Introduced in 1976, the Volkswagen Golf GTI was the original ‘hot hatchback’. Since then, many manufacturers have copied the idea, with cars such as the Ford Focus ST and Vauxhall Astra VXR bringing sporty handling and more powerful engines to the conventional family hatchback.
The latest version of the Golf GTI is the best so far, combining the user-friendly appeal of the standard Golf hatchback with beefier performance and a sportier drive.
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. The classic ‘golf ball’ gearknob also features.
There's only one engine: a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol that offers 217bhp and a 0-62mph time of 6.5 seconds. It's not quite as powerful as the bonkers Astra VXR, but the GTI still manages to be fast and fun to drive.
The engine is surprisingly efficient despite its sporting prowess, managing up to 47mpg fuel economy when equipped with the six-speed manual gearbox. The DSG automatic gearbox (which is slightly more expensive but allows you to change gears yourself if you want) returns a slightly less impressive 43mpg. Those figures are better than what many of the GTI's rivals can manage.
The GTI has the same size boot as the normal hatchback, so it's still very practical and competitive with its rivals in this area. Three adults can easily hop in the rear, too, as there's plenty of room for even the tallest passengers. Folding rear seats and neat little touches throughout the interior mean the GTI is very user-friendly.
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.