Volkswagen Golf GTI review: Do you really need any more car?

PHOTO: Motorist

There's a storied badge dotted about this little red hatchback. As you'll find out through the course of this review, we think this really is all the car you need in Singapore.

It comes as no surprise that modern cars just seem to lack an edge. With ever tightening emissions regulations, and heightened safety standards sullying the purity of the modern-day automobile, we should celebrate the fact that cars such as this latest generation Golf GTI still exists.

Worthy successor of the GTI 'badge' it most definitely is.

What's in this GTI?

PHOTO: Motorist

But before we get carried away, let's remind ourselves that we've driven cars built on the Mk8 GTI's platform before. Even in more pedestrian trim levels, the platform has proven its worth as a capable chassis in the twisties. It can however, serve you just as well if all you're after is a tame and comfortable daily commute.

Even its motor isn't unique to the Golf GTI — you'll find the exact same powerplant scattered across the entire Volkswagen-Audi Group (VAG) portfolio.

The exterior design

PHOTO: Motorist

What we've always liked about the GTI is that it looks (generally) fairly understated. By no means is this a boring looking car — far from it. With its big alloy wheels, red brake calipers, and fairly angular styling cues on both the front and rear ends of the vehicle, it looks mean, and angry. 

If looks could kill, lesser rivals would have ceased to exist.

PHOTO: Motorist

But then again, these cues only stand out if you're actively looking for them. In traffic, ignoring the louder burble from the dual exhaust tips, you can very easily overlook the GTI's sporty credentials. It can pass off as just another Volkswagen hatchback for the sensible family man. 

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What's inside?

As you'd probably expect from a German car, the interior build quality is excellent. You'll find soft-touch materials on the top half of the dashboard, with the infotainment screen sitting on top of the lower half in a separate enclosure. The car evokes a certain switchgear deja vu if you've spent any length of time in certain higher priced Audi vehicles.

PHOTO: Motorist

A chunky, flat-bottom steering wheel offers excellent grip, giving you the confidence to carry some pace through a sequence of corners. With most hot hatches, you'd find a pair of front bucket seats (the driver's seat is fully electric). The units fitted to the GTI keeps you from being thrown about when driven vigorously, but not at the expense of day-to-day comfort.

PHOTO: Motorist

But it isn't all hunky-dory on the inside though. There are critical options which can only be toggled via dashboard-mounted capacitive touch buttons. On the move, haptic feedback alone isn't enough for you to instinctively toggle through al the various menus to set the car up just the way you like it.

PHOTO: Motorist

Perhaps we're slightly clutching at straws here, but we find that the aircon ducts are mounted a little too low down in the dashboard. Angling it upwards to cool your upper body will send a consistent, chilly stream of air through your hands as you grip onto the steering wheel. Could this be the reason why the car comes equipped with a heated steering wheel as standard?

READ ALSO: Volkswagen CEO: Smart cars, not e-cars, are 'gamechanger'

The drive

Without a doubt the highlight of the Golf GTI. In fact, we're prepared to forgive all of its flaws just based off of the way it drives. Firepower comes courtesy of a two litre turbocharged four-banger. This unit is a revised version of the motor that you'd find in an Audi Q5.

A manual option is available, though our test car came equipped with a seven-speed DCT gearbox. The car does bang through its gears quickly, enough for a quoted 0-100km/h time of six seconds. This urgency adds to the overall driving experience, complimenting what we think is a real gem of a chassis.

PHOTO: Motorist

There's a stability in the way it conducts itself. Regardless of your entry speed, the Golf GTI just seems to be able to find grip. Up the ante on the entry, and what you'll find is a front-wheel drive hot hatch that doesn't want to understeer. 

But the front-end traction does not come at the detriment of rear-end grip. You can really hurtle through corners, even lifting off aggressively in a vain bid to introduce some instability, and the car will still be mega-compliant.

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In its sportiest setting, it eggs you on to push ever harder, taking corners at an ever increasing rate of speed. It really inspires confidence, once you learn to trust the car's precision.

PHOTO: Motorist

For regular day-to-day driving though, the Golf GTI is, expectedly, firmer and drone-ier than a more pedestrian hatchback. You will be able to feel the larger imperfections in the road, though unless you are actively running over potholes at speed, its ride is actually tolerable.

Is this all the car you need?

Sort of. Even the Golf GTI's performance is a tad excessive considering how bad traffic can get in the little red dot. Throw in our archaic speed limits, CCTVs and active enforcement, and there's always a sense that even this hot hatch is bordering on overkill for use on our roads. Bearing in mind also that fuel prices are on the high side here, and if you really drive everywhere, you'll return a real-world economy rating of 7.5km/l.

PHOTO: Motorist

But legality and sensibility will fade into irrelevance once you find a large piece of empty tarmac, or some decent twisty roads. Open up the throttle, hustle the chassis through a sequence of bends and you'll find a gem of a car. An 'affordable', fast, capable AND practical hatchback — what more do you want, or need, in a car?

Test drive the Golf GTI at Volkswagen Singapore!

Performance:

Engine: 1,984cc Turbocharged inline-4 petrol

Power: 241bhp

Torque: 370Nm

Fuel Consumption: 15.4km/l

0-100km/h: 6.4s

Top Speed: 250km/h

Drivetrain: Seven-speed DSG automatic; front-wheel drive

Brakes: All-round ventilated disc

Measurements:

Wheelbase: 2,619mm

Dimensions (LxWxH): 4,284mm x 1,789mm x 1,491mm

Weight: 1,463kg

Fuel tank capacity: 50L

Boot capacity: 380L

Features:

Keyless entry

Automatic headlights

Automatic wipers

Wireless Apple CarPlay

Wireless Android Auto

Wireless smartphone charging

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This article was first published in Motorist.