Subtle, isn’t it? The Golf GTI hasn’t endured for more than three decades by offending your mother with its outrageousness. VW says the GTI has a “more impressive stance on the road than ever before”.

We’re unconvinced but are happy not to have it any other way. The GTI remains, as ever, a car whose appearance will lead people to assume only good things about you. 

Matt Prior

Matt Prior

Road test editor
Three-door versions look better than the five-door models

Beneath the skin, it’s a familiar story, too. We wouldn’t call the VW Golf GTI predictable, but you could have guessed at the spec of this GTI two years before its arrival and be pretty close to it.

The multi-link rear and MacPherson strut front suspension leave the GTI riding 15mm lower than a standard Golf. A turbocharged 2.0-litre engine makes 227bhp in standard guise, while the GTI Performance gets 242bhp - the same as the Skoda Octavia vRS 245 - but is far short of the Seat Leon Cupra 300. But it is so far, as is expected.

The 2.0-litre ‘EA888’ engine has been tweaked for this, its third generation. It’s now compliant with Euro-6 emissions regulations, thanks in large part to a redesign of the cylinder head.

Exhaust gases are now cooled within the head before they depart to the turbocharger, and a dual-injection system has been introduced that combines multi-point injection with direct injection. Two-mode lift on the exhaust valves, stop-start, reduced internal friction and intelligent control of the cooling system (which can close off all circulation on warm-up) complete the picture.

One more anomaly: the Golf GTI now comes with a non-linear steering rack. It quickens as you wind on lock to make it just over two turns lock to lock. As standard, GTIs get a six-speed manual gearbox. A seven-speed dual-clutch automatic is optional.

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