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

  • Honda's new Civic Type R is powered by a 306bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged four cylinder engine

    Honda Civic Type R

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

    Ford Focus ST

  • 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

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

    Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk7


First drives

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Driven this week

  • First Drive
    27 November 2015
    We try the turbocharged 1.0-litre petrol version of the Golf Bluemotion. If you're not doing mega miles, it's a better bet than the diesel
  • 2015 Mercedes-AMG A45
    First Drive
    27 November 2015
    Mercedes couldn't let the Audi RS3 get away with having more power than its AMG A45. As part of a wholesale A-Class facelift, it now has 376bhp and a host of other revisions
  • First Drive
    25 November 2015
    More powerful Clubsport version of Volkswagen's iconic hot hatch proves thoroughly entertaining on our track-only first drive in Portugal
  • First Drive
    25 November 2015
    Suzuki has added an automatic diesel powertrain to its S-Cross crossover line-up. Does it offer a compelling choice over the manual versions?
  • First Drive
    24 November 2015
    Alpina’s D3 saloon and estate benefit from the latest BMW 3 Series updates. We've always loved it, but is it still as beguiling as ever in this latest form?