2016 Volkswagen Golf GTI 40 Years Quick Review

By James Whitbourn, 28 Jul 2016 Car Reviews

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2016 Volkswagen Golf GTI 40 Years

Volkswagen has deployed almost every high-performance-tuning weapon in its Golf arsenal to create a fitting GTI flagship in celebration of 40 years of the hot hatchback. In this more purposeful-looking 500-only special, the GTI’s all-rounder qualities co-exist with some new driver – and track – focussed features

TELL ME ABOUT THIS CAR

The Golf GTI 40 Years edition is a quicker, more exclusive version of Volkswagen’s evergreen hot hatch, which sits in between the GTI Performance and the all-wheel-drive Golf R. It’s possessed of a musclier power-to-weight ratio than any factory standard Golf (ever!), gets many of the best bits from the Performance and R-spec, as well as some unique extras, and comes as a manual.

STRENGTHS

  • Performance. The normal Golf GTI’s turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder is a flexible, powerful cracker of an engine, and in the 40 Years edition, it’s powered up thanks to a larger turbo and an overboost feature.

  • You can get a manual. Unlike the excellent Golf GTI Performance – which is dual-clutch auto only – the 40 years edition is offered as a six-speed manual, too. Manuals are becoming an automotive rarity, even in a high-performance car, and the Golf’s DIY gearbox is a delightfully slick unit that brings an extra dimension to the fun of driving it.

  • Interior tactility and comfort. The seventh-gen Golf’s interior is a neatly styled, quiet and beautifully finished place in which to drive and ride, and the 40 Years edition addresses our only minor criticism – that it’s a bit bland. The steering wheel, trimmed in suede-like Alcantara material, the unique fabric of the sports seats and other touches inject sportiness and tactility to bring the GTI’s classy cabin alive.

2016 volkswagen golf gt1 40 years interior

  • The dynamics. The Golf GTI already had the chassis poise and grip, and to this the 40 Years adds an electronically controlled multi-plate limited-slip differential, 19-inch wheels and tyres, and extra cooling for the bigger front brakes via a unique front bumper, all of which make it willing and ready for a hard drive.

  • Practicality. The Golf’s relatively compact proportions, easy urban driving manners, hatched back and decent 380-litre boot make it a terrific all-rounder. If you’re looking for a quick, fun car that can handle both the day-to-day and the odd track-day, the Golf GTI 40 Years could well be it.

WEAKNESSES

  • The price. While the GTI 40 Years represents great value for the extras it brings – and the boost in speed and handling capability – it costs about 15 percent more than the regular GTI, and maximising bang-for-buck is at the core of the appeal of any hot hatchback.

  • The manuals are sold out. If you’re reading about the availability of a manual 40 Years edition for the first time, it’s probably too late to get one of the 100 available, so you may have to settle for one of the excellent paddle-shifter, six-speed dual-clutch versions. 

2016 volkswagen golf gt1 40 years rear

ANY RIVALS I SHOULD CONSIDER?

The Renault Megane RS is a sharper track tool, but trades some of the GTI’s all-round usability for heightened performance. For example, rear-seat passengers will have to climb into the three-door Renault via a front door and a flipped front seat. You won’t be treated to quite the GTI’s classy presentation, ride comfort or quietness, either. The Ford Focus RS is an option if you want a more flamboyant, all-wheel-drive package. But again, it doesn’t have the GTI’s well-balanced blend of abilities. Failing these, one of the GTI 40 Years edition’s siblings – such as a less costly regular GTI, or an R, with all-wheel-drive traction – will suit.