SHARPER, FASTER, tighter, leaner… yes, the benchmark for the sector is even better. Volkswagen’s new Golf GTI, now built ‘at home’ in Wolfsburg Germany, sets a new standard for the affordable hot-hatch, but at a familiar price.
If you enjoyed the old GTI (and who didn’t), you’re going to love this one.
It is simply a cracking drive: thread the needle accuracy at the wheel, fast, superbly balanced, an uncanny ability to keep power to the tarmac when pressing on (which belies its front wheel drive configuration), and as quick as a greased ferret around a mountain road.
And importantly, when at work, though the old GTI’s growl has been tamed it has been replaced with the most delicious and lascivious rasp. Even better; under the whip in the DSG, each change up – we’re talking 40 millisecond shifts here - is accompanied by a Formula 1-style “womp” from the twin pipes out back.
Driving the GTI hard is a wholly visceral experience which, at the price, simply wallops its closest competitors.
On the basis of this first drive (and some longer hours at the wheel will be a better test), Volkswagen would seem to have done everything right. When word gets out, the GTI is going to have Mitsubishi and Subaru chewing their pillows and breaking out into feverish sweats.
We put both variants through their paces in the Victorian Alps – the DSG and the six speed manual. It’s not possible to drive either of these cars without grinning like a perfect idiot.
For sublime balance, for performance at a price, for enjoyment at the wheel, the Golf GTI sets the standard. This is the ‘hot hatch’ at its finest.
(It’s fitting really, seeing as Volkswagen started this hot-hatch thing all those years ago with the first Golf GTI.)