Volk­swa­gen Golf GTI


Top Gear (Malaysia) - - Contents -

The most af­ford­able Volk­swa­gen Golf you can buy brand new in

Malaysia to­day is the Golf TSI R Line we re­viewed last month. It takes a trained eye to tell one apart from the Golf R, Wolfs­burg’s flag­ship per­for­mance hatch from which the sporty R Line com­po­nents are de­rived.

The aes­thetic gap be­tween both ends of the Golf ’s spec­trum has tight­ened so much that the Golf GTI sand­wiched be­tween them re­mains the sole vari­ant with a unique char­ac­ter of its own, vis­ually at least.

Volk­swa­gen’s GTI sig­na­tures have al­ways been pleas­ing to the eye to be­gin with. The red ac­cents in the brake calipers, hon­ey­comb grille and head­lights do a good job of out­lin­ing the Golf GTI’s sporty as­pi­ra­tions, es­pe­cially so when the ex­te­rior is fin­ished in a neu­tral, Pure White.

The blood­shot theme is re­flected in­side the car, where red con­tin­ues to fill the threads that stitch the up­hol­stery to­gether – the only thing miss­ing here be­ing the iconic ‘Clark Plaid’ fab­ric seats. Then again, Vi­enna leather is only fit­ting for the most ex­pen­sive Golf GTI we’ve ever had to date.

At RM246,490, the Mk7.5 GTI isn’t ex­actly some­thing we can cat­e­gorise as ‘ac­ces­si­ble per­for­mance’. But you still get some kick for the money. The fa­mil­iar EA888 two-litre TSI sol­diers on, this time chan­nelling 227bhp and 350Nm of torque to the front wheels via a six-speed wet-clutch DSG. Con­ser­va­tive on pa­per in an era of torque-rich plugin hybrids, the GTI’s out­put is still good enough for a 6.4-sec­ond cen­tury sprint be­fore top­ping out at 248kph – just 2kph off the Golf R’s elec­tron­i­cally im­posed limit.

Th­ese per­for­mance fig­ures still aren’t the best in class. Many GTI wannabes have caught up, if not out­done their bench­mark in sheer speed and power. But the unadul­ter­ated sense of joy you get from be­hind the wheel of the real deal is dif­fi­cult to em­u­late.

Just like how the Civic Type R of­fers a breath of fresh air in a seg­ment dead set on achiev­ing speed us­ing AWD, the GTI

proves that a front-bi­ased, torque-rich hatch can be the most en­ter­tain­ing thing to chuck around the cor­ners.

Tip­ping the scales at 1,352kg, the GTI is 98kg lighter than the R. If you’re al­ways driv­ing solo, the light­ness shows as the in­er­tia through the bends is no­tably sub­dued as long as you’re not break­ing trac­tion. But even with the drive con­tained up front, throw­ing the GTI off bal­ance is not an easy thing to do. The GTI has an XDS+ elec­tronic dif­fer­en­tial which works full time with the ESC to com­bat un­der­steer while throt­tling on the turn.

While ap­ply­ing gas or shift­ing with the front wheels cocked is rarely rec­om­mended, there’s an ap­peal to do­ing it in a GTI to co­erce the ex­haust into a cho­rus of de­light­ful pops and crack­les as you try to keep the en­gine within the 1,500-4,500rpm range where max­i­mum twist is on hand.

XDS+ and ESC aren’t the only elec­tronic nan­nies keep­ing things in check as you fool around with the GTI. Pro­gres­sive steer­ing is also stan­dard in the GTI, and it pulls of a nice bal­ance be­tween de­liv­er­ing sharp and ac­cu­rate turns while keep­ing the weight of the steer­ing just right.

If you’re a purist who has been put off at this point, do re­con­sider. The beau­ti­ful thing about the GTI’s driver aids is how they are al­ways incog­nito, leav­ing the fo­cus solely on Volk­swa­gen’s bril­liant TSI-DSG pair­ing and the sub­lime Mk7.5 chas­sis it’s mo­bil­is­ing.

This is a car you can gen­uinely ap­pre­ci­ate with­out fid­dling with any but­tons that would seem alien in a 1990s sports car apart from the key­less ig­ni­tion. We rarely dab­bled with the new eight-inch touch­screen in­fo­tain­ment or the Park Con­trol fea­ture that’s also part of the GTI’s tech buf­fet. We didn’t even no­tice there were driv­ing modes to choose from till much later. All we did was drive.

This rudi­men­tary ap­peal is ar­guably the big­gest trump card the GTI holds against its all-con­quer­ing big brother over the long term. Don’t get us wrong, the Golf R is a thor­oughly sportier ma­chine that’s a great all-rounder to boot.

But max­imis­ing its wide breadth of tal­ents takes a wee bit more ef­fort – you can’t just stick it in one driv­ing mode and hap­pily drive it for days with­out mod­i­fy­ing the set­tings as you would in a GTI. This is es­pe­cially true for the Adap­tive Chas­sis Con­trol (DCC), which feels a touch more flex­i­ble in a lighter FWD setup.

Yes, the GTI knows how to be comfy too. It al­ways had a knack of di­alling the feel good fac­tor up to 11 from ev­ery an­gle af­ter all. The real ques­tion is: what can’t it do? DARYL LOY

Mk7.5 GTI looks purest in the aptly named ‘Pure White’ paintjob

18-inch Mil­ton Keynes al­loyslook ab­so­lutely sub­limeSPEC­I­FI­CA­TION1,984cc, 4-cyl turbo, 227bhp, 350Nm6.4L/100km, NA g/km CO2 0–100kph in 6.4secs, 248kph 1352kg

Leather up­hol­stery means we lose out on the sig­na­ture tar­tan seats

01 Flat-bot­tomed wheel with red stitch­ing is a joy to throw around the cor­ners. 02 One gear less than the R’s DSG, but the wet-clutch sev­en­speeder still de­liv­ers crisp and ur­gent shifts. 03 12.3-inch Ac­tive Info Display looks very fu­tur­is­tic and can be cus­tomised. 04 App Con­nect in­fo­tain­ment is new too. The eight­inch touch­screen in­fo­tain­ment is com­pat­i­ble with Mir­rorLink, Ap­ple CarPlay and An­droid Auto. 05 Mod­ern Vee-Dubs put on an LED light show in­side and out.

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