There are icons more enduring than the Volkswagen Golf GTI, but they are few and far between, and in the automotive world restricted to the likes of the Porsche 911, Bentley’s V8 engine and the Land Rover Defender.

But having started with a car of pure genius back in 1975 and following it up with something perhaps more impressive still, the Mk3 Golf GTI was a crushing disappointment and Mk4 only a small step in the right direction.

The last version marked a near-miraculous return to form, breathing fresh life into a brand verging on the moribund.

What you’re looking at here is version six – and it must have presented VW with something of a dilemma. Should it aim to take another big step and produce a car perhaps as ground-breaking as the original, or would a more cautious, evolutionary approach be better advised? And that is what this Golf GTI is here to tell us.

In basic form, with a three-door body and manual gearbox, the Golf GTi costs more than the equivalent Scirocco. Question is, is it worth it?

Top 5 Hot hatches

  • The Trophy-R is a track-focused 271bhp front-drive hot hatchback

    Renault Mégane RS 275 Trophy-R

    1
  • This four-cylinder Focus feels lighter at the front than its five-pot predecessor

    Ford Focus ST

    2
  • Seat Leon Cupra
    The new Leon Cupra is offered with a choice of 261bhp or 276bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engines

    Seat Leon Cupra

    3
  • Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk7
    This is the seventh-generation Volkswagen Golf GTI

    Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk7

    4
  • Skoda Octavia vRS
    It's not difficult to distinguish the standard vRS from the more conventional models

    Skoda Octavia vRS

    5

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