8 September 2004

Volkswagen has officially rounded the G, crossed the T and dotted the i; the fifth generation of the definitive hot Golf will be shown in its final production form at the Paris show later this month. Priced from £19,995, the first UK buyers will take delivery from next January.

Although it is a long-held view that the Golf GTi has been in terminal decline as a driver’s car since the Mk2 bowed out in 1991, this Mk5 version demonstrates a sea-change in approach by offering a healthy 197bhp, a striking (if typically subtle) body kit, a bespoke interior and the option of VW’s excellent dual-clutch Direct Shift Gearbox.

The GTi’s headline figures benefit from the turbocharged direct-injection 2.0-litre’s flat torque curve, with the peak 207lb ft of twist available as low as 1800rpm. Stir the six-speed ’box and the 0-62mph dash can be dispatched in 7.2sec; the DSG version pares this back to just 6.9sec. Maximum speed is 146mph. A 160bhp diesel-powered GTi is rumoured to go on sale later next year.

All GTis will have 17in alloys as standard (18-inchers are an option), red brake callipers, twin exhaust pipes, blue-tinted heat-reflective windows and a roof spoiler. Inside, the interior is probably the most impressive of any hot hatch with bespoke seats and a flat-bottomed suede-trimmed wheel. Both three- and five-door versions will be available.

However, the biggest step towards driving pleasure is found under the skin. Unlike the previous four generations, this GTi is fitted with sophisticated multi-link rear suspension and the chassis has also been extensively tuned on UK roads. The Mk5 chassis is also a massive 80 per cent stiffer than the outgoing Golf’s – an improvement that will deliver much better safety as well as making it much easier for the chassis engineers to fine tune the damper and spring settings.

Although this GTi doesn’t have as much power as a Renault Mégane Renaultsport 225, VW sources promise that there will be a replacement for the six-cylinder Golf R32 range-topper. It will use a direct-injection version of the narrow-angle V6 driving all four wheels through an updated and quicker-acting 4Motion four-wheel-drive system.

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