VW GOLF GTI Mk7.5
Edgier styling, greater choice, additional spice
Hot hatch fine tunes its focus
AT A dinner party recently, I ran into a friend who’s poised to buy a hot hatch. He’d been researching for months, he told me, and then, with the wild look of a man who has spent too much time in front of a computer trawling through spec sheets, he exclaimed, “We’re in a hot-hatch boom!”
I could see his point. Today’s hot-hatch buyer is spoilt for choice with cutting-edge all-wheel-drive systems, ever-rising outputs, and exotic-sounding modes that start with ‘Drift’ all jostling for position. All of which has had an interesting impact on VW’S iconic Golf GTI. Once the ‘go to’ hot hatch, the GTI now finds itself swamped by more hardcore performance rivals. But don’t think this means it has lost its appeal.
Here now in ‘Mk7.5’ guise, like the rest of the updated Golf range, this ‘new’ GTI is effectively a facelift. Tweaked front and rear bumpers, new 18-inch alloys, larger exhaust pipes and LED headlights are the extent of the visual changes, while inside, the cabin refresh extends to a new infotainment system and the inclusion of a full-tft instrument cluster to the options list.
The mechanical changes are, if anything, even more subtle. Power from the EA888 2.0-litre turbo is up 7kw to 169kw and torque remains at a meaty 350Nm, though is now available over a wider 1500-4600rpm rev range. Buyers will have the choice of either a slick-shifting six-speed manual or a six-speed dual-clutch, with both transmissions propelling the GTI from 0-100km/h in 6.4sec.
Small changes, then, but refining one of the best all-round hot hatches on sale is no bad thing. Point that red lipsticked nose at a winding road and this remains a hugely engaging hatchback. The 2.0-litre engine is gutsy, smooth and quick enough to feel exciting, the six-speed manual ( VW says a full 20 percent of buyers will opt for the stick) is a real highlight, and the traction from the front axle is excellent.
Unlike the three-door-only GTI Performance Edition One, which is limited to 150 units and boasts 180kw/370nm, plus an electrically controlled mechanical limited-slip differential, the regular GTI uses the car’s electronics and brakes to achieve a similar result. Barrel into a bend too quickly and you can feel the brakes nipping away to trim your line, but the progressive variable-ratio steering (2.1 turns lock-to-lock) is communicative enough to ensure it’s easy to tread the line between grip and slip, and eventual ESC intervention.
Driven hard, the GTI is lighter on its feet, more playful and arguably more rewarding than its angrier AWD sibling, the R (see sidebar),
which feels squarer on the road and more hunkered down as it slingshots out of corners.
The GTI’S magic lies in its duality of character. Drive it around town or on lumpy country roads and you’ll notice how quiet the cabin is, how amiably the suspension soaks up bumps, and that the cabin is richly trimmed and generously equipped with comfortable and supportive seats in both rows.
And while you could argue that Wolfsburg’s engineers haven’t been that busy with the new GTI, VW’S Australian product planners have. Joining an expanded line-up is a sub-$ 40K variant, dubbed GTI Original, with a lower spec (such as fixed-rate dampers) and a threedoor body. A five-door 180kw GTI Performance is also on its way, and a plug-in hybrid GTE is likely.
It means the performance Golf family is now a broad church, but whichever you choose, the GTI remains the master.
Model Volkswagen Golf GTI Engine 1984cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v, turbo Max power 169kw @ 4700-6200rpm Max torque 350Nm @ 1500-4600rpm Transmission 6-speed manual Weight 1329kg 0-100km/ h 6.7L/ 100km Economy 6.4sec (claimed) Price $ 41,490 On sale Now