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2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI first drive

By Chris Thompson, 09 Nov 2018 Reviews

2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI first drive review

LSD-equipped variant is now the only option in the Golf GTI ‘range’

Volkswagen’s most iconic hot hatch has undergone few major changes in its 43 years, the most significant being the introduction of forced induction in its fifth generation.

Now, the 2019 Golf GTI has taken another step in its evolution, and one that might upset the purists among us.

In the fight to be the ‘Best Hot Hatch On Sale’, the GTI has upped its competitiveness with the adoption of the kilowattage (180, with 370 Newtons) and limited-slip differential from the Performance Edition introduced in 2017.

It gains more goodies, such as the larger brakes from the Golf R, the Audi-style Active Info dashboard, and driver assist pack which includes ‘city emergency braking’ and pedestrian monitoring.

While this is all good news, you can’t get a manual one anymore. Volkswagen says sales mean the manual wasn’t performing well anyway, but purists might be turned off by the now DSG-only model.

Put to the test at the freshly-built Luddenham raceway on a very cold, wet day the 2019 GTI proved it’s able to out-corner its ancestors.

Though traction control was rather eager when puddles or camber changes were involved, nursing the throttle proved the best way to work alongside the LSD to keep power (and full torque from 1600rpm) pulling the 1377kg mass along.

Tail movements brought on by trail braking were mostly curbed by the aforementioned electronics, though conditions on the day (and Luddenham’s tight turns) were conducive to a little bit of playfulness. 

If you’ve driven the 169TSI-powered GTI, you’ll appreciate the extra 11kW/20Nm, though the LSD might – or should – be the real draw of the new model year. The 7-speed is well-matched to the engine, and its sport mode is good enough to be left to its own.

The brakes, now larger, also seem to have more stamina. After a long session with plenty of heavy braking we didn’t notice much fade, though in hotter conditions (it was roughly 20 Celsius) results may vary.

In terms of ownership prospects however, there’s little to be disappointed with. The ride is sublime, even on the most Australian of roads, and the interior is years ahead of rivals.

Try this on for size: 2019 Volkswagen Golf R Special Edition first drive

A leather-trimmed luxury pack is available for $3900, though snubbing the Clark tartan for heat-retaining leather in Australia makes little sense to us. A sunroof, as well as heated, electrically adjustable seats and memory exterior mirrors also come with this pack.

The 2019 GTI joins a competitive pack of hot hatches, some of which are faster, some sharper, some more wild, and others just plain better as performance cars. But the GTI is still the solid all-rounder.

Testing the mettle of the latest metal on MOTOR reviews

 1984cc inline-4cyl, DOHC, 16v, turbo
Power: 180kw@5000rpm
Torque: 370Nm@1600rpm
0-100km/h: 6.2sec (claimed)
Weight: 1377kg
Price: $45,490