
But the competition is closing the gap. With Mercedes-Benz recently entering the fray with its A250 Sport the Golf GTI is facing stiff opposition.
Yet for the money it still delivers ample bang for your buck and a whole heap of fun.
What matters most
What we liked: Steering and balance is even better, brilliant acceleration punch, can be driven sedately or quickly with confidence.
What we'd like to see: Louder exhaust soundtrack, more interior refinement, larger paddles on the steering wheel.
Warranty and servicing: Three years, unlimited kilometre warranty. Capped priced servicing for six years or 90,000km.
Model: Volkswagen Golf GTI.
Details: Five-door front-wheel drive performance hatchback.
Engine: 2.0-litre tubocharged four-cylinder generating maximum power of 162kW @ 4500-6200rpm and peak torque of 350Nm @ 1500-4400rpm.
Transmissions: Six-speed manual or six-speed DSG automatic.
Consumption: 6.2 litres/100km (manual, combine average), 6.6L/100km (a).
CO2: 144g/km; 153g/km.
Performance: 0-100kmh in 6.5 seconds.
Bottom line: $41,490 (m); $43,990 (a).