The Mark V Golf GTI remains the landmark hot hatch
It was in the early 1970s that the Golf GTI took over the hot-hatch mantle from the Mini Cooper S. Volkswagen was able to do what the Brits couldn’t: keep it continuously alive and thriving.
Today the honour of hottest hatch in theVWstable goes to the R but the GTI remains a sizzler by any measure and the benchmark against which all others are measured.
There can be no underestimating the fun of driving a GTI. The great thing is that it can be enjoyed day in and day out, on any road, in any weather. For some, the new Mark V model that lobbed here in 2005 was a case of evolution rather than revolution— but why radically change something that has worked so well?
The GTI was readily distinguished from its more mundane brethren by its lower stance, sportier front bumper, front foglights, distinct grille, badges and rear diffuser. It adds up to a toughlooking car.
It came as a three-door and a five-door. As a three-door, the doors are a little longer and heavier, which means there’s a bit of a stretch back to the seat belt but also easier access to the rear seat.
The engine is a bit of a firebreather, a 2.0-litre direct injection turbocharged fourcylinder that achieves a respectable 147kW/280Nm. Most impressive is the linear yet immediate way that torque comes online, delivering all the grunt you could want when presented with an open road free of traffic, yet docile enough to handle the daily trundle.
The gearbox choices are a sweet-shifting six-speed manual and the much maligned, but improved, DSG six-speed twin-clutch auto.
Most GTI owners swear by their cars; they usually say they’d never switch. With any hot hatch it’s important to search for signs of hard use— look at the tyres, the brakes and anything else that could come under extreme pressure.
Same with the turbo engine — lift the oil filler cap and inspect for sludge, then check the service book for records of regular oil changes.
Thoroughly test drive the DSG gearbox, put it through all sorts of driving conditions, observing for any miss-shifts, rough shifts or shuddering. The funky gearbox can be fun to drive but it can be a nightmare if anything goes wrong. For most, the thrill-a- minute driving experience is enough to forgive any issues that crop up.
One owner we spoke to had had a 2005 model for six years and covered 130,000km without any trouble to speak of, even with the DSG. He felt the DSG was a bit slow on the uptake in city driving when in drive and found driving in manual was smoother.
Another owner we spoke to is on his third GTI and so far all is going swimmingly. The DSG in his previous car had a problem with shuddering but that was sorted out under warranty. Service costs, he says, are higher than for some cars but then it’s the same with all European cars. Mark Vs were made in South Africa.
A great drive.
6-speed manual, 6-speed DSG; FWD
8.1L/100km 3-door hatch, 5-door hatch