Matt Saunders
6 June 2013

What is it?

Maybe the most aspirational company car currently made by the manufacturer that invented the aspirational hatchback: this is the new Volkswagen Golf GTD.

It has become a status symbol for the upwardly mobile middle-management set, just as the original GTI came to represent the cash-rich ‘yuppie’ nearly 30 years ago, and continues to thrive in spite of the charge of cars such as the Audi A3 and BMW 1-series. In a normal year, VW sells twice as many GTDs as GTIs.

But, evidently, Wolfsburg would like you to take this car a bit more seriously as a performance machine. For this latest version, performance levels have therefore been increased, along with efficiency, in an attempt to make the car ‘the business’ as much as it is about day-to-day business.

Power is up from 168bhp to 181bhp, and torque rises to 280lb ft. The 0-62mph dash is cut to 7.5sec, while carbon dioxide emissions tumble to a remarkable 109g/km.

What is it like?

There are extended sports bumpers and side sills that add a bit of visual intent, as well as a honeycomb front air dam, 18in alloy wheels and GTD identifier badges on the grille, front wings and bootlid. The result looks quietly purposeful without risking extravagance – as most owners would want it.

Don’t want anyone mistaking us for Flash Harry, do we?

On the inside, there’s the usual obvious material quality to admire, as well as an appealing smattering of classic GTI trim additions: tartan cloth seats, a special steering wheel and instrument cluster, and the obligatory golf ball-themed gearlever.

Underneath, you get lowered and stiffened sports suspension and an enhanced version of VW’s ‘XDS’ limited-slip diff-apeing traction control system, working here on all four wheels instead of just the front two, to reduce power-on understeer. You also get beefier brakes and the quickened, variable-ratio steering setup from the Golf GTI.

The four-cylinder engine is refined for a high-output diesel. More importantly, it’s responsive for an oil-burner and delivers a pretty potent turn of speed. The torquey dig you get as you flatten the accelerator comes promptly, and it’s hefty. The motor also seems happy enough to rev beyond 3500rpm, without rewriting the rulebook on the best way to get outright performance from a diesel: you're better off staying in the mid-range, in other words.

VW’s new ‘progressive’ steering rack brings extra directness to the car’s handling mix at normal speeds, and as hard as we could push it on the road, and it doesn’t seem to add unwanted understeer off-centre. Chassis balance is good, albeit not great. Our test car – fitted with VW’s optional ACC adaptive dampers – rode fairly firmly at low speed, even in Comfort mode.

At cross-country pace, the chassis has a good breadth of ability, with the softer settings allowing better ride comfort and some body movement, and Sport tightening things up to a level of body control unknown even by the previous-generation Golf GTI. 

But you still wouldn’t describe the car’s handling as exciting. The GTD continues to go about its business in an effective but slightly aloof way. It’s quick enough, but doesn’t grip or involve quite like a full-fat petrol hot hatch. It balances the wish for occasional thrills against the one for an easy, undemanding everyday drive. But again, that’s probably exactly as it should be. 

Should I buy one?

Is the boss paying? Then yes. This has to be one of the most roundly talented fleet hatchbacks available, and combines more than enough sporting brio to keep you interested with genuine 50mpg cruising economy.

As an alternative to a Ford Focus ST, it’s lacking edge. But next to a BMW 120d – a poverty-spec 320d Efficient Dynamics, even - it’s easy to see the equipment-rich, understated sporting appeal.

Volkswagen Golf GTD 

Price: £25,285; 0-62mph: 7.5sec; Top speed: 142mph; Economy: 67.3mpg; CO2: 109g/km; Kerb weight: 1377kg; Engine: 4 cyls, 1968cc, turbodiesel; Power: 181bhp at 3500-4000rpm; Torque: 280lb ft 1750-3250rpm; Gearbox: 6-spd manual

Join the debate

Comments
20

"Flash Harry"

1 year 19 weeks ago

Autocar: "Don’t want anyone mistaking us for Flash Harry, do we?" - good Lord, certainly not! :)

I'll take one in black, with a modest remap, and classic tartan seats, please.

Hmmm ...

1 year 19 weeks ago

Given that the "bargain bucket" Golf S is just shy of £20K, an extra £5K for the GT diesel sounds like a bargain to me ...

XDS on both axles?

1 year 19 weeks ago

...you get an enhanced version of VW’s ‘XDS’ limited-slip diff-apeing traction control system, working here on all four wheels instead of just the front two, to reduce power-on understeer.

Is that right? This is a FWD car so why fit XDS traction control on the rear axle as well? Surely it only works on driven axles? I thought XDS is an electronic diff lock triggered by the ESP system. When it's activated it brakes the spinning (inside) wheel causing the power to be fed predominately to the gripping (outside) wheel. How is this possible in an axle with no drive, i.e the rear?

Sorry...???

1 year 19 weeks ago

"a status symbol for the upwardly mobile middle-management set".

Who are you trying to kid?  It's the blandest of family hatchbacks for someone whose mid-life crisis won't extend to a Porsche.

Not sure about a GTD as a

1 year 19 weeks ago

Not sure about a GTD as a middle management status symbol to be honest. Where I work that will be larger BMW's and Audi's in Msport / S line spec.

RE: XDS on both Axles?

1 year 19 weeks ago

I imagine it simply brakes the inside rear wheel when turning into a corner in order to help drag the front round..?

Yep, I was thinking that

1 year 19 weeks ago

Yep, I was thinking that after I posted my original comment. Sorry, I'm not an engineer! Have looked on the Internet and this system is called XDS Plus and is also fitted to the GTI. It brakes the inside rear wheel as well as the front in order to pivot the car into bends, VW's version of brake steer it would seem. Trick stuff.

I'm not excited

1 year 19 weeks ago

I keep seeing Mk7's on the road and they look so much like the Mk6 that I have to check the details to know for sure.

I like VW's but this must be one of the dullest looking cars on the road.

Perfect for the Germans

1 year 19 weeks ago

They are soulless technocrats with no sense of style nor 'edge' too so this car is perfect for them. I'll take a nice Jaguar thanks.


jer

agree

1 year 19 weeks ago

I have seen some on the road and prefer the Leon stye wise the lower spec models if anything look planer than the previous mk.

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