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Drive
For a car that is retailing under £30,000 new, it is of premium quality, and a very sound place to put your hard earned funds.

The Seventh Generation Golf GTI

Kevin Haggarthy finds out if this latest iteration of a hot hatch legend still lives up to the mark
This entry level GTI has a lightness and balance advantage over its more powerful siblings (330 PS and the Golf R) that displaces outright power with fun.

"Rapid, exciting, driver-rewarding performance"

This is how it should be as right now I am itching to write this piece, excited as I am about our time behind the wheel of this seventh generation Golf GTI.

 

When we decided to take this car on test we opted for the 220PS entry level manual spec car, as opposed to the more powerful semi-automatic 330 PS version. Reason is, we wanted to see if ‘the latest’ Golf GTI still held the spirit and performance of the original Mark 1 – making its UK debut in July 1979 – the icon that started it all.

Get in, shut the doors (there’s a reassuring thud) and you are cocooned in a spacious comfortable cabin for four full-sized adults.

Quality

Yet surprisingly, it wasn’t the performance of this car that gave us the strongest first impression; it was the quality of fit and finish both inside and out. For a car that is retailing under £30,000 new, it is of premium quality, and a very sound place to put your hard earned funds. Most people we speak to who own VW’s are won over by their unfussy solidness and build quality, and this Golf GTI does exactly that for us.

Take a walk around the car, open and shut the boot and doors, lift the bonnet, and it’s all solid and sound. Get in, shut the doors (there’s a reassuring thud) and you are cocooned in a spacious comfortable cabin for four full-sized adults. We have the original Golf red tartan seats and ‘golf ball’ gear knob, and a subtle combination of brushed steel and black trim, complemented by red LED interior lighting inserts in the doors and along the kick plate. It just gives you confidence.

The spirit lives

Affirmation begins with a turn of the ignition key, followed by an exciting raspy bark from the twin exhausts. There’s a fluid yet accurate feel to the gear-change and a long progressive first and second gear that is both linear and keenly progressive. Second gear is enticing, accelerate with purpose and you’re comfortably hitting the 60 mph without mechanical strain and another four gears to go. Twenty years ago that was small supercar territory! It’s rewarding to see the rev counter comfortably touching the red line as you press hard through the range, each ratio offering enough power and progression to avoid you itching for more.

The only ‘extras’ we had on our car was the touchscreen navigation/DVD radio system (£1,765), the ‘winter’ accessory pack which includes heated front seats and heated windscreen washer jets, (£380) and Dynamic Chassis Control offering a choice of three suspension settings; Sport, Comfort and Normal, with an Eco setting for maximum fuel and emissions efficiency (£830) – in total, taking the price of our test car from the entry level £26,680 to a total of £30,670. We’d argue that these extras are a ‘must’ for modern daily use of an all-purpose car, so best look at £30k as your realistic purchase price in the end.

Dynamic Chassis Control really makes a notable difference. The Sport setting stiffens up the steering and suspension whilst maintaining high pliable ride quality on bumpy surfaces (including at speed). This entry level GTI has a lightness and balance advantage over its more powerful siblings (330 PS and the Golf R) that displaces outright power with fun. It is not a powerful car, but engaging, rewarding, and very fast. Yet it becomes of luxury saloon ride quality in the Comfort setting, and it’s a god-send to your bank balance in Eco.

Rapid, exciting, driver-rewarding performance is what this 220 PS GTI is all about. Purist, fun, affordable, usable, highly practical, and with exceptional build quality inside and out. It’s not the fastest GTI and by no means the most powerful, yet it is one of the best GTI’s ever made, and as true to the concept as any GTI has ever been. No surprise then; this one gets five stars from us.

 

- Kevin Haggarthy

Tech Spec

Model: VW Golf GTI 2.0 litre TSi 220ps | Price: £27,435 | Engine: 4cyl 2.0 litre in-line direct injection Turbo | Transmission: Six Speed manual | Power (Bhp): 220 ps | Torque: 350lb @ 1500 rpm | 0-62 MPH: 6.5 secs | Top Speed: 152 mph | CO2: 139 g/km | Ved Band: 29E | Average Fuel Consumption: 47.1 mpg

 

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