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