VW plays the mild card

The lat­est Golf GTi is cleaner but a bit on the con­ser­va­tive side, writes PAUL GOVER in Europe

Herald Sun - Motoring - - News -

THE new look for Aus­tralia’s favourite Volk­swa­gen has just been re­vealed in Ger­many. It’s the lat­est Golf GTi, stretch­ing a line that runs back to 1976, but it’s not what many peo­ple ex­pected.

The hot hatch for next year is cleaner, smoother and more re­fined than ear­lier cars.

It will still come with a 155kW turbo petrol en­gine and the prom­ise of a 7.2-sec­ond sprint to 100km/h, but is miss­ing the wild body bits of ear­lier GTi road run­ners. And it’s de­lib­er­ate.

The new Golf has a pair of sig­na­ture red stripes across its new-look grille — first seen on the Golf 6 pre­viewed to the Aus­tralian press a week ago — but the over­all de­sign will en­sure there is no con­flict with the sportier new Scirocco coupe.

The Scirocco is still not con­firmed for Aus­tralia, and could eas­ily miss the cut if the price is not right, but is a big deal for Volk­swa­gen in Europe and more than enough rea­son for a slightly con­ser­va­tive ap­proach to the new Golf GTi.

But the car’s de­sign chief, Mark Lichte, is talk­ing it up as it is read­ied for its first pub­lic ap­pear­ance this week at the Paris Mo­tor Show.

‘‘We’re re­ally proud of the clean, sim­ple shapes. We don’t want un­nec­es­sary add-ons that add weight,’’ Lichte says.

Still, the GTi has some ob­vi­ous go-faster gear in­clud­ing a small rear spoiler, 18-inch al­loys and a flat-bot­tomed steer­ing wheel with sports seats in the cabin.

Of­fi­cial Volk­swa­gen pic­tures re­veal a GTi that is more mild than wild, de­spite hav­ing to face such op­po­si­tion as the Subaru WRX. The Ger­man car­maker is push­ing its R32 Golf as its ri­val to the heavy­weight Mit­subishi Lancer Evo and Subaru’s STi and will prob­a­bly have an all-wheel drive R ver­sion to re­place the cur­rent V6-pow­ered R32.

Lichte con­cen­trates on the de­sign de­tails when he talks about the GTi, in­clud­ing its new nose and clean tail.

The nose has a gi­ant air in­take, cho­sen as much for styling as cool­ing.

‘‘The ef­fect is to vis­ually widen the GTi to make it look more ag­gres­sive and sporty. I’m not say­ing there will be a Scirocco GTi but, if there is, it would have the same graphic treat­ment,’’ Lichte says.

Volk­swa­gen Aus­tralia is yet to com­ment on the new GTi, even though the car will be vi­tal to its suc­cess. The GTi is the best-sell­ing in­di­vid­ual model and helps make the Golf the top-sell­ing badge. At one stage there was a six­month wait­ing list.

Tim­ing for its ar­rival is un­cer­tain, though it will prob­a­bly be here late next year.

Old and new: the lat­est Golf GTi and the orig­i­nal ver­sion that was launched in 1976.

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