VW has found a close to ideal balance between the Golf GTI’s ride and handling in all normal situations, although the test car came with optional Adaptive Chassis Control which, gallingly, is standard on the cheaper Scirocco. Unlike some others systems where the differences are either too small to spot or so big that either the ride or handling becomes unacceptable, the Golf just feels pleasantly taut in Sport mode and commensurately relaxed in Comfort.
The trick differential works very well too, giving the GTI an unlikely degree of traction even at the exit of wet roundabouts, without causing more than a vestigial degree of torque steer.
Grip levels are predictably excellent, as is the car’s composure as it flows from apex to apex. The car may be 23mm wider than the old Golf but its steadfast refusal ever to become ungainly even with the electronics disabled means that, at public road speeds, you never find yourself using a millimetre more room than you anticipated.
But again, having got the fundamentals spot on, Volkswagen has not managed to sufficiently finesse the fine nuances past the point where a car progresses from being merely fun to drive and steps into the rarefied world of the truly outstanding driving machine.
The steering has a pleasing weight to it, but a shade more feel would be welcome (and may even be available on the standard 17in wheel rims). And while understeer is very well contained, the Golf chassis is not as reactive to changes in throttle opening as we’d like, or indeed as reactive as its predecessor was. The sensation of a car grown up too far for its own good is inescapable.
Not that this will bother you as you glide along the motorway and savour the suspension’s first-class ability both to sponge away bumps yet maintain iron control over the Golf’s body movements. Around town, too, as long as you accept the inevitable residual firmness of its sporting suspension settings, the GTI’s ride is beyond serious reproach.
As you would expect, the Golf GTI cabriolet suffers slightly in the handling stakes due to its lower rigidity. There is some scuttle shake with the roof lowered and there is occasional kickback through the steering, but the cabriolet retains a good deal of the hatchback's ability.