What is it?
This is supposedly the grand-daddy of hot hatchbacks; and I mean that quite literally. The very first Golf GTi is often said to have been the first hot-hatch and by many accounts the best. But for all intents and purposes the new Golf 7 GTi has as much in common with the original as I have with a goldfish. So let’s disregard any silly comparisons or nostalgic feelings right at the get go and take a look at the facts.
On the outside
VW take quite a lot of heat when it comes to the design evolution of the Golf. This, in my opinion, is a bit unfair as I think the Golf 7 GTi is quite distinct from its predecessors. Especially if you line them up side-by-side. The 7 is much squarer, more pronounced and has a bolder presence especially around the nose. But despite the changes, it’s clean, steely exterior remains subtle; the red accent in the grille, GTi badges along its flanks and bespoke wheels are the only hint that this is no standard Golf.
On the inside
Inside is much the same; largely similar to the standard Golf, just with a few reminders that you’ve shelled out R400 000+ on your VW. The flat-bottom steering wheel and bucket seats to name but a few. Of course everything is built with bullet-proof quality in mind. The materials are top-drawer, the ergonomics near perfect and the finish would make Swiss watch-makers proud. There’s plenty of room too; a must have in any half decent hatch. The only disappointment was perhaps the size of the boot.
This is what it all comes down to; because at the end of the day a hot-hatch should be a car that will make you smile on the way home from dropping the kids. And the GTi gets off to a good start with its stats sheet. Up front is a 2.0 litre turbo charged petrol motor that delivers 162kW and 350Nm to the front wheels through a 6 speed manual ‘box and a clever electronic differential. It’ll hit 100km/h in 6.5 seconds and go on to reach 245km/h.
What’s impressive about those figures is the manner in which the Golf delivers them. Peak torque starts so low down in the rev range that you almost always have some available. Then you’re enjoying that torque through to 5200rpm, just when you hit the full force of 162kW which takes you through to 6200rpm. It’s a brutal, seemingly endless barrage of power that comes in wave after wave through the gears.
Now you’d think that with all that power and torque you’d also be met by manic understeer, torque steer and all other kinds of steer you don’t want. But thanks to the electronic diff the GTi will have none of that. Plant your foot in any gear and the Golf tracks straight and true; turn into any corner and the nose darts toward the apex and doesn’t understeer much on the exit. It’s unbelievably controlled and inspires confidence when pushing on.
But it’s not all power-induced euphoria. Tone things down a little and you can achieve some pretty impressive fuel consumption figures considering the feverish power that is on tap should it be needed.
So, you’d think this is a wonderful hot-hatch right? I’m not so sure to tell you the truth. If the goal of a hot-hatch is to make you smile while going about your everyday activities; the Golf misses the mark. Everything about the car is too refined, too well thought out and too controlled. VW don’t even give the option of a proper handbrake (should you want to be childish and do a handbrake turn into your driveway for example). My conclusion therefore is that the GTi is a brilliant technological exercise, it’s just not a brilliant hot-hatch.
Price: R 421,300
Engine: 1984cc turbo charged petrol
Power: 163 kW
Torque: 350 Nm
Acceleration (0-100km/h): 6.5
Top Speed (km/h): 245
Consumption (l/100km): 7.5 (claimed)