This hardly seems fair. A new platform, more power, even more kit, class-leading efficiency and even a limited-slip differential have only landed the Golf GTI in third place – the same position occupied by its predecessor.
But, for all the tangible gains, the Golf remains much the same sort of prospect as the departing Mk6. Its qualities – dependably solid, safe and strong – remain unmatched. It’s a grown-up tearaway – fast and frugal, comfortable and competent, seldom appearing stretched and yet invested with just enough quick-draw character.
The established customer base for the Golf GTI will rejoice at that. However, for the floating voter craving a quick and affordable fix, nothing more invigorating has been added.
Do not think that the new Volkswagen Golf GTI is some kind of thinly disguised road racer that has the ride quality of a skateboard and the handling of a nervy competition car. It isn’t like that at all.
Even in its Performance guise, the Volkswagen is no match for the dynamic finesse of the Renault Mégane 265. It is perfect for every day of the week, but incapable of blowing off the cobwebs come Sunday.
The Ford Focus ST, too, matches the Golf's spread of talent, entertains more and is substantially cheaper.
If Volkswagen made the Golf a bit more visually appealing, and a little more interesting at its limits, then it could give it the additional joie de vivre it needs to be a real thriller. That's where the limited edition Golf GTI Clubsport S came in: it was the Golf that the GTI moniker deserved and how Volkswagen should have made the standard car in the first place.