VW Golf GTI: The legend lives on
Is it better than ever?
Last week we reviewed a forgotten sporty little Volkswagen. However, the car featured in this article is a completely different animal. It may also be a VW, but it is the most iconic hot hatch ever. This is the Golf GTI and it invented the genre 45 years ago. Eight generations later, a lot has changed and the GTI is no longer the flagship of the Golf range, but it does not mean it is not important. The hot hatch is eagerly awaited by the crowd and Volkswagen has no choice but to make it exceptional to drive. So, have they?
So here is this brand new Volkswagen Golf GTI. Yes, at first glance it seems that not much has changed. Indeed, except for some exterior design tweaks and an updated interior, the new Golf GTI is actually not that new. It's the same old engine, platform, and gearboxes that were carried from the mark VII GTI. For some, it makes the new car seem a bit boring, but others will ask why change a winning formula? I was part of the ones who said "Let's drive it first, before jumping to conclusions".
Let's talk first about the looks. I know that many people criticised the design of this new car, but I actually really like it. Yes, there is a bit too much happening at the front, but that full-width LED strip really adds some modernity to this ever classic-looking Golf. On the other hand, I regret that VW have left their "sheep in wolf's clothing" philosophy behind, as the new hot hatch now looks more aggressive with its larger honeycomb grille, wider exhaust pipes, and bigger GTI badges. I still like it, but I feel that it's a treatment that should have been left to the Clubsport. In fact, my dad used to daily drive a mark V Golf GTI back in the days, but when he saw this new one, he immediately said that it lacks the discreetness that made the GTI so popular.
You get inside, and here it is another story. The interior is completely new with modernized screens and barely any physical switches. Yes, you read that right. Inspired by the ID.3, the interior maybe feels more modern, but the quality materials have gone a step back. You just cannot have it all. However, in the Golf GTI, the infotainment system and tactile buttons are less glitchy and provide a better experience for the user. The car also comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for making your life even more convenient. It's a sharp screen that is very responsive, but there are just too many menus and sub-menus, therefore it will take you literally minutes before finding how to switch off a driver assistance system. The rest of the cabin is very GTI with a very cool custom steering wheel, the iconic tartan seats as well as the distinct gear knob. If you go with the seven-speed DSG, you only get a tiny shift gear that reminds us of the Porsche 911's. I think that many people will complain but all these changes actually work, and even though some functions have become less intuitive, it does not really matter for your daily commute. Because that's where the Golf GTI, it's supposed to be as good as a sports car as a daily.
You start the engine up and you immediately hear the nice rumbling noise of the 2.0l four-pot engine. As mentioned, it is unchanged from the previous generation and makes 245 horsepower. Same as the old GTI Performance. It's good enough to take it from 0-100 km/h in only 6.3 seconds. That's quick enough. The hot hatch is still a front-wheel drive but it doesn't mean that it cannot handle speed or corners. On the contrary, the wizards from Volkswagen have made a car that defies the laws of physics. The new Golf GTI is grippy, agile, and very focused. But this is something we had already experienced with the seventh generation. Here, I feel that the ride is more comfortable and that the suspension will remarkably absorb road degradation. The new GTI, therefore, drives as expected and it is definitely is not a bad thing. Yet, the upgrades are minor and you probably won't feel a difference between both generations. What you want to know is that it's brilliant to drive every day and that it is more economical than expected (I averaged 5.5l/100km)
So, is it better than ever? No! It's more evolution than revolution. Just like Porsche with the Porsche 911, Volkswagen's engineers could not go crazy with the new Golf GTI. The interior, on the other hand, has received major upgrades that should make your life easier with the integration of smart functions like Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. The new GTI still remains the benchmark of hot hatches and is a reference in the way it drives. You'll enjoy it as much in the city as on twisty back roads. If you're still not happy with the new car that is not really a new car, you can always go with the GTI Clubsport or the mighty R that we will review soon. However, what this mark VIII has proved to us is that the legend lives on and that it is not ready to fade away.
I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to Volkswagen Switzerland for allowing us to discover the new Golf GTI. Without them, this article would have never been possible. The team has been extremely nice and has been very helpful in the process of getting us a car. We cannot wait to collaborate more with them in the near future.
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VW Golf VIII GTI