FIRST DRIVE

One in four VW Golfs sold here is the hot hatch GTI ver­sion — we’re not revheads but it’s priced at a $40,000 sweet spot

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Car News -

AUS­TRALIA is one of the big­gest mar­kets in the world for the Volk­swa­gen Golf GTI. About one in four Golfs sold lo­cally is the hot hatch ver­sion.

It’s pop­u­lar not be­cause we’re a na­tion of rev heads but be­cause it’s priced at a $40,000 sweet spot that makes it ac­ces­si­ble. By choos­ing a GTI we’re say­ing: ‘‘ If I’m go­ing to down­size to a small car then I’m damn well get­ting one with the works.’’

Just as many buy­ers choose a Golf GTI for its im­pres­sive equip­ment list, fuel econ­omy and prac­ti­cal­ity as for its turbo engine and driv­ing thrills. It also has enough vis­ual ap­peal to say, ‘‘ I’mnot driv­ing a Corolla’’, but it is not enough of a hoon car to at­tract un­wanted at­ten­tion from po­lice.

So a new Golf GTI is big news. This one is the sev­enth gen­er­a­tion in 37 years and the first new-from-the-ground up model in al­most a decade. With 1.9 mil­lion global sales, it is the world’s top-sell­ing hot hatch. It’s so im­por­tant VW put a for­mer Porsche en­gi­neer in charge of de­vel­op­ment.

This time VW has de­liv­ered two ver­sions: a reg­u­lar model and a pre­mium-priced Per­for­mance Pack with more power, big­ger brakes and heavy-duty hard­ware that helps it bet­ter han­dle cor­ners.

But as Cars­guide dis­cov­ered, this two-pronged strat­egy cre­ates a dilemma. Which is the real GTI? And has VW held too much back on the base model to cre­ate a sec­ond tier?

VALUE

VW rolled back prices for the new Golf range when it was in­tro­duced last month but we’ll have to wait un­til Oc­to­ber, when the new GTI goes on sale lo­cally, to learn what it costs.

VW says it is still ne­go­ti­at­ing the fi­nal price with Ger­many. Based on VW’s re­cent form, the GTI will also need to be priced more sharply than be­fore (its cur­rent RRP is $40,490 plus on-road costs but has been ad­ver­tised at $39,990 drive-away in runout), es­pe­cially given com­pe­ti­tion from the Ford Fo­cus ST and Re­nault Megane RS.

The three-door GTI will not be in­tro­duced with the new model. So we reckon a smart move would be to bring the five­door at or un­der the price of the three-door ($38,990 on its de­but in 2009 but dis­con­tin­ued a cou­ple of years later).

There was no ‘‘ nud­genudge, wink-wink’’ from VW with this pric­ing in­sight. It is our own guess­work, so don’t be sur­prised if deal­ers give you a strange look if you try to leave a de­posit at this price. It’s our throw at the dartboard.

TECH­NOL­OGY

Given it’s the flag­ship, the GTI gets ev­ery gadget in­tro­duced on the reg­u­lar Golf. The prob­lem is, this far out, we don’t know what will be stan­dard and what will be op­tional.

So here’s our sec­ond throw. The basics such as Blue­tooth and a full as­sort­ment of airbags and the usual ar­ray of re­mote­con­trol-this and push-butt-on-that will of course be stan­dard.

The base model will prob­a­bly come with 17-inch wheels (yet again) be­cause Aus­tralia is rightly viewed as a mar­ket with harsh roads. The new 18-inch wheels you see in th­ese pic­tures are ex­pected to be read­ily avail­able op­tions. Other bling such as the cool LED tail-lights and the ice­cube-style head­lights will prob­a­bly be op­tions, as will the high-end au­dio sys­tem, radar cruise con­trol and sun­roof, among other things. You can bet the first batches of GTIs into the coun­try will come fully loaded with th­ese ex­tras whether you need them or not. Typ­i­cally, when a new Golf GTI ar­rives those at the front of the queue have a choice: pay close to or in ex­cess of $50,000 for the one in stock with all the ex­tras or or­der one with­out the gear and wait up to six months.

So do your home­work and as­sess which of the gad­gets you re­ally need, ver­sus what you think you re­ally need (lane keep­ing, blind-zone warn­ing, radar cruise con­trol, emer­gency brak­ing, road-sign recog­ni­tion, self-park­ing, dy­namic chas­sis con­trol etc).

DE­SIGN

Un­like Mark VI (a re­skin of the pre­vi­ous model), the sev­en­th­gen­er­a­tion is a new model from the ground. It uses VW’s brand new global ar­chi­tec­ture that will un­der­pin most of its mod­els for the next decade.

VW’s trimmed 42kg from the weight (down to 1351kg) even though it is longer, taller and wider. It’s a smarter en­gi­neer­ing lay­out that also de­liv­ers a big­ger foot­print.

As for ap­pear­ance, this is the most overt-look­ing GTI since 2005’s Mark V. The red high­light trim in the grille now ex­tends through the head­lights and the fog lights are framed in a set of plas­tic whiskers that ap­pear to be claw­ing the car.

SAFETY

It’s a five-star crasher al­ready. We don’t know yet which of the raft of safety fea­tures we’ve listed are stan­dard or op­tional.

DRIV­ING

I love the new reg­u­lar Golf line-up. I voted for it in the

JOSHUA DOWLING NATIONAL MO­TOR­ING EDI­TOR joshua.dowling@news.com.au

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.