Though I have access to a number of cars - more of which to come - the only one I can truly call my own is a Mk7 Golf GTI.
I arrived at Western Volkswagen last December to collect the car as excited as could be. I hurried through the paperwork with the very nice salesman, threw him the keys to my trade-in and skipped out the dealership doors like a small child on his way to meet Santa.
Due to budgetary constraints the options list was treated with severe restraint. Everything on the car is standard other than the DSG gearbox - a concession to my wife who looked set to undergo a number of operations that would have made a clutch pedal impractical.
Nearly a year on from the collection date I’m sad to report my enthusiasm has waned. The car is hugely capable but not overly characterful. It’s quick enough, comfortable enough and very polished but it doesn't encourage the driver to let their hair down or their belly hang out. It’s a straight-laced car, the kind of car that would never dream of wearing a baseball cap back to front.
Despite my day to day reservations about the GTI it can be very exciting in the right circumstances. When you take it away for the morning commute and point it down a Scottish back road things start to make sense. The front axle is obedient and eager to please. In fact, the whole chassis is communicative and supremely controlled.
The GTI makes sense on morning drives.
The cars inherent stability means that satisfaction is derived from smooth, controlled progress rather than delighting in turn in oversteer or naked aggression. It’s rarely caught wrong footed and deals with cambers, depressions and poor surfaces without pause for breath. It’s an immersive and rewarding experience if not downright thrilling.
Given the car’s unquestioned talent it’s frustrating just how ordinary things feel when the tension is dialled back. All urgency is sucked from its dynamic responses and a leisureliness creeps into journeys that you wouldn’t necessarily expect from a medium-to-hot hatch.
Part of the blame can be laid at the door of the DSG gearbox fitted to my car. Competent though it is, it removes an element of interaction which I sorely miss. It also means I often leave the car to swap the cogs itself which only compounds the problems described above.
It seems churlish to criticise a car for being too polished but that's essentially how I feel. I also accept a manual Mk7 fitted with the performance pack could make all the difference.
Perhaps I'm being too harsh on what remains a very impressive motor? Let me know. Lots more GTI content to come over the coming months.