GTI whiz

The Mark V Golf GTI re­mains the land­mark hot hatch

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Used Car - GRA­HAM SMITH gra­ham.smith@cars­guide.com.au

NEW

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.

NOW

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.

SMITHY SAYS

A great drive.

6-speed man­ual, 6-speed DSG; FWD

8.1L/100km 3-door hatch, 5-door hatch

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