Now in its 7th generation, the Golf GTI sets the new hot hatch benchmark
WAS THE GOLF GTI THE ORIGINAL HOT HATCH? I’M not sure. Is the Golf GTI the most recognisable hot hatch? I definitely think so. The Mk1 Golf GTI laid the template for every hot hatch, every affordable enthusiast car out there, and even today remains the benchmark by which this category is judged.
37 years and seven generations later the Golf GTI has grown. In size, power, seriousness, luxury, and especially the price tag on the windscreen. The underpinnings, unsurprisingly, are VW Group’s MQB with an independent rear setup and the XDS+ electronic differential that mimics the workings of a differential by braking the inside wheel during cornering thus sending more torque to the outside that has grip while also dragging the nose into the apex. Uniquely on the Golf GTI this also works on the rear axle even though this is front-wheel driven. And though I couldn’t feel the operation on the rear axle, I can tell you this GTI attacks a race track with brilliance; so much so that I can tell you that a properly setup FWD is actually more fun than your average RWD. There’s great precision to the chassis, tremendous rigidity, fantastic change of direction, leech like front-end grip and a compliance to the dampers even in Sport mode to ride the bumps on the Ascari circuit with ease.
It actually needs a polished chassis because there’s a lot of power. I’m driving the Performance pack that boosts output of the 2-litre TSI motor by 15 horses to 242bhp, taking the Golf GTI to 100kmph in just 6.2 seconds. It’s mated to an equally impressive 350Nm of torque that starts pulling hard from just 1500rpm and properly sings between 2500 and 4000rpm. And unlike most turbo motors really sings all the way to the redline, where you flat shift on the manual gearbox. While there is a DSG automatic, a 6-speed manual is standard on the GTI and it really is the transmission that VW should offer when they bring this to India.
So here’s the deal. Bringing the new gen Polo GTI to India while the older generation continues to sell is kara-kiri; it will only reinforce the fact that we are getting a car phased out in Europe. The Up GTI – no chance. It will be a CBU, all the taxes will double its price (at the very minimum) and no matter how enthusiastic the person there’s no way he will pay 15-20 lakh rupees on such a small car. But VW has to have a hero car in India and what better than the most iconic of them all, the most capable too. The Golf GTI could even be the dipstick for the regular Golf, to gauge India’s readiness for an expensive hatchback. Ultimately though the all-round excellence of the Golf GTI means your money will be spent on a genuine icon, the original hot hatch, and one that is at the top of its game right now.
Above: Dimpled golf ball on the gear lever and tartan pattern on the seats. It is a GTI definitely