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

  • Renault Megane RS275 Trophy-R
    The Trophy-R is a track-focused 271bhp front-drive hot hatchback

    Renault Megane RS 275 Trophy-R

    1
  • Ford Focus ST
    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

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

    Skoda Octavia vRS

    5

First drives

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Driven this week

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    First UK drive finds the facelifted A3 Sportback e-tron remains a first-rate plug-in hybrid that is packed with tech if a little short on driver appeal
  • Citroen C11.2 Puretech 82 Furio
    First Drive
    29 September 2016
    Citroën's city car gets a new sporty-looking trim level, adding visual adornments, but no premium for the 1.2-litre Puretech triple we're driving
  • Mercedes C350e Sport
    First Drive
    28 September 2016
    Petrol-electric C-Class is a surprisingly well-priced alternative to a diesel but not the greatest example of the new ‘PHEV’ breed
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    Aston kicks off its ‘second century plan’ with an all-new turbo V12 grand tourer
  • Ford Ka+ 1.2 Ti-VCT 85
    First Drive
    22 September 2016
    A rounded, refined and well-sorted bargain supermini – once you’re used to the confusing role redefinition imposed on the once-cheeky Ka