IT’S the hot hatch with a split personality.
The Volkswagen Golf GTI will happily thrill its occupants with a blistering burst of pace – but if you want to pootle around a quiet village without annoying the residents, it has that club in its bag as well.
The power is provided by an upgraded 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine with 230ps that propels you from 0-62mph in a shade over six seconds.
Having thoroughly set your hair on fire, it can revert in the blink of an eye to a beast capable of nudging and nurdling its way around the urban jungle.
It’s an ability few others can replicate so, together with chic styling and a top-notch interior, it offers an appealing package.
There is of course one problem with the ‘stay calm and drive slowly’ part of the equation and that is the GTI incites a riot when you get behind the wheel.
It is so much fun to drive you would have to be a motoring monk to get anywhere near the claimed average fuel economy figure of 44.8 miles per gallon.
The thoroughly modern instruments and dials give you a running account of where that figure is going and during my week with the car it never made particularly enticing reading for the bank balance.
But what the heck, I suspect if you buy one then tip-toeing around to conserve petrol isn’t going to be your main priority.
The power is fed through the front wheels with the help of a super slick six-speed manual transmission – but there is no effect on the steering which remains sharp even when you are in jet fighter mode.
The car is beautifully balanced through corners thanks to a superb chassis which gives great levels of grip and top-quality handling, while a lowered sports suspension ensures a firm ride without necessitating the need for a visit to the dentist.
The latest five-door Golf GTI – there is also a three-door version – benefits from the six generations that went before, making it easily the best incarnation to date.
Boosted by a mid-life revamp earlier this year – an all-new Golf is due in 2019 – the updates give it the qualities needed to combat a raft of sporty competitors.
As well as an improved engine the latest GTI is fitted with a revamped infotainment centre featuring a larger screen with gesture control and a topnotch sat nav system.
Other neat additions invited to the party include a flat-bottomed threespoke leather multifunction steering wheel, red contrast stitching on the seats and gear lever, plus aluminium pedals.
The exterior gets snazzy 18-inch alloy wheels, a roof spoiler, unique bumpers and a black honeycomb front intake with GTI badging, as well as red brake calipers. Other standard equipment includes a DAB radio and Bluetooth connectivity.
There are parking sensors front and rear with a parking display showing how close you are getting to the wife’s favourite flower pot on the drive.
Speed is assured, but so is safety with a raft of systems including predictive pedestrian protection, adaptive cruise control, city braking and post collision braking.
The cabin is spacious with plenty of room for five adults while the odds and sods that tend to accumulate can be stored in the roomy glovebox, large door bins or tucked away under the front seats. There is a well-shaped 380litre boot that swallows a weekly supermarket shop or luggage for a holiday with ease.
The Golf GTI is the daddy of hot hatches, a veritable Ray Winstone that demands potential buyers take notice of it. It can take a walk on the wild side, but when you want to kick back and relax it is there for you as well.
TEST DRIVE VW GOLF GTI
Model: Volkswagen Golf GTI Price: £28,975 Mechanical: 230ps, 1,984cc, 4cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox Max speed: 155mph 0-62mph: 6.4 seconds Combined mpg: 44.8 Insurance group: 33 CO2 emissions: 148g/km BiK rating: 28% Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles