Is it lucky num­ber seven for Volk­swa­gen’s iconic GTI? tries the more pow­er­ful yet more ma­ture bench­mark hot hatch for size.

Iain Doo­ley

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Kentmotors -

It’s a sign of progress that there’s more choice in the hot hatch mar­ket than ever be­fore. Diesel power is now con­sid­ered a wor­thy al­ter­na­tive to the tra­di­tional petrol mo­tors that have dom­i­nated the mar­ket, while the the­o­ret­i­cal 200bhp bar­rier was blown open some time ago. And while some ri­vals have come and gone only to have come back again, Volk­swa­gen has been a stal­wart of the hot hatch mar­ket with its Golf GTI. Sev­enth time around and the Golf GTI re­mains a visu­ally con­ser­va­tive choice in a mar­ket full of brash and be-spoil­ered op­po­si­tion. The car’s squat stance is the ob­vi­ous give­away, but save for the GTI badg­ing, this is not a car that an­nounces its ar­rival with a foghorn. That ap­proach has al­ways been part of the Golf’s ap­peal, and for buy­ers seek­ing an el­e­ment of dis­cre­tion when they choose to drive briskly this is some­thing of a plus point. There’s noth­ing con­ser­va­tive about the car’s per­for­mance po­ten­tial, how­ever. Evo­lu­tion has seen power out­puts rise across the board, al­though it’s what you do with the ex­tra horses that mat­ters most. Volk­swa­gen’s weapon of choice re­mains the faith­ful 2.0-litre, four-cylin­der for­mat, al­though in sev­enth gen­er­a­tion guise out­put is a more than ad­e­quate 217bhp. Opt for VW’s own Per­for­mance Pack and you gain 10bhp plus big­ger brakes and a lim­ited slip dif­fer­en­tial – a first for the Golf GTI. As you’d ex­pect, the GTI de­liv­ers a smooth and re­fined driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence if all you want to do is get from A to B with the min­i­mum of fuss. If you want a smooth, well­damped ex­pe­ri­ence the car will de­liver – like ev­ery other Golf. Things get in­ter­est­ing when you up the pace, with the Golf ca­pa­ble of de­liv­er­ing a drive that will flat­ter the novice and en­cour­age the keen driver to push harder. The en­gine’s elas­tic na­ture en­sures that there’s al­ways plenty in re­serve for that over­tak­ing op­por­tu­nity, while it never feels like it’ll run out of puff if you spend all your time in the up­per reaches of the rev range.

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