Volkswagen Golf GTI


Volkswagen Golf GTI, front
Volkswagen Golf GTI, side
Volkswagen Golf GTI, rear
Volkswagen Golf GTI
Volkswagen Golf GTI, cabin
Volkswagen Golf GTI, gearknob

SO the Golf GTI has turned 40 years old. And the pathfinder of the hot-hatch sector is still a force to be reckoned with.

There may be faster, more powerful rivals but few are capable of melding the elusive qualities of speed, handling finesse and refinement into a single package as well as the trusty VW.

In short, the GTI - orginally powered by a 1.6-litre petrol injection - has remained faithful to its original concept.

I was lucky enough to drive one of the original batch of GTIs that came into the country almost four decades ago. Along with the Ford GT40, it was the car that made most impact on me for many years to follow.

Despite a relatively puny output of 110bhp - less than many of today's family diesel saloons - the Golf had dexterity and a precision lacking in all but true thoroughbred sports cars. The steering was exact and highly geared and its cornering ability was immense.

My early production model was a German registered left-hooker but even this flaw failed to detract from rapid journey times and, more importantly, its driving satisfaction.

None of the principles has changed over the years. And getting into the driving seat of the current GTI - now with exactly double the power output - was almost as thrilling as the original.

This GTI car was the 220ps model but within weeks a tweaked version with another 10 horsepower will be in VW showrooms. And it will carry the latest styling mods and digital instrumentation of the 2017 Golf range.

It may not be the noisiest or the most flamboyant hot hatch on the street, but there's nothing wishy-washy about the performance - 62mph flashes up in around six and a half seconds and 100mph is available in well under 20 seconds.

The standard six-speed gearbox is a joy to stir with quick changes and perfectly spaced ratios.

The secret of the GTi is the ease with which the power is accessed - refined, smooth, reliable power without drama from a roaring engine or spinning wheels.

Perhaps the trait that most marks out the Golf from its hairy-chested competitors is the consummate way in which it involves the driver.

Few cars, no matter the price, feel so ‘right' and complete whether you are thrashing through country lanes or cruising at 100mph-plus on an autobahn.

Needless to say, the deft ride, steering feed-back and mechanical sweetness play their part.

Perhaps the looks are understated and underplayed but the compact hatchback manages to double up as generous family transport - especially in five-door form - with a regular-shaped spacious boot and folding rear seats which expand luggage room to more than 1,200 litres when required.

The cabin, though soundly finished in high grade materials, isn't the most exciting environment. A nod to the original model comes from the smart tartan cloth seat covering and the golf ball shaped knob on the gear lever.

In keeping with its character of being ‘all things to all people', the GTI is gentle on the wallet to run. With emissions of just 139g/km and most owners will squeeze out around the 40mpg mark.


Volkswagen Golf GTI 220

Price: £27,730

Mechanical:217bhp, 1,984cc, 4cyl petrol engine driving front wheels vial 6-speed manual gearbox

Max Speed: 152mph

0-62mph: 6.5 seconds

Combined MPG: 47.1

Insurance Group: 29

C02 emissions: 139g/km

Bik rating: 24%

Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles

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