A ROUND OF GOLF?

52w ago

2.9K

In his BBC TV series 'Cars of the People' a couple of years ago no less than Mr James May himself was heard to declare that the VW Golf was "the only car the world actually needs." A point he then emphatically demonstrated by whizzing hither and thither in a lovely Tornado Red MkII Golf GTi.

A short while later, his theory received some serious back-up when a certain Grand Tour hosting colleague actually bought a MkVII GTi to replace his previous Mercedes CLK Black Series! His name was J. Clarkson.

Its a well known fact that the hot Golf is held in high esteem by many of the worlds most experienced motoring journalists and that it is loved just as much by millions of car enthusiasts the world over. But for those that haven't yet sampled the delights of Wolfsburgs finest, we've put together a handy guide to all the fast Golfs from the last 40 years (how time flies!) to light the path to the driving seat of your very own pocket rocket.

Mki golf gti 1977-1984

The original and for some, still the best.

In the best traditions of Lewis Carroll, let us begin at the beginning with the original Golf GTi. First shown to the public at the Frankfurt motor show in September 1975, it was supposedly the result of an slightly clandestine after-hours project created by a small group of VW engineers who believed that their then new front wheel drive Beetle replacement had sporting potential that the company accounts department had hitherto refused to acknowledge. Das Skunkwerks (they weren't called that, but they should have been) got their hands on a three door Golf and shoe-horned a 1588cc engine borrowed from their new sister company Audi. To this they added Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection - a novelty for a small car in the 70s - and beefed up the brakes and suspension. They also added a thin red outline to the radiator grille.

The engineers showed their new baby off to the VW management - the suits were quietly impressed by the 'Sport Golf' as it was dubbed at the time, but the bean counters still didn't think the car would sell. But fears were soon allayed following the Frankfurt show when the new car, now sporting its GTi badges, was an instant hit with the public. Initially the new car was only offered in left hand drive, and with the omission of a few grey imports the MkI GTi didn't actually reach the UK until 1979. As soon as they did however the new car sold like hot cakes picking up the sports car baton from long in the tooth models such as the MGB GT and Ford Capri.

Not since the Mini Cooper of the 60's had Britain seen quite such a classless sporting car. The GTi was snapped up by people from all walks of life, millionaires, mums, and probably a few millionaires mums as well! The car appealed to some because it was practical, some because it was excellent to drive and to everyone because it was very, very desirable.

In fact its still a desirable car today, albeit one that has now firmly fallen into the ever more expensive world of classic motoring. That being said, don't mistake classic for old-fashioned. The 1.6-litre injected motor develops a healthy 110 BHP and endows the MkI with a very good turn of speed. In bald figures the MkI car will sprint to 60 in just 8.1 seconds and go onto 110 MPH. Later MkI cars were upgunned to 1781cc for more torque and gained a 5 speed manual gearbox but performance figures were broadly the same. The unassisted steering provides the keen driver with the sort of feedback that us modern types with our EPAS can only dream of. The brakes by modern standards are satisfactory rather than spectacular but upgraded discs and pads are still easy and cheap to buy these days. But apart from that the MkI Golf GTi is a superb little car, it may not have been the first hot hatchback, Autobianchi and SIMCA were there some years before VW. But its probably the first one that ever really worked out.

i want a mk1 gti...

So if you want to get your hands on the first GTi, well as stated before, the MkI is now firmly a member of the classic club and prices have been on the up for a while now. There are cars out there for a couple of grand but these tend to be in need of TLC, ranging from a bit of tinkering for an MOT to a costly full restoration. The entry price for a reasonable runner is around £5000 rising to £10k and in some cases more for a concourse example with the very best commanding in excess of £18k!

buy/avoid

Buy: Original cars in desirable colours such as Lhasa Green and Mars Red, Choose your MkI on condition and history rather than low mileage alone. Later 1.8 cars if you want to daily drive, or the earliest 1.6 you can if you want to collect/invest. Pirelli 'P' alloys especially desirable.

Avoid: Crash-damaged cars (lots of GTis got stuffed in their day) and those with unwise modifications. Check the exterior for missing GTi parts like badges and trim as they can be hard to source now.

mkii golf gti and gti 16v (1984-1991)

Big Bumper 16v in Oak Green most sought after MkII of all...

With the advent of the new second-gen Golf in 1983 the MkII car was bigger and better than the car it replaced. With the growth however came girth, and when GTi No.2 was released the following year, the weight gain was noticeable, especially as VW continued on with the same 112 BHP 1.8 litre engine from the previous lighter car. The 0-60 time jumped to 8.5 secs, and the early MkII GTi never felt quite as light on its toes as its elder brother. Even so, the performance was more than respectable for the time and remains so today. The new car was a step up in quality for VW too and as time went on you could order your GTi with luxuries such as electric windows, power assisted steering and even five doors should you so wish! It also gave the world one of the most memorable TV ads ever...

But by the time that Ms Hamilton was espousing the virtues of the Golf on telly, the GTi's rivals were starting to catch up. In the UK the main challengers to the Golfs crown were the Ford Escort RS Turbo and the Peugeot 205 GTi, both were more powerful than the VW with around 130 brake a piece, the Escort utilising a blown version of the 1600 CVH engine and the Pug a sparkling 1905cc unit. VW needed to respond, and in 1987 they did by giving the GTi the 16-valve engine it was crying out for. Essentially the same 1.8 motor with a new four-valve head shared with the Scirocco coupe, the GTi 16v looked pretty much the same as the old 8-valver aside from a little red badge on the grille so that those in the know could appreciate that they were in the presence of the new hot hatch king. With 139 brake horsepower the new 16v GTi could now take the fight to the opposition hitting the magic 60 in just 7.9 seconds on its way to a V-max of 137 MPH. The MkII Golf received a number of updates throughout its life, the most notable of which was the 'Big Bumper' facelift occurring in August '89. These later cars are perhaps the most recognisable of all the GTi's and most likely the ones you see in your minds eye when anyone mentions the Golf GTi. By now the GTi and the 16v especially were very polished performance cars and continued on until late 1991 when MkII production ended.

I WANT A MKII GTI...

And why wouldn't you? It's a great version of a great car. MkII prices haven't yet reached the heights of its predecessor, but they are following in that direction. The days of picking up a decent GTi for £1000 are long since passed I'm afraid. But you'll find plenty of going concerns well worth saving for a grand if you want a project. Parts supply is cheap and plentiful for the MkII. Expect to shell out upwards of £3500 for a decent 8-valve car. Three doors, 16 valves and big bumpers all command a premium. Exceptional late 16v cars with strong provenance and good spec can fetch over £10k.

buy/avoid

Buy: A '90 or '91 Big Bumper 16v 3dr in Oak Green with PAS is the MkII Holy Grail. For those with smaller budgets, the pre '86 versions which still had the LHD wiper setup are good value right now and a good investment for a collector.

Avoid: Again watch for crash damage and structural rust. Crap bodykits hide a multitude of sins. A GTi should have front fog lights in the radiator grille, some morons replace them with lower-spec grilles without the fogs but MkII headlamps aren't great so make sure all lamps are present and correct.

MKIII GTi, GTI 16v and vr6 (1992-1997)

The MkIII GTi. Underpowered or underrated?

Hmm. Of all the seven generations of the GTi we've seen so far, the MkIII is probably the one that comes in for the most stick. Launched in 1992 the new car featured an enlarged two-litre 8 valve engine. But with just 115 BHP on tap and much more weight than the MkII, the new car was simply not as fast or as fun as its predecessors. The poor old MkIII did have a few things going for it though. Handling and grip were improved, and the interior of the new car was much more modern than anything we had seen before on a GTi. The new car still sold well though perhaps because the majority public liked the idea of owning a GTi and weren't overly fussed if it was a proper hot hatch or not. Still, a GTi that took 10.1 yawn-inducing seconds to crawl to 60 simply wouldn't do and once again it was the addition of a 16 valve model to the range in 1993 that saved the reputation of the GTi in the eyes of the enthusiast. Power was now up to 150 BHP and torque climbed from 121 to 130 lbs/ft. 0-60 dropped to 8.3 secs and the 16v eventually ran out of steam at 140 MPH. The 16v cars are the real MkIII GTi and although relatively rare compared to the 8v, they're worth seeking out.

In the early 90's VW were looking to push their brand further upmarket. They wanted a slice of the BMW 3-series' pie and 1993 saw the launch of their luxury sporting contender the 174 BHP Golf VR6. The creamy smooth 2.8 litre VR6 narrow-angle motor brought a whole new dimension of performance to the world of the hot Golf. Dispatching 60 MPH in just 7.6 seconds on its way to 150 MPH, the VR6 moved the Golf into a new sector of the market and attracted some of those well-heeled executives that would usually have spurned the GTi for a 325i or a Merc. Being the luxury model in the Golf range the VR6 was available with a comprehensive list of options, some desirable today such as climate control and a full leather interior, others like the clunky and thirsty automatic transmission not so much. Production of both the MkIII GTi and VR6 continued until 1997.

i want a mkiii Gti...

Not quite a classic car just yet, the MKIII represents excellent value on the used market. MOT'd GTI's can be had from as little as £500. But these will be ropey 8 valve cars. VR6's can be great fun and sound awesome although a clean manual car will set you back £4k plus. The best value cars are the 16v GTi's. Look to pay around £2-3000 for a very good example. If you can find one of the 150 16v 20th Anniversary cars produced in 1996 (like the one pictured - VW also made 600 8 valves) then you'll have the keys to the most collectable MkIII of all.

buy/avoid

Buy: A tidy 16v GTi or manual VR6 Highline with good history. Don't discount the 8-valve if you find tidy one at a cheap price and you're into modding. They make a good base for a 1.8T conversion and plenty of mods for VAG cars will bolt-on. You'll be improving a banger rather than ruining a classic. 16v 20th Anniversary most desirable with Recaro seats and BBS alloys standard.

Avoid: Ropey 8-valve cars with body rust and smokey engines. There are plenty of MkIII's on the market if you're prepared to travel for a good one so there's no reason to settle for a wreck.

MKiv gti, v5, 4motion & r32 (1998-2004)

The MkIV GTi Turbo remains a modders favourite, and for good reason.

One could be forgiven for thinking that the fourth iteration of the GTi, released in 1998 was a case of history repeating itself after the MkIII - more weight and no more power over the old car. But to dismiss the MkIV for that is to miss the point of what VW were doing with this generation of Golf. In the late 90s VW were becoming an ever more upmarket brand, and with the MkIV the Golf took a serious step up in quality and refinement as well as being more pricey than ever.

Upon launch the MkIV GTi was available in two flavours as before but the 2.0-litre engines of the previous car were cast off in favour of the good old 1781cc four-pot of old. VW's engineers had dragged the engine into modern times with the addition of a new 20-valve head. The standard car offered 125 BHP and 0-60 in 9.9 seconds but the addition of a K03 turbo ensured that the 150 brake 1.8T was the GTi everyone wanted. The new car felt more grown up and a little softer as standard than what had gone before, but this was VW's intention. They wanted to lure back the people who had bought GTi's in the 70's and 80's and who had moved onto cars they perceived as more grown-up as they got older. More than any other the MkIV was the model that put the 'Grand Touring' into GTi. This car was a superb long-distance express. The torquey Turbo motor much more suited dispatching slower motorway traffic with its mid-range grunt than winning any traffic light showdowns. The non-turbo 1.8 was dropped after around 18 months for the old 115hp 8v 2.0 engine to take its place for no reason whatsoever. Both are equally unloved these days.

Although for the best 'GT car' MkIV Golf, we mustn't forget the oddity that was the V5 Golf. In essence a VR6 engine minus one cylinder it first appeared in 1999 with 10 valves, five cylinders and exactly the same 150 BHP on tap as the 1.8T nobody was entirely sure what the V5 was meant for, especially as it weighed more than a Turbo and used more fuel whilst also being slower. (8.8 secs to 60 vs 8.5 for the Turbo). VW clearly realised that they'd made a bit of a hash of the V5 as well and in 2000 they slapped another 20v head onto their warbly 2.3-litre five to liberate another 20 BHP and create what is probably the most underrated drivers car of the range. The head changes transformed the car and made the V5 a great (if still slightly thirsty) daily driver that does a brilliant impression of an Audi urQuattro when you plant your right foot without really being fast enough to get you into trouble.

Speaking of thirst, the trend for adding valves of the time had also caught up with the VR6, in 2000 VW doubled the count from 12 to 24, dropped it into a MkIV body, garnished the car with a Haldex 4x4 system and lo, the Golf V6 4Motion was born. The most powerful mainstream production Golf ever produced, the 2.8-litre, six speed 4Motion rode into battle with 204 BHP under its belt, enough to finally endow the MkIV with serious performance credentials. 0-60 was down to 7.1 seconds and top speed was some 12MPH higher than the 1.8T at 146 MPH. It all sounded like a great recipe, finally a high-spec MkIV that would impress the neighbours and have the driver appeal to match. Sadly, the dream sort of fell apart when you got behind the wheel. The 4Motion system and heavy V6 combo made the car prone far more prone to understeer than the four-cylinder cars and due to the heavy transmission setup the 4Motion had a serious drink problem. Expect less than 300 miles from a tank. Officially the combined MPG was around 24, but any sort of spirited driving saw that dip to 20 and below!

2002 saw another two additions to the sporting Golf family. First off was the R32 sporting an enlarged 3.2 litre version of the 4Motion engine, the R32 looked the business wearing a new aggressive bodykit and 18" Ronal alloy wheels and with its twin-exit sports exhaust it sounded superb. Some suspension fine tuning dialled out some of the 4Motion understeer but the new halo car was still never the last word in sharpness and though the V6 motor was rated at a grunty 236 BHP, it never felt quite as fast as the 6.6 secs 0-60 figure would have you believe.

The R32, this top of the line MkIV still commands a healthy premium today.

The second new model for '02 was the 25th Anniversary edition. Based on the 3 door GTi, the Anni as its commonly known was limited to 1800 cars this celebration of the GTi's quarter century is probably the best looking and most desirable of all variants with its lovely BBS RC alloys and excellent Recaro interior. The Anni wasn't just a neat styling job either, the 1.8T engine was uprated to 180 BHP and gained a six-speed manual gearbox a useful power increase dropping the 0-60 benchmark to 7.8 secs. It was also available in diesel form with the 150 BHP version of the 1.9 TDi unit, the first time a diesel Golf had been badged a GTi. With 236 lbs/ft of torque on tap, its serious overtaking ability made the diesel GTi worthy of the badge.

25th Anniversary is most desirable MkIV and sure to be a classic.

For 2003 all GTi Turbos received the 6 speed 'box and 180 BHP upgrade of the Anniversary cars but sadly didn't get the styling tweaks. These late cars represent the best value as they have a good turn of speed and the understated looks mean that they don't get the attention on the used market the 25th cars do.

MkIV GTi and R32 production continued apace until 2004 when the understated looks of this car were swept aside and the GTi name was reinvigorated.

i want a mkiv gti...

Lots of people did, and lots still do. A well kept MkIV GTi is still a smart looking car and they remain very popular on the used market. Ignoring the slow and pointless base cars, the 1.8T is the most popular. VW geeks will know and talk at great length about engine codes such as AGU, AUM and so on. But all you really need to know is that the early 98-00 AGU cars had forged engines and are best for big power tuning but you'll have to upgrade the turbo (the original Audi S3's K04 turbo and manifold fits nicely) if you want more than 200-ish BHP. The later cars are not quite as hardy and are best left standard. Ignition coils can go south on 2001-02 models but in the main the 1.8T is a strong engine. A half decent early 1.8T can be had for around £1000 with prices rising to £4k+ for a clean Anniversary model. V5's are relatively unloved on the market so look like a good buy right now. Ignore the early 10v model and the sluggish auto and pick up a 20v 170hp manual car for £1500-2500.

If you can stomach the thirst 4Motion cars range between £2-4k, although the spec can sometimes be quite low for a supposed luxury car so you may have to hunt around for one with a few toys fitted. If nothing less than the big dog will do, batting starts on R32's at £5000 but these cars tend to be thrashed high-milers and are best avoided. £7.5k is the sweet spot for a clean car with an essential good service history whilst garage queens change hands for £10,000.

buy/avoid

Buy: An early 1.8T like the black car pictured will always be a good call. Looked after cars are worth seeking out and don't be put off by sensible mods if they've been fitted correctly and are quality parts they can transform the car. Only 98-00 1.8T's and Anniversary cars had Recaro seats as standard and they're superior to the VW items in later cars. A 20v V5 is a nice car if you're looking for a cheap daily with a bit of character. Good 4Motion and R32's will always be sought after but make sure its been looked after well as rough cars can become money pits. The 25th Anniversary (petrol or diesel) is probably the best MkIV variant and is now being recognised as such, values are strong but if you can get one for sensible money you're onto a winner.

Avoid: Non-turbo 1.8's and 2.0 8v's were not even badged as GTi's outside the UK and for good reason. They're too slow and the spec is too mean. Early 10v V5's are slower than the 1.8T and use more fuel with no potential for tuning. Ropey 4Motions are not worth going for over the turbo either. The V6 noise is great but a £250 remap on your 1.8T will see you going faster and having more fun for less cash.

mkv gti, edition 30 & r32 (2005-2009)

Back with a bang; The MkV GTi was a welcome return to the glory days.

If the third and fourth-generations of the Golf GTi had been met with a less than rapturous reception, the same certainly couldn't be said for the all-new MkV GTi which arrived in early 2005. The 1984cc engine made a return, this time equipped with a turbocharger and VW's then new FSI direct injection system. Power was now up to a Type-R baiting 197 BHP and torque rose to 207 lbs/ft. This power hike, coupled with a kerb weight that for the first time in fifteen years hadn't jumped massively over its predecessor the new GTi was finally now looking like a serious player in the hot-hatch market in a way that it hadn't for a very long time.

Another first for the GTi was the option of VW's DSG twin clutch auto transmission, thus equipped the MkV GTi was actually faster (6.9s to 60 vs 7.2) and more economical (slightly) than the six-speed manual 'box fitted as standard. Many MkV owners still opted for the manual though so fear not if you like your hot hatch to be a little old school. The new car met with praise from all who tried it despite some very talented competition being available at the time, although some did feel that the new chassis could easily handle more power...

The last six-pot Golf produced - the 2005 R32.

Those calls were answered soon enough with the arrival of the latest R32. The 3.2-litre VR6 motor was now uprated to 247 BHP and retained the 4Motion system of the old car, enough to get the car to 60 in 6.2 seconds, and for the first time in a Golf a limited top speed of 155 MPH. The styling was perhaps a little less restrained than that of the GTi, but in MkV form the R32 was a pricey but much improved road rocket. DSG was also offered on the new V6 model and if anything was much more at home here than in the GTi. Running costs were still high, but for those with the money the new car was a seriously desirable item and sold strongly despite stiff competition from the Audi S3 and BMW 130i.

Another milestone - The Edition 30 was the ultimate MkV GTi

2007 saw the launch of the GTi Edition 30 to commemorate three decades of the hot Golf. As was tradition the Edition 30 received a 30 BHP boost over the standard GTi and a snazzy set of BBS rims, interestingly there are some out there who maintained that the Edition 30 was quicker in the dry than the R32 due to its lighter weight and more direct front end. The mechanically similar GTi Pirelli edition was launched soon afterwards and both are becoming sought after variants of the MkV, production of all versions came to an end in early 2009.

i want a mkv gti...

The MkV will be remembered as the car that probably saved the Golf GTi from fading into the motoring history books. It was a huge success for VW when new and its popularity means that there are plenty of used examples to choose from. Generally speaking MkV's are modern enough that a clean example should give reliable daily service, although being a complex modern car (especially when equipped with DSG) they can land you with big bills if they do go wrong. So do your homework and be patient enough to seek out a looked after car with a full service history. High mile GTi's can be had for just £2,500 but realistically you're asking for trouble, lacklustre paint, cracked alloys, dead ignition coils and failed DSG systems are all too common with neglected MkV's. About £5k is the sweet spot for a really nice GTi. Edition 30's are rarer and will set you back closer to £7000. R32's are available at £6,000 but as with their four-pot bretheren these cars are usually in less than ideal order. £8k is a more realistic starting price for an R32.

buy/avoid

Buy: The MkV falls firmly into the 'modern car' bracket. So your checks should be the same when buying as any other car. R32 engines are strong, GTi's can eat ignition coils causing misfiring under load. Manual gearboxes are pretty bulletproof although budget for a clutch and flywheel change at around 12 years/120k miles. DSG's will last the course providing the DSG servicing has been carried out with the correct DSG oil. Put simply, your venn diagram of MkV loveliness should be a meeting point of best spec, lowest mileage and most complete history.

Avoid: Any GTi that smokes is bad news and usually points to a dead or dying turbo. Jerky DSG shifts also spell big trouble so make sure you test out both auto and paddle shift modes on a prospective purchase. Interior trim wasn't quite up to MkIV standards so make sure to avoid cars with trashed cockpits. Some GTi's had optional 18" Monza alloys which look great but are prone to cracking on the rim so we would recommend sticking with the 17's which provide the GTi with a softer ride and a more supple, flowing driving experience. Avoid any MkV with paint or body damage and especially rust. On a car of this age its a sign of poorly repaired accident damage rather than just corrosion. Modded cars may look great but unless you know for sure that the work has been done by someone reputable and they've used quality parts - unlike a MkIV these cars are still too high in price to take a punt on a 350 hp Max Power special that's just one handbrake turn away from imploding.

MKVI GTI, GTD & R (2009-2013)

2009's uber-Golf was simply named the 'R'

The MkVI Golf was in effect a fundamentally revised version of the MkV and so it goes with the GTi. The 1984cc TFSI motor remained in situ albeit with a modest boost to 210BHP to keep the GTi inline with VW's newly relaunched Scirocco coupe. Other than the slight power upgrade, it was pretty much business as usual for the MkVI GTi. The car was essentially a more refined, polished version of its predecessor, and though beauty is in the eye of the beholder VW revised the styling of the MkVI to more closely resemble Golfs of days gone by than the MkV ever did. The GTD badge returned as well for the first time since the days of the MkIII car powered by a 170 BHP version of the 2.0 TDi unit it provided strong performance and fuel economy and became a popular choice for high mileage driving enthusiasts.

The real change in the hot MkVI range was to the R32. The narrow-angle V6 had been a staple feature of the uber-Golf since 1992 but times change and the R32 could no longer conform to impending emissions regulation (boo). The engineers in Wolfsburg had a think over a nice plate of strudel and decided the best solution was to fit the EA888 2.0 TSI engine from the old Edition 30 MkV and turn the power up to 265 BHP to bring the new car roughly in line with its in-house rival the Audi S3. The Haldex 4x4 system was carried over from the MkV R32 and the car was launched at the 2009 Frankfurt show, it was expected the the car would be called the R20 but when it was unveiled VW chose simply to name their new flagship the 'R'. The Golf R could be optioned with either a DSG twin clutch gearbox or the standard six-speed manual. The DSG-equipped Golf R could hit 62 MPH in just 5.5 seconds making it the fastest car yet to wear the Golf nameplate.

The R sold fairly well, but reviewers felt that the new car fell into the same trap as the aforementioned S3 and whilst it was praised for its all-weather ability and devastating turn of speed, the new four-cylinder car lacked the personality of the old V6 model and the 4WD setup gave the handling a slightly cumbersome feel compared to the GTi.

Speaking of which, VW hadn't forgotten about their famous standard bearer. In 2012 the GTi clocked up yet another milestone. To celebrate 35 years of the model the GTi Edition 35 was launched. Instead of sharing its motor with the standard car, the Edition 35 used the same EA888 two-litre turbocharged engine as the Golf R, this time rated at 235 BHP. Externally the Ed35 was treated to side skirts from the R, twin tailpipes and a set of alloy wheels vaguely reminiscent of those fitted to the MkIV GTi. The Ed35 was well received when new being almost as fast as the R and more involving thanks to the lighter FWD setup. These days it is probably the most sought after MkVI variant.

Edition 35 cars are a rare find and command a premium on the used market.

i want a mkvi gti...

Unsurprisingly, being a heavily facelift version of the MkV car, the MkVI tends to tread the same path as a second-hand buy as its predecessor. The earliest cars will have just celebrated their eighth birthday, so once again its more likely accident damage we are looking for on the exterior than any corrosion issues. All hot MkVI's are turbocharged so look for tell-tale smoking under acceleration and listen out for any untoward noises. A full service history is essential not only to ensure that the car has been looked after but also to give you the best chance of resale when you come to move on. A 2009 GTi or GTD will set you back in the region of £8500 ranging to £15k and up for an immaculate Edition 35. MkVI's are rare in R form, and a the entry price for one of these is around £11,000 rising to £20,000 for an absolute stunner.

buy/avoid

Buy: Edition 35's and R's are surefire collectors pieces of the future. The higher the spec the better. Generally speaking, any MkVI with a full VW or specialist service history should be a winner. Again there's nothing wrong with a modified car that has been done properly.

Avoid: High-milers with little or no history, these were expensive and complex cars new and like all thoroughbreds need the correct care. Ignore cars with body or accident damage, there are plenty of examples to choose from so don't settle for anything that isn't 100%.

MKVII GTI, GTD & R (2013-PRESENT)

The latest in a long line. The 2017 Golf GTi.

The MkVII Golf took over from the MkVI in 2013 and instead of being a refresh of an older model, the seventh generation car was based on VW's all new MQB modular platform. Totally revised from the ground-up, the new car hit the streets to positive press. Shortly after launch, the latest line of performance Golfs were unleashed. The GTi was first out of the blocks, initially the car was sold in two flavours. The standard GTi was equipped with a 217 BHP version of the EA113 motor the debuted in the MkVI car with either manual or DSG transmission options. The optional Performance Pack took power up to 230 BHP as well as adding uprated brakes and a very clever VAQ differential. Diesel fans were also catered for with a 184 BHP updated GTD, a car with such a broad range of abilities that I found it impossible to resist when replacing my MkIV GTi.

The Golf R also made a comeback the following year, and this time power was boosted to 300 BHP. 4WD was retained and some very competitive leasing prices helped to make the new Golf R into an instant hit. So much so that the GTi is now the more exclusive version! 0-60 was now down to a scarcely believable 4.9 seconds for the DSG version of the MkVII R.

But when it came to marking the fortieth year of the worlds most famous hot hatchback, there was only one badge that could be applied. In 2016 VW revealed the Golf GTi Clubsport S. A stripped back two-seater version of the MkVII GTi with power boosted to 306 BHP and a top speed of 165 MPH. Limited to 400 units only (the largest consignment of 150 units came to the UK) demand for the Clubsport S was so high that all 400 cars were sold before deliveries began! The fact that the Clubsport S lapped the Nurburgring in a staggering 7 mins 47 seconds probably helped. Smashing the record for FWD cars and putting it on a par with such greats as the Porsche 997 GT3 RS!

The 306 BHP GTi Clubsport S is the most powerful Golf produced by VW yet.

But for mere mortals there was still hope. After selling out the Clubsport S pretty much overnight, Volkswagen then launched the Clubsport Edition 40 late last year to appease those who missed out on the limited run car. Power was slightly down to 286 BHP on overboost, but the Ed40 received all the aero tweaks of the S whilst keeping the rear seats for practicality. DSG was also available where the S was manual only.

The Clubsport models were only sold for a short period and the smart money will be on them to be a future classic, the S especially so. For 2017 the Golf was facelift once again into what has become known as the Mk7.5. Exterior changes were subtle, with the addition of an Audi-esque digital dashboard the main revision to the inside of the car. The Performance Pack-equipped car now runs 242 BHP and the R was slightly boosted to 306 BHP.

i want a mkvii gti

Of course you do. The MkVII Golf is probably the best iteration of the evergreen hatchback and the three high performance models are no exception. With a supreme pool of strengths to choose from the MkVII cars make for a sensible choice for any keen drivers who still want a practical and classy car. You can get into an early 2013 GTD for £11.5k these days with a petrol powered GTi not much more. At the other end of the scale a brand new GTi Performance lists at a smidge under £30k. R's start at around £17k and a brand new car will set you back £32,710 before options. The limited run Clubsport S still rules the roost as far as prices go though, with top examples commanding in excess of £45,000 if you can find one.

I won't do a buy/avoid section for the MkVII Golf, as most cars will still be under manufacturers warranty and will be sold through VW dealerships. But I hope that my guide to the world of fast Golfs has been informative and useful, and that it helps you to find the right GTi for you, even if the right GTi actually starts with V, R or even S!

Which would you choose?

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