The Volkswagen Golf GTI is the girl (or boy) you end up marrying.
This track review was carried out in conjunction with MOTOR's Bang For Your Bucks 2019
You’ve had your fun with seductive sports cars that your parents weren’t sure about but by god they were fun. Maybe you messed around with something a little bit older – it felt special but regular breakdowns turned into a thing. And it made you broke. This may be triggering some readers.
The VW Golf GTI – particularly in MkVII guise, now honed over six glorious years and nearing the end of its time in production – is the car that makes you know you’re now an adult because you bought one.
It’s visually modest – but with little splashes of sauciness – and it has an interior smart enough to solicit unsolicited compliments from your mother-in-law. Find yourself on a twisty road, though, and you’ve got enough power, and enough of a chassis, to scratch that itch that never seems to go away no matter how old you get.
And this one will scratch the itch very satisfyingly. Remember the GTI Performance? VW has basically taken the Performance badge off. Which means the GTI now has a very tasty 180kW/370Nm from the uprated 2.0-litre turbocharged inline-4, a mechanical limited-slip front diff, bigger brakes from the Golf R. Optional 19-inch wheels bring the price up to a slightly wincey – by historic Golf GTI standards – $46,190.
MOTOR comparison: Golf GTI v Megane RS280
We often talk about duality of moods with a car, but how about triality? It’s a word, apparently, and the Golf GTI could be one of the few cars that has it. Docile, easy, enjoyable, comfortable at an urban amble, the GTI, with its pleasingly-weighted controls, can morph into a very eager, and quite fast, eight-tenths back-road weapon.
And on a track, now that the ESC can be turned off, while it’s no GT3 RS of hot hatches, the GTI can be hustled harder than ever before – and is even playful to a surprising degree. True, unlike say an i30 N, the ragged edge feels to be a place the GTI is still not entirely pleased to find itself at, preferring it wound back a click, but this is still a very fun car on a racetrack.
Great steering lets you know exactly what the front end is thinking and the diff is handy in meting out all those kilowatts, especially out of Winton’s tighter corners when they’re wet. Indeed, the way the Golf GTI drives feels very ‘right’.
So why sixth? Well, much like describing the car to someone who doesn’t know, the Golf GTI is an impressive achiever across the board, but without letting its large amount of overall talent concentrate in any one area. As such, it was ranked fifth subjectively between the judges and the formula spat it out fifth for value, its total score putting it sixth.
If this was a test of most broadly capable car, the GTI might have won. But we’re not looking to get married just yet.
More go for your dough at Bang For Your Bucks 2019
Volkswagen Golf GTI BFYB 2019 Results - 6th place
0-400m: 14.58sec @ 161.69km/h
Bang Index: 101.7
Bucks Index: 112.8
BFYB Index: 107.3
Bang For Your Bucks 2019 Judges' Comments
Campbell - 3rd
“Honed over time; has a spread of talent and ability like no other car.”
Cordony - 8th
“Very impressive. But also getting very expensive.”
Morley - 4th
“Clever diff from the Performance model is a big leg up. Do I need the R?”
Scott Newman - 6th
“Finally! A GTI freed from its electronic shackles and so much better for it.”
Luffy - 7th
“It’s a fun car on the limit in patchy conditions, but the paddleshift transmission makes it feel like you’re playing on a simulator; it doesn’t respond as quickly as you want. And the paddle shifters feel very ‘plasticky’ – not a true reflection of the Golf GTI brand and history. It feels more like a toy than a car. Value for money, however, the GTI is the best of the VW lot. It’s cheaper than the R and has niceties that make it a bit better than the Polo GTI.”
2019 VOLKSWAGEN GOLF GTI SPECS
BODY: 5-door, 5-seat hatch
ENGINE: 1984cc inline-4, DOHC, 16v, turbo
BORE/STROKE: 82.5 x 92.8mm
COMPRESSION RATIO: 9.6:1
POWER: 180kW @ 7000pm
TORQUE: 370Nm @ 4600rpm
TRANSMISSION: 7-speed dual-clutch
SUSPENSION: struts, adaptive dampers, coil springs, anti-roll bar (f); multi links, coil springs, adaptive dampers, anti-roll bar (r)
BRAKES: 340mm ventilated discs, single-piston calipers (f); 310mm ventilated discs, single-piston calipers(r)
WHEELS: 19.0 x 7.5-inch (f/r)
TYRES: Pirelli P Zero, 225/35 R19 88Y XL (f/r)
Bang For Your Bucks 2019
The Contenders, Judges & Criteria
11 of the hottest new fast cars under $100K roll up to take on our famous value-for-money formula. Which will be number 1?