The seventh-generation Volkswagen Golf GTI isn’t long for this world, but you wouldn’t know it.
As has historically been the case for VW’s sporty Golf, what it lacks in ultimate athleticism compared to newer rivals it gains in having an extraordinarily broad breadth of ability while still having more than enough dynamic talent to tackle a tricky road at speed.
VW has thrown the proverbial kitchen sink at the MY19 Golf GTI, loading it with standard kit and adding tasty mechanical upgrades previously reserved for the sportier ‘Performance’ variants.
These include an uprated 2.0-litre turbo four producing 180kW/370Nm, which necessitates the fitment of the stronger 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. To control the extra there’s an electronically-controlled mechanical limited-slip diff and larger brakes from the Golf R.
Eighteen-inch wheels remain standard managed by adaptive dampers while 19s are optional. LED headlights with auto high beam are also standard as is the fancy digital instrument display and every active safety aid you can imagine, including adaptive cruise control, adaptive lane assist, blind spot monitor with rear traffic alert and auto emergency braking.
Just two option packages are offered, both fitted to our test car, a $2300 Sound & Style package consisting of 19-inch wheels, a larger 9.2-inch infotainment screen (8.0-inch standard), gesture and voice control and a 400W premium audio system, while the $3900 Luxury package adds leather upholstery, heated electric front seats and a sunroof.
All this lifts the basic $45,490 ask to $51,690. The added extras are tinsel and we’d stick with the basic car, partly because 18-inch wheels are the pick for better ride quality and forgoing the heated, electrically adjustable leather seats gives you the cool Clark cloth upholstery.
On the road the Golf GTI immediately feels right. All the controls feel exactly as you’d expect them to. It’s utterly undemanding to drive daily, the extra performance of the GTI requiring no compromises, bar the occasional impact feeding through to the occupants, particularly from the rear.
Despite its adaptive dampers, the Golf GTI’s suspension setup does force some compromises. It’s not as comfortable as the Honda Civic Type R, yet it doesn’t have the body control of its sharper rivals when the pace picks up.
It’s a very entertaining drive, with accurate steering, strong brakes and a pleasing level of adjustability in the chassis. It can be driven very hard with confidence, only slightly dropping the ball when you try and extract the last ounce of performance.
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When heavily loaded in a fast corner, any attempt to change the trajectory can result in a bit of a ‘moment’ and the activation of the ESP whereas the likes of the Civic Type R or Megane RS would shrug off such movement.
The flipside of this is the Golf’s limits are more accessible and as a driver you feel like you’re able to get more out of the car at saner speeds than its grippier rivals. The clever diff helps pull it out of corners but arguably the biggest step forward has been the inclusion of a proper ESC Off mode, previously restricted just to the Golf R and Golf GTI 40 Years.
Previous GTIs have been hamstrung by constant intervention from the overly conservative ESC and traction control, but how its true talents can shine through. Anyone who occasionally ventures on track will have a much more enjoyable experience in the MY19 GTI. It’s not outrageously quick in a straight line, but the engine is smooth and powerful with a cultured growl.
The GTI has never been the outright leader in hot hatch dynamics and the latest versions of its rivals only increase that gap. However, it still makes a strong case for itself by doing everything so well. It’s more comfortable than a Megane, classier than a Civic Type R and more premium than an i30 N.
About the only car that has an even broader spread of talents is its Golf R big brother, but whether that’s worth the extra dosh is another question entirely.
All about the drive on MOTOR reviews
2019 VOLKSWAGEN GOLF GTI SPECS
Engine: 1984cc inline-4cyl, DOHC, 16v, turbo
Power: 180kW @ 5000-6200rpm
Torque: 370Nm @ 1600-4300rpm
0-100km/h: 6.5sec (tested)
Price: $45,490 ($51,690 as tested)
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars