It would take a blindfold and a set of chain-mail gloves to misidentify the Golf’s interior. It has only been with us since the start of the year, but the switchgear placement, structural solidity and ergonomic precision are not the work of a moment.

They have been over 40 years in the making – and it shows. Turning up the temperature on this elegant workhorse has always been a conservative (and cost-effective) affair. Tartan upholstery – a reoccurring tribute to the Mk1 – is about as overtly racy as the Volkswagen Golf GTI gets.

Nic Cackett

Nic Cackett

Road tester
The Volkswagen Golf's new tartan pattern is called 'Clark'

For most of Volkswagen’s solidly mature, middle-of-the-road buyers, such modesty will not be an issue. There is a worthy set of sports seats beneath the decorative covers; they’re supportive, but not as clingy as those of the Vauxhall Astra VXR.

As well as the essential height adjustment and manually adjustable lumbar support, there is a dash of red embroidery (and a splash of branding) and a modest sprinkling of superior kit to better suit the higher price.

Like the regular Golf, the GTI is well-equipped and being near the top end in terms of pricepoint and performance for this model means its equipment list is fairly hefty. Key features include LED headlights, foglights and rear lights, GTI-tuned sports suspension, an aggressive bodykit, parking sensors, adaptive cruise control and a twin stainless steel exhaust system on the outside. Inside you will heated front seats, ambient interior lighting, dual-zone climate control, Volkswagen's 12.3in digital instument binnacle and 8.0in touchscreen Discover Navigation infotainment system complete with sat nav, Bluetooth and USB connectivity, DAB radio, smartphone integration and subscription to VW's online services.

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Opting for the Golf GTI Performance not only gets you an extra 15bhp but a mechanical slip differential and larger brake discs.

The driver is placed in much the same position as in the standard car, which is fine because there’s already plenty of purpose in VW’s default arrangement. Visibility is good, as is the sense of control that comes from being at just the right kind of height relative to an ultra-coherent dashboard.

There’s room in the back to seat adults comfortably, a bigger boot than most rivals manage and all the practicality that comes with a flat-floored, 1270-litre load space. 

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