The Volkswagen Golf GTI has been around just as long as the Star Wars movie franchise and much like the latter, the car is just as analogue as it got and as time got by into the age of computer generated visual effects that help create fictional worlds. And likewise, the Golf today is a completely different car than the one first launched and the only thing that remains is the GTI badge.
It’s just as successful too; the Mk.1 has sold over 462,000 units into the early 1980’s and considering that VW wasn’t expecting the GTI’s number to pass the 5,000 mark, and since then, over 30 million units were sold globally including many of the Golf’s variants. The recipe is simple; keeping it inoffensive, practical and with many variants for customers to choose from, a lot like how Uniqlo makes clothing.
The mid-life refreshed seventh generation Volkswagen Golf GTI is recognisable at first glance; regardless of exterior colours, the red accent on the grille – a traditional GTI trait – now extends into the Full LED headlamp clusters with LED daytime running lamps, full LED tail lamps with dynamic turn indicators, and GTI badging to set it apart from the other Golf variants.
A standard feature on the GTI and R, the Golf R-Line too comes with the LED rear tail lamps which features dynamic turn indicators, which lights up sequentially from the inner to the outer side of the car.
Volkswagen cars have always been common sense cars; even the new Bugatti Chiron super sportscar isn’t exempted from the parent company’s requirements for day-to-day usability. That said the Golf should be the bastion of ease of use and practical to use everyday.
The interior design may not impress design aficionados with its mostly horizontal lines and predictably compartmentalised areas on the dashboard. The cabin is wide and spacious; there’s a generous amount of space between the door and the front seats with a comfortable distance between the front occupants, a wide adjustable centre armrest that also hides a deep centre cubby, stow away tray on the centre stack, deep wide door pockets all-round, and overhead compartment to store stylish eyewear.
But with a generous cabin space, comes wide and comfortable seats. The GTI comes with Vienna leather sports seats with lumbar support. The 12-way electrically adjustable driver seat with electric lumbar support, and the mechanically adjustable front passenger seat offers comfort and support to the driver, which makes them suitable for long distance travelling. The great thing about these seats is that the bolsters are not solidly hard, which makes getting in an out easily. They’re not as flimsy as you may think, as the seat bolsters do offer adequate lateral support.
The GTI can sit many drivers of many sizes, thanks to the tilt and telescopic steering wheel; drivers can fine-tune their driving position to where they can find themselves comfortably driving the car. Regardless of how high or low the driver seats, the ergonomics is pretty much spot on, where there are no obstructions within the driver’s line of sight, and small corner windows which eliminates blind spots in this area which is crucial when driving into tight spots.
Likewise, the rear occupants can expect adequate space in the second row with generous leg and headroom. The rear bench comes with ISOFIX anchorage guides which makes installing a compatible child seat easier and without much of a hassle. The Golf also comes with rear air vents that channels cool air from the front.
The rear bench seat fold 60:40 and comes with a load-through hatch that accommodates long items through the centre armrest, and if there isn’t anything long to lug about, the adults at the rear can rest their arms on and place drinks in the cupholders.
At the rear most, the boot compartment measures in at 380-litres by default and by folding them down flat frees the rear storage space up to 1,270-litres. Other features to take note of are front and rear reading lights, 12v sockets in the centre stack cubby and rear luggage compartment.
Being equipped to the teeth, the GTI comes loaded with the techy bits. The first thing a driver would notice is the 12.3-inch Active Info Display (AID), which replaces the traditional analogue dial clusters in the pre-facelift model.
Featured in the Passat and Tiguan Highline models, AID provides a long list of current driving and vehicle information at the touch of a button. Drivers can switch up to six different interface configurations: Classic, which only displays the rev and speedometer; Speed & gear, displays the gear position and driving speed in digits; Consumption & range provides the average fuel consumption of the day and range before the petrol tank runs dry; Efficiency likewise provides average fuel consumption figure but with an eco gauge to better judge frugal driving habits.
Also new in the refreshed Golf R-Line is the new large eight-inch Composition Media infotainment system with USB, iPod/iPhone interface, SD card slot, Aux-In, and Bluetooth. There’s also App-Connect smartphone connectivity, which is compatible with MirrorLink, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Like in the pre-facelift model, the new eight-inch system also comes with the Think Blue Eco trainer, but also comes with newer additions such as driving mode selection and performance monitor which displays the engine output in Kw, turbocharger boost pressure, G meter and engine coolant temperature. However, the latter dials doesn’t have tell tales marking the maximums reached, which leaves drivers second guessing of how much turbo boost pressure or Gs they have pulled during their drive of the day.
The eight-inch touchscreen also features additional options of the ‘Climatronic’ 2-zone automatic air conditioning system. The Golf R-Line also comes with Air Care Climatronic, which filters out dust, and pollen in the cabin while ensuring healthy humidity levels and helps windows from misting up.
Sound reproduction comes from eight speakers located around the cabin of the GTI, which consists of two tweeters located on the A-pillars, two rear tweeters and four mid-range speakers mounted in the doors. Overall audio quality is above average in comparison with many systems in this price range. You can go from pop to rock, soundtracks to orchestra, the sound system stays faithful with much clarity throughout. But the speakers would tend to clip at higher volumes.
Engine & Transmission
The GTI is powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged direct injection TSI engine, producing an output of 227hp at 4,700 – 6,200 rpm, with a maximum torque output of 350Nm at 1,500 – 4,600 rpm and paired with the engine is the six-speed wet clutch DSG automatic transmission, which makes it possible for it to achieve a frugal fuel consumption figure of 5.3l/100km as tested.
The 2.0 TSI petrol engine is especially smooth even when being worked hard, and it is still muted at a cruise and far from raucous when accelerating. The six-speed DSG gearbox provides progressive and seamless drive to its front wheels, with each gear shift being smooth with adequate gear ratios complementing the engine’s output.
Volkswagen Cars make common sense cars and that is true with the Golf, and the GTI is no exception; the ergonomics are well planned out, and no matter how you sit inside, the buttons and dials are within reach with tactile feedback. The view outside is unobstructed at all sides allowing the driver a far and unobstructed line of sight ahead.
Cruising on highways is where the GTI excels; Thanks to its torquey engine and snappy six-speed DSG gearbox, overtaking slower vehicles is a breeze. It’s very much a mile muncher as well; capable of cruising comfortably at 160km/h, the GTI is suitable for long distances travelling within a 600km radius before the need to refuel. Not surprising as it’s a car that is designed with the German autobahn in mind.
The 18-inch wheels and tyres are very much the gold standard on modern cars, which the GTI is very much engineered with. It rides with poise with a sense of isolation from the road beneath while potholes and crevices can still be felt without much drama. But one thing’s for sure is that it will take a lot of effort to completely unsettle the car.
Without any changes to its overall dimensions, the GTI handles just as it supposed to do; it is genuinely enjoyable to drive and does not intimidate. The steering is light but precise, which makes the car easy to place on the road with a small turning radius. When cornering, the GTI’s stable body control and compliant suspension utilises the Continental MaxContact MC6 rubber to its fullest.
Performance wise, the GTI has the performance yet keeping its graceful and civilised nature intact with much enthusiasm and feistiness and thanks to the Extended Differential Lock (EDS) electronic differential lock provides agile and stable cornering agility. The system keeps the inside wheel from spinning at a quicker rate than the wheel outside, tucking the car into the corners much tighter and the understeer easily managed. Seriously though, it makes the refreshed GTI much easier to drive than it already has been.
The refreshed GTI as tested comes equipped with the Adaptive Chassis Control (DCC) that allows you to choose the style of drive you want at any time. There are five ride settings available; Eco, Comfort, Normal and Sport. In Eco and Comfort mode, you’ll get a comfortable and supple ride, but doesn’t feel sloppy. In Normal mode, it’s just as comfy but with a little less roll and the steering feels sharper and the car poised and balanced. And in Sport mode, you’ll get flatter cornering, firmer damping, and a lot less roll.
The Golf GTI is pretty competent on track; In Sport driving mode, the damping is firm enough to keep the body level in the bends, and the good news is, switching both the traction and stability management off requires the driver to do most of the work, which is a good thing for an entertaining and rewarding driving experience. Being front driven car, its pretty forgiving and with the differential and XDS+ at work, there is no need to fight it into corners.
The MaxContact MC6 tyres works pretty well in the tropical climate; be it on a sweltering hot day, or on a cool and damp night, the tyres do like heat and retains it consistently. Just that when the weather is cool and wet, keeping the heat in the tyres would require some work to keep them warm. Driven hard at ten-tenths, there’s plenty of bite from the brakes still with good amount of feedback from the pedal, that said brake fade is almost a non issue. The six-speed DSG box does take quite a while to shift down, and you’ll have to be patient with it.
The Golf GTI has the looks and drivability to match, while offering driver and occupants practicality and frugality great for the everyday commute, especially for motorists who frequently drive in urban areas. But don’t discount it as a city-centric vehicle; the 2.0-litre is a very frugal mill. Theoretically, you can drive up to a theoretical distance of 640km from its 50-litre fuel tank before drying it up. And even with a heavy left foot, the engine management control unit adapts to different drivers and uses the least amount of fuel possible.
Much like the Hero’s Journey template, the Golf’s compact car format appeals to many for its day-to-day usability and practicality and its vanilla styling is agreeable to people of many tastes and preferences. It’s plenty practical and frugal, while having a timeless design outside and inside which makes the Golf GTI a worthwhile ownership.
Volkswagen Golf GTI
Price Msia: RM246,490 (Without Insurance inclusive of SST)
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged direct-injection in-line four cylinder
Power: 227 hp @ 4,700 – 6,200 rpm
Torque: 350 Nm @ 1,500 – 4,600 rpm
Fuel Economy: 5.4 L/100km (Tested)
Transmission: 6-Speed Direct-Shift Gearbox