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New Volkswagen Golf GTI: hot hatch icon gets a refresh

Iconic performance car will receive tweaks for its mid-life facelift, including visual changes and a potential bump in power

  • Revised headlights and bumper
  • Increase in power expected
  • Likely the final combustion-powered GTI

It may be an event centred around technology, but that hasn’t stopped VW from teasing the new Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk8.5 at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. While the German marque has placed its focus on the Golf’s new infotainment system with AI integration, there’s still plenty we can learn about the upcoming GTI model, from its tweaked looks to improved performance.

What will the new VW Golf GTI look like?

We’ve spotted several external tweaks adorning the camouflaged Golf GTI that was revealed at CES. Starting up front, the headlights appear to be new items, along with the bumper and grille. The signature red line that spans between the headlights remains, while the lower grille is broken up by new angular fins, similar to those found on the Volkswagen Golf R.

The wheels on this camouflaged model appear to be lifted from the Golf R too, but it is unclear whether they will be available on the production-ready GTI. At the rear of the new GTI, you’ll find a bigger roof spoiler, new tail lights along with a revised lower bumper with larger exhaust tips. Although minor, these changes should add up to create a more visually aggressive Golf GTI, but we’ll have to wait until the camouflage is removed to be certain.

What about the new Golf GTI’s interior?

The new Golf GTI will arrive with the same small interior upgrades as the regular Golf, including the brand’s latest 10.25-inch infotainment screen, plus additional ambient lighting dotted throughout the cabin. The bulk of the interior remains the same, but there are now regular, physical buttons on the steering wheel to replace the haptic controls, and backlighting for the touch-sensitive volume and heating sliders.

Anything else I should know about the new Golf GTI?

As this is just a facelift, the platform, suspension and engine combination will all remain the same, albeit with tweaks to improve handling and performance. As with updates to previous generations of the Golf GTI, it’s likely that the engine will receive a bump in power, perhaps rising above the 300bhp mark for the first time.

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Volkswagen dropped the manual gearbox option for the Golf GTI in 2023 in favour of the DSG automatic, and we don’t expect it to make a return in this mid-life update.

What does this mean for car buyers?

The Volkswagen Golf GTI has been at the forefront of the hot hatchback market since the original model practically invented the segment in 1976. Nearly 50 years on, rivals have begun to catch up, with Honda’s Civic Type R and Hyundai’s N models often coming out on top when comparing pure performance. 

However, the Golf GTI remains the definitive hot hatchback for many, serving equal measures of both speed and practicality. It remains to be seen whether these latest updates shift the balance in either direction, but we expect them to improve upon the already successful GTI formula.

This is also likely to be the final Golf GTI powered by a traditional combustion engine. Volkswagen is expected to drop the two-litre four-cylinder engine in favour of electric motors for the next generation of GTI, so if petrol power is your thing, you’ll want to get behind the wheel of the new GTI before it's too late.

If you’re interested in buying a hot hatchback, make sure to read our top 10 list of the best… 

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