2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI Original track review

Cracking base is crying out to be let off the leash

2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI Original track review

The VW Golf GTI Original is a cliche on four wheels. “It’s not what you’ve got, but what you do with it”, “jack of all trades, master of none”, etc, etc.

This track review was carried out in conjunction with MOTOR's Bang For Your Bucks 2018

Put simply, the GTI Original doesn’t do headline stats or eye-popping numbers, it merely over achieves in every area and ends up well inside the top half once the results are tallied.

It struggles most on the drag strip, but beats its much more powerful front-drive rivals, the Peugeot 308 GTi 270 and Hyundai i30 N, to 100km/h before fading slightly over the 400m. It claws ground back with its chassis, stopping in just 34.38m from 100km/h, matching its all-wheel drive bigger brother for average apex speed and beating the Subaru WRX STI by 0.2sec around a lap.

It ticks boxes subjectively, too. It feels agile, light on its feet and more powerful than its 169kW would suggest. It brakes strongly, turns in eagerly, responds quickly to mid-corner throttle changes and has an absolutely beautiful gearchange. Every facet feels finely engineered and complements every other beautifully.

Except the ESP system. Unlike the Golf R, the GTI Original doesn’t allow drivers to completely disable the electronics and in a performance setting this really hurts it. Even in a straight line the traction control is constantly intervening in first and second, robbing it of crucial tenths, and the same is true on the exit of every tight corner on a hot lap.

2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI Original Rear Cornering Jpg

To be fair, the intervention is relatively subtle, especially if you attempt to be silky smooth to avoid upsetting the electronic nannies, but nonetheless it prevents the GTI putting its best foot, ahem, wheel forward.

Imagine if Usain Bolt was forced to wear terrible shoes that held him back from running as quickly as he could? He could very well be the fastest man alive, but we’d never know as he could never perform at his best – that’s the GTI Original on a racetrack.

There’s a supremely playful hot hatch lurking within the GTI, but every time you get close to the limit and feel that rear end start to move around the health and safety brigade come in to start grabbing brakes to straighten the ship. It’s a shame, and frustrating.

2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI Original Wheelspin Jpg

As a result, the judges’ scores align with its objective numbers – average, rather than troubling the podium like it would if it was truly allowed to express itself.

In the final reckoning, the Golf GTI Original actually tied with the Hyundai i30N in fifth place, however, due to the Hyundai’s higher judges’ ranking – fifth versus eighth – the Korean received the nod in the overall standings. Still, the fact remains that the GTI punches above its weight, successfully keeping more powerful, better equipped rivals honest.

Volkswagen Golf GTI Original BFYB 2018 Results - 6th place

2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI Original Results Jpg

0-100km/h: 6.38sec (9th)
0-400m: 14.54sec @ 162.51km/h (10th)

Lap Time: 1:40.20sec (8th)

Price: $37,490

Bang Index: 124.3

Bucks Index: 134.0

BFYB Index: 128.6

Judges' Comments

Warren Luff - 9th
“Such a fun car on the limit. It does everything you want, with the benefit of power levels that some of the smaller hot hatches don’t have. It’s not one of those cars that you kind of go ‘yeah, I’ve got the best out of it’ – you want to keep going. It doesn’t really have any faults on track. It handles well, it’s got good front-end grip and stability, great change of direction and most importantly from a driver’s perspective, it gives you confidence.”

David Morley - 8th
“Purity in tartan”

Dylan Campbell - 10th
“Just lovely. Sweet controls, even a bit playful. Boo ESP”

Scott Newman - 8th
“ESP prevents its true excellence being expressed”

Louis Cordony - 8th
“Unlike milk, I find the Golf GTI better when it’s of the light, reduced kind”


BODY: 3-door, 5-seat hatch
ENGINE: 1984cc inline-4, DOHC, 16v, turbo
BORE/STROKE: 82.5mm x 92.8mm
POWER: 169kW @ 4700-6200rpm
TORQUE: 350Nm @ 1500-4600rpm
WEIGHT: 1304kg
POWER-TO-WEIGHT: 130kW/tonne
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed manual
SUSPENSION: struts, coil springs, dampers (f); multi-links, coil springs, dampers, anti-roll bar (r)
BRAKES: 312mm ventilated discs, single-piston calipers (f); 272mm ventilated discs, single-piston calipers (r)
WHEELS: 18.0 x 7.5-inch (f/r)
TYRES: Bridgestone Potenza S001; 225/40 R18 92Y XL (f/r)
PRICE: $37,490

Bang For Your Bucks 2018

Bang For Your Bucks 2018The Contenders, Judges & Criteria
15 of the hottest new fast cars under $100K roll up to take on our famous formula. Which will be number 1?


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