The long doors of the three-door body shell are heavy but open wide to reveal a cabin that perfectly captures the right mood for a GTI. There’s nothing ostentatious here but you’ll find enough touches, from the sawn-off wheel with its red stitching past the aluminium-effect pedals to the nostalgic tartan seat upholstery, to leave you in no doubt that this is no normal Volkswagen Golf.
What has rightly been left untouched are the Golf’s inherent qualities, such as its fine driving position, first-class ergonomics and the clarity of its instrument layout. We’d prefer a slightly thinner, less padded wheel and a touch more reach adjustment for taller drivers, but these are little more than niggles.
Look around the cabin and you’ll find that the plastics become harder and less textured the further below the eyeline you get, but that is standard procedure among cars such as this. More important are the flawlessly even and tight shutlines, the sense of solidity that’s inherent in every handle and lever, and the quality and finish of all the controls save, perhaps, the column stalks.
Less satisfactory is the amount of room in the back. Access to the rear cabin is reasonable as the front seats slide a long way forward, but knee room is notably limited once you’re in there – almost certainly due to the thickness of those otherwise excellent, heavily bolstered GTI-grade front chairs.
Head and elbow room are generous by class standards, but anyone likely to benefit from this will equally likely be penalised by the restricted leg room in the back. At least the boot, once you’ve negotiated its highish load lip, is deep, wide and sensibly proportioned, as you’d expect from a family hatch.
Noise levels in the cabin are particularly low and seem more closely related to a luxurious executive than a sporting hatch. As a result, the GTI should prove to be a comfortable, refined and relaxed companion.