James Disdale
27 September 2021

Objectively speaking and from a pure performance point of view, this eighth-generation GTI is a better car than its predecessor. It’s as fast in a straight line, quicker through the corners, packed with more state-of-the-art equipment and, in terms of what you get for your cash, better value. What it isn’t, however, is a better GTI.

In some respects, it’s hard to argue with Volkswagen’s decision to give its pioneering pocket rocket a harder edge, especially given that the competition has taken a similarly driver-centric approach. The problem is, the change in attitude doesn’t come with enough driver rewards to offset the loss of everyday habitability. Moreover, if there are buyers who really do want a GTI with an edge, there’s at least two Clubsport-flavoured versions of this car, not to mention the R.

Make no mistake, the GTI is still a desirable car and we’d be exaggerating if we were to suggest it’s unbearably uncomfortable for daily duties (it’s still more of an all-rounder than the competition), but its not nearly as much of an automotive chameleon as its predecessors, and as a result it has lost some of the grown-up appeal that made it such a compelling proposition for so many. A good GTI then, but not one of the greats.