Driven - - Launched - Re­port by BERNARD HELLBERG SR | Im­ages © QUICKPIC / BERNARD HELLBERG SR (Olym­pus OM-1)

Buck­ing the trend of noses be­ing pulled up at the mere men­tion of the word diesel, Volk­swa­gen Group re­cently launched an oil-burn­ing ver­sion of their iconic GTI. With Volk­swa­gen’s mar­ket­ing gu­rus be­ing at pains to em­pha­sise that the GTD is not a GTI with a diesel en­gine, but rather a ver­sion with Grand Tour­ing char­ac­ter­is­tics with the added ad­van­tage of fuel fru­gal­ity and the ab­sence of vis­ual in­di­ca­tions that it’s a hot hatch like its petrol-en­gined sib­ling.

With over 350,000 Golfs sold in South Africa over four decades, this up­dated ver­sion of the sev­enth gen­er­a­tion fol­lows in the foot­steps of all other Golfs by bring­ing big car road man­ners and ad­vanced tech­nolo­gies to the com­pact class.


While not nearly in the same per­for­mance class as the Golf R with which the GTD shared the launch event, the GTD is a more than frisky cus­tomer with 130 kW on tap from its four-cylin­der tur­bod­iesel. A sprint time of 7.4 sec­onds for the 0-100 km/h event is cer­tainly still good enough to guar­an­tee a place in the ranks of the hot hatches, while the 230 km/h top speed (which we didn’t at­tempt) is equally im­pres­sive.

Like all well-de­signed diesels, the se­cret be­hind this all-new TDI’s im­pres­sive ac­cel­er­a­tion may be as­cribed to its 350 Nm of torque which kicks in at 1,500 r/ min – while re­turn­ing over­all fuel econ­omy fig­ures of 5.3 litres/100 km– a feat which no other hot hatch will be able to em­u­late.

Mean­while, its R launch partner has bro­ken the magic “100 kilo­watt per litre” tar­get with 213 kW and (op­ti­mistic) fuel con­sump­tion fig­ures of 6.9 litres/100 km.


Vis­ually, the GTD is some­what sim­i­lar to the GTI– but with­out the char­ac­ter­is­tic red high­light, ra­di­a­tor sur­rounds. A chrome strip ex­tends into the head­lights, while it sports dual tailpipes and a strik­ing set of 18-inch al­loy wheels. LED lights and a pro­nounced roof spoiler sig­nal to the world that the GTD is much more than a stan­dard Golf. This has the added ad­van­tage of mak­ing the GTD seem longer while even in side pro­file,

the light con­tours of the LED day­time run­ning lights stand out.


Like all Golfs, from en­try-level to the hairy-chested R ver­sion, the ride pro­vides that “tested on the track” feel­ing. Steer­ing in­puts are pre­cise, cor­ner­ing is sublime, and there are enough safety gad­gets and fea­tures on both mod­els to keep things straight and tidy. Trac­tion con­trol, pow­er­ful all-disc brakes (with ABS and EBD) as well as launch con­trol (on the R) en­hance the over­all con­fi­dence-in­spir­ing feel­ing, while some op­tions such as adap­tive cruise con­trol, rear traf­fic alert and blind spot mon­i­tor en­able both Golf mod­els to play in the lux­ury league.


It’s an old say­ing that one’s first “how do you do” mo­ment with a car con­sists of con­tact be­tween hands and steer­ing wheel, as well as ones glu­teus max­imus set­tling into the seat. If the steer­ing is too small or too large, too thick or too thin, and the seat hints at even­tual agony on a longdis­tance trip, then you know, in­stinc­tively, that th­ese wheels are not for you.

With both Golf mod­els, the in­te­rior was a warm and wel­com­ing space. De­cent climate con­trol, cruise con­trol, su­perla­tive DSG gear­boxes go­ing about their busi­ness of re­mind­ing us just how bril­liant they are, and all com­bin­ing seam­lessly to (al­most) jus­tify the re­spec­tive price tags of R506,700 (GTD) and R647,300 (R).


Both Golfs were an ab­so­lute plea­sure to drive thanks to phe­nom­e­nal road­hold­ing, top-grade Miche­lins on all wheels, a classy in­te­rior with a 9.2” screen and an in­fo­tain­ment cen­tre with gesture con­trol, while techno-fa­nat­ics will love play­ing with the Sport HMI fea­ture which dis­plays power out­puts and G-forces at play. Count­ing in the GTD’s favour is the quiet na­ture of the en­gine once in­side the car. A more muted growl, in­stead of a harsh, petrol-in­duced sound, dis­tin­guishes the GTD from its petrolengined sib­lings, and is easy to live with – espe­cially when con­sid­er­ing the fuel sav­ings made pos­si­ble by choos­ing the GTD over its petrol-en­gined de­riv­a­tives. Both mod­els score at least an eight on the de­sir­abil­ity in­dex.

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