Skip advert
Advertisement

Volkswagen Golf GTI hatchback (2013-2020) - Engines, drive & performance

The VW Golf GTI isn’t as powerful as some rivals, but it’s equally quick and just as much fun

Carbuyer Rating

3.7 out of 5

Owners Rating
Be the first to review
Engines, drive & performance Rating

4.0 out of 5

Given that the Golf GTI trails the Hyundai i30 N Performance and SEAT Leon Cupra for horsepower, you might think it wouldn’t be as much fun to drive. Its engine is incredibly responsive, though, and thanks to its skillfully developed chassis, the Golf GTI gets our nod for being more fun than the Peugeot 308 GTi overall, even if it can’t quite match the hot Hyundai or 308 GTi for driving thrills.

Advertisement - Article continues below

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 driving style. The steering weight can also automatically adapt to the road you’re on and the speed you’re doing, which can take some getting used to. Once you do, though, the car feels very precise in its movements, helping you feel more confident behind the wheel.

Really enthusiastic drivers will no doubt enjoy the extra grip the Performance Pack brings – by sending power to whichever front wheel is best able to effectively deploy it, more challenging corners can be taken at greater speed. Performance models are now the entry to GTI ownership, since the base versions have been dropped.

The Performance Pack also firms up the ride slightly, but even with it, cruising in the GTI is more akin to being in a limousine than a Le Mans car. Travelling quickly in the GTI is really very relaxing experience and this means that you’re better able to concentrate in the corners. With fabulous balance and a clever XDS+ system that gently applies the brakes if necessary to neaten your cornering line, the GTI is easy to drive fast. And while pushing too hard will eventually overcome the grip of the front tyres, easing off will have things back in shape safely.

Advertisement - Article continues below
Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement - Article continues below

While we like the responsive, quick-shifting DSG automatic gearbox, the standard six-speed manual is so smooth and easy to use that we feel it makes the GTI more involving. The DSG costs another £1,200, too – although it may be the better choice if you spend a lot of time in stop-start city traffic.

If the Performance model still has you hankering for more horsepower, the swansong GTI TCR model might be more to your taste. It's a GTI with a sprinkling of touring car magic, and packs 286bhp - an increase of 44bhp. The 0-62mph sprint drops to 5.6 seconds, putting the GTI back on our list of the fastest hatchbacks you can buy, and there are plenty of upgrades to eke the most out of VW's front-wheel-drive hatchback. The suspension has been dropped by up to 25mm, the brakes are larger and drilled for ventilation, there's a new stainless-steel exhaust and two extra radiators, and the speed limiter has been removed. At full pelt, the TCR will manage 164mph.

Volkswagen Golf GTI petrol engine

The turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine in the Golf GTI Performance produces 242bhp and takes the car from 0-62mph in 6.4 seconds – exactly the same as the Hyundai i30 N – while upgrading to the 286bhp GTI TCR cuts this to 5.6 seconds. It’s a very smooth engine and feels rather less frantic than that of the Honda Civic Type R, which can be a little tiring on long motorway trips. Here, though, the GTI is as in its element as it’s tackling a twisty country road.

While the GTI is quiet around town and at motorway speeds, a great raspy sound comes from the exhaust when you put your foot down. The diesel Golf GTD is also a comfortable and fast cruiser that handles well – but not quite as well as the GTI. Plus, its engine seems rather too lacking in charisma for a proper hot hatchback.

Skip advert
Advertisement

Which Is Best?

Cheapest

  • Name
    2.0 TSI GTI 5dr DSG
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £30,155

Most Economical

  • Name
    2.0 TSI GTI 5dr DSG
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £30,155

Fastest

  • Name
    2.0 TSI GTI 5dr DSG
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £30,155

Richard is a former editor of Carbuyer, as well as sister site DrivingElectric.com, and he's now Deputy Editor at Auto Express. Having spent a decade working in the automotive industry, he understands exactly what makes new car buyers tick.

Skip advert
Advertisement

Recommended

Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport breaks cover with aggressive aero package
Golf GTI clubsport
News
31 May 2024

Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport breaks cover with aggressive aero package

Bargain Volkswagen Golf GTI lease deal for £10 a day: Hot car deal
VW Golf GTI front quarter
Deals
17 May 2024

Bargain Volkswagen Golf GTI lease deal for £10 a day: Hot car deal

New Volkswagen Golf GTI is here with 20 extra horsepower
2024 Volkswagen Golf GTI static quarter
News
23 Jan 2024

New Volkswagen Golf GTI is here with 20 extra horsepower

New Volkswagen Golf GTI: hot hatch icon gets a refresh
VW Golf GTI tracking front quarter
News
9 Jan 2024

New Volkswagen Golf GTI: hot hatch icon gets a refresh

Have You Considered

Audi S3 Sportback review – now it’s fun as well as fast
Audi S3 Sportback front dynamic
In-depth reviews
23 Apr 2024

Audi S3 Sportback review – now it’s fun as well as fast

Ford Focus ST review – a great handling hatch, made hotter
Ford Focus ST Track Pack front 3/4
In-depth reviews
11 Apr 2024

Ford Focus ST review – a great handling hatch, made hotter

Most Popular

New Alpine A290: fast, stylish and very blue electric hot hatchback revealed
Alpine A290 front quarter
News
13 Jun 2024

New Alpine A290: fast, stylish and very blue electric hot hatchback revealed

Engine management light: what to do if it comes on
Engine warning light
Tips and advice
12 Jun 2024

Engine management light: what to do if it comes on

Best new car deals 2024: this week’s top car offers
Carbuyer best new car deals hero
Deals
14 Jun 2024

Best new car deals 2024: this week’s top car offers

Tips & advice

View All
Car dashboard warning lights: the complete guide
Car dashboard symbols and meanings
Tips and advice
26 Mar 2024

Car dashboard warning lights: the complete guide

Electric car charging stations: a complete guide
Public EV charge point
Tips and advice
11 Jan 2023

Electric car charging stations: a complete guide

PCP vs HP – which type of car finance is right for you?
PCP vs HP
Tips and advice
17 May 2022

PCP vs HP – which type of car finance is right for you?

Average speed cameras: how do they work?
Average speed cameras: how do they work?
Tips and advice
21 Mar 2024

Average speed cameras: how do they work?

Best cars

View All
Top 10 best car interiors
Peugeot 208 hatchback
Best cars
25 Jun 2021

Top 10 best car interiors

Top 10 best electric cars 2024
Best electric cars
Best cars
16 May 2024

Top 10 best electric cars 2024

Top 10 best cheap-to-run cars 2024
The best cheap-to-run cars 2023
Best cars
2 Jan 2024

Top 10 best cheap-to-run cars 2024

The UK's top 10 fastest hot hatchbacks 2024
Fastest hot hatchbacks hero
Best cars
2 Jan 2024

The UK's top 10 fastest hot hatchbacks 2024