Subtle restyle of the Volkswagen Golf makes the GTI immediately obvious to those who know their hot German hatches

Subtle restyle of the Volkswagen Golf makes the GTI immediately obvious to those who know their hot German hatches

What a blast! This is the one we’ve been waiting for! Volkswagen Golf GTI was one of the earliest entrants in the affordable hot-hatch scene. Indeed the German giant claims its Golf was the originator of the title. There had been hot small cars before, the Golf certainly lifted the game when first introduced to keen drivers way back in 1976 as it was the one of the first small hatchbacks to have a fuel-injected engine; hence the ‘I’ in the GTI.

Though Australian hot car drivers were more into big Monaros, Falcons and Chargers in the 1970s, smaller nimbler cars like the Golf GTI did gather a few followers. The hot-hatch scene has snowballed downunder in recent years – and Volkswagen wants its share of the action, in fact more than its share if the new boss of Volkswagen Australia, John White, a pleasant Canadian, has his way.

Using race-car inspired technology like two different fuel injection systems and variable valve timing has enabled engineers to get 162 kilowatts of power and 350 Newton metres of torque from the turbo-petrol 2.0-litre engine. Peak torque is particularly impressive as it’s there from 1500 to 4400 revs. Meaning that in day-to-day driving it will provide maximum grunt at all times.

Turbo lag is all-but non existent and the engine is willing to rev to its redline when asked do so. Though it’s probably better to come down a gear to harness the big torque if you’re anywhere other than on a race track.

There’s a choice between a conventional six-speed manual gearbox or a six-speed double-clutch DSG unit. We did a couple of hundred kilometres in each and while admitting the DSG is faster and more logical than the manual our preferences is still for do-it-yourself gearchanging. The shifter is light and positive in its actions and the ratios are just about right for all occasions.

Golf 7 is far from being radical in its style, which makes sense as it’s aimed at the relatively conservative buyer. In GTI format it has been brightened up in the usual manner, with dual red strips on the radiator grille and red painted brake calipers. The lowered suspension is set off by a body kit and the 18-inch alloy wheels look good inside the 225/45 tyres.

Inside, the Volkswagen GTI heritage continues to use a sort-of tartan theme in the trim fabric of the sports seats, but with a new design for Series 7.  ‘Vienna’ leather upholstery is an option. The instrument display has a colour display and there’s a red theme in its instrument graphics. The GTI has a leather trimmed sports steering wheel with multifunction buttons.

A nice touch is red ambience lighting set in the trim strips of the doors. The hot VW hatch has stainless steel door sill guards and brushed stainless steel pedals.

Talking about the snowballing of hot-hatch sales in Australia, we came close to seeing snowballs during a bitterly cold couple of days in Tasmania for the media launch of the Golf GTI. We could have been in the mountains of Europe at times, with the temperature on the wrong side of 10 degrees, rain blowing sideways and vision-limiting mist in the valleys. Not to forget water running across skinny roads with no guardrails to keep us out of ravines should the worst have happened.

Though we initially intended to forego the ‘brave’ pills and drive like cautious folks we soon realised the all-new Golf GTI was more than up to the occasion. We went harder and harder as the days wore on, marvelling at the grip of the tyres on the sloppy surfaces and the way the hot Golf responded to the steering and throttle inputs.

With the occasional buzz from one of the inside rear wheels as the electronic traction control system brought the Volkswagen back onto a safe line we easily survived what would have been potentially dangerous conditions in lesser cars.
On a more mundane note, city driving in Launceston and Hobart was just as easy thanks to the hot engine being tractable at low revs, happy to pull from about 1500 rpm if the throttle opening was kept light.

Tyre noise is higher than on standard Golf variants, but by no means objectionable. Comfort is surprisingly good for sporting low-profile tyres, with only the roughest bits of road causing any real bumping and crashing.

Interior refinement is everything we have come to expect from the all-new body on the Golf (and Audi A3) with impressive reduction in noise, vibration and harshness when compared with others in this class.

Though the standard VW Golf 7 GTI is already high in the safety stakes, with items like driver fatigue warning, you can also select the optional Driver Assistance Package with automatic city braking and adaptive cruise control. The new Golf range has had no trouble gaining a five-star rating in crash testing.

Australian drivers love cars like the Volkswagen Golf GTI and ours is one of the biggest markets in the world on a per capita basis. The latest model is a car for all seasons and all reasons as it can be used as a hot-hatch on a Sunday morning fang, or a family car at other times.

Pricing details for the new Volkswagen Golf GTI are:
Golf GTI 2.0-litre turbo-petrol five-door hatch: $42,490 (manual), $43,990 (DSG automativ)
Metallic / Pearl Effect paint: $500
Panoramic electric glass sunroof: $1850
BiXenon headlights with LED daytime running lights: $2150
Vienna leather appointed upholstery: $3150
Driver assistant package: $1300
Note: The vehicle price does not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Volkswagen dealer for drive-away prices.

About Ewan Kennedy

Ewan Kennedy, a long-time car enthusiast, was Technical Research Librarian with the NRMA from 1970 until 1985. He worked part-time as a freelance motoring journalist from 1977 until 1985, when he took a full-time position as Technical Editor with Modern Motor magazine. Late in 1987 he left to set up a full-time business as a freelance motoring journalist. Ewan is an associate member of the Society of Automotive Engineers - International. An economy driving expert, he set the Guinness World Record for the greatest distance travelled in a standard road vehicle on a single fuel fill. He lists his hobbies as stage acting, travelling, boating and reading.
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