Volkswagen Golf GTI hatchback
Price £26,580 - £28,650
- Very desirable
- Best Golf GTI to date
- As practical as the standard car
- Subdued styling
- Performance pack costs extra
At a glance
"Fast, comfortable and practical, the Volkswagen Golf GTI is a car for every occasion."
Introduced in 1976, the Volkswagen Golf GTI was the original hot hatchback. Since then, countless manufacturers have copied the idea, with cars such as the Ford Focus ST and Vauxhall Astra VXR adding more power and faster engines to the conventional family hatchback. The Golf GTI is as practical as the standard VW Golf, but packs a 217bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged engine that takes it from 0-62mph in just 6.5 seconds.
On the outside, the car has 18-inch alloy wheels, aggressive bumpers and a sporty red line that runs across the front grille and through the headlights. Inside, there's a set of tartan GTI seats, a sporty steering wheel and beautifully made trim with lots of high-quality materials.
In summary, the Golf GTI is a well made, desirable and fun car, with enough room for all the family and impressively low running costs – especially if you choose the diesel Volkswagen Golf GTD.
MPG, running costs & CO2
Cheaper than its rivals to run
Thanks to lots of clever VW technology, the Golf GTI is actually relatively cheap to run. Fitted with the six-speed manual gearbox, it'll return 47.1mpg and emit just 139g/km of CO2. That's very impressive when you consider it’ll also do 0-62mph in 6.5 seconds. The Ford Focus ST has an identical 0-62mph time, yet will only return 39.2mpg and emits 169g/km of CO2, while the Vauxhall Astra VXR is even worse, recording 34.9mpg economy and 189g/km emissions.
If you choose one of VW’s fixed-price service schemes, servicing shouldn’t break the bank. Insuring your Golf GTI should be cheaper than ever before, too, thanks to a wide range of safety technology putting the car five insurance groups lower than its predecessor. The new 2.0-litre TDI engine in the Golf GTD is more powerful than before, yet also much more efficient. With CO2 emissions of just 109g/km and economy of 67.3mpg, it's a very efficient engine indeed – but it’s not as exciting as the petrol GTI.
Engines, drive & performance
Not as powerful as rivals, but equally quick and just as much fun
Given that the Golf GTI trails the Ford Focus ST for horsepower, you’d think it wouldn’t be as much fun to drive. However, the Golf’s 2.0-litre turbocharged engine still produces 217bhp and, thanks to some clever technology, it's an even more enjoyable car to drive.
A button on the dashboard allows you to change the weight of the steering, stiffness of the suspension and sharpness of the throttle to suit your style. The Golf GTI will do 0-62mph in 6.5 seconds – exactly the same as the Focus ST – and adding the optional Performance Pack makes it faster still. We’d recommend it, as the 10bhp power increase and limited-slip differential (LSD) make the car much more fun to drive. The LSD improves traction in tight corners and when accelerating hard by sending up to 100 per cent of the car’s power to an individual wheel to increase grip.
There’s plenty of overtaking power, and while the GTI is quiet at town and motorway speeds, there's a nice raspy sound from the exhaust when you put your foot down. The Golf GTD is a comfortable and fast cruiser that handles well – but not quite as well as the GTI – and its engine seems too ordinary for a proper hot hatch.
Interior & comfort
Great blend of comfort and fun
Considering it’s a performance-focused hatchback, the Golf GTI does a great job of combining a comfortable ride with fun handling. It’s well cushioned over bumpy roads, yet there’s hardly any body lean in tight corners. This makes it a great long-distance cruiser, yet also tremendous fun when you’re in the right mood.
Specifying the optional adjustable suspension makes it even better. The front seats are well bolstered and very comfortable, while there’s enough room in the rear for three adults, plus their luggage in the boot. Interior quality is top-notch, with every switch, button and control feeling well made and built to last.
Practicality & boot space
Increased performance doesn’t mean reduced practicality
The beauty of a hot hatchback is the fact you needn’t sacrifice practicality for pace and performance. The Golf GTI is no different – it has the same 380-litre boot as the standard Golf hatcback and it's just as easy to get in and out of. The five-door car is the best bet for families, with wide-opening doors making it easy to fit child seats or simply drop shopping on the back seat.
All models come with split-folding rear seats that lie totally flat when lowered for easy loading. Interior practicality is good, too, with plenty of useful storage and a selection of decent cubbyholes.
Reliability & safety
Based on the VW Golf, the GTI is a dependable hot hatchback
As with all VW Golfs, the GTI has a three-year/60,000-mile Volkswagen warranty, which will give peace of mind for the first few years of ownership. It should prove reliable, though – the previous-generation model finished a solid 16th in the Driver Power 2013 owner satisfaction survey.
It’s safe, too: Euro NCAP awarded the standard Golf the maximim five-star score in its stringent crash tests. All models come with driver, passenger, curtain and knee airbags, as well as ABS anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control to prevent skids. The GTI also adds VW’s complex anti-collision systems that automatically brake the car if an accident is imminent.
Price, value for money & options
Strong used values offset higher list price
The standard Volkswagen Golf has never been the cheapest family car on the market, and the same is true for the range-topping GTI. The Ford Focus ST and Mazda3 MPS are both less expensive, but neither have the same mix of desirability, low running costs and fun as the brilliant Golf.
All cars, including the diesel GTD, have 18-inch alloy wheels, aggressive bumpers and all-round parking sensors, as well as stylish LED rear lights and chrome exhausts. Inside, there are electric windows, stainless-steel sports pedals and a two-tier boot floor for hiding valuables out of sight. The GTD also gets dual-zone climate control, adaptive cruise control, a touchscreen display and a DAB digital radio as standard.
Used prices are very strong, with predicted resale values well above the equivalent Vauxhall Astra VXR or SEAT Leon FR. All things considered, then, the VW Golf GTI actually looks like decent value for money. However, the GTD is a lot more expensive than the mechanically identical SEAT Leon 2.0-litre TDI FR – so that may be a better buy.