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 Mégane Renaultsport
    The Renaultsport 265 is the hot version of Renault's Focus-rivalling hatchback

    Renault Mégane Renaultsport

    1
  • Volkswagen Golf R
    The new Golf R is faster than any production Volkswagen before it

    Volkswagen Golf R

    2
  • This four-cylinder Focus feels lighter at the front than its five-pot predecessor

    Ford Focus ST

    3
  • 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

    4
  • M135i is not a full-blooded M car, rather 'powered by M'

    BMW M135i

    5

Find an Autocar car review

Explore the Volkswagen range

Driven this week

  • First Drive
    3 March 2015
    Sharper handling, more refined and better-looking. Still a bit rough around the edges, mind, but now good enough to be a class contender
  • Car review
    27 February 2015
    The second pure Mercedes-AMG model is a triumph of engineering and design, and should have rivals from Porsche and Audi worried
  • First Drive
    27 February 2015
    Dual motors and a power hike give Tesla's electric family car supercar acceleration - and the rest of the package is as strong as ever
  • Car review
    26 February 2015
    Flagship performance C-Class is more than ever a true rival for BMW's M3, and impresses with both its breadth of ability and its practicality
  • First Drive
    26 February 2015
    The new Renault Megane GT 220 is essentially a toned-down version of the hallowed Renaultsport 275, but does it have the required DNA?