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