All the iconic Golf qualities, done better than ever

What is it?

This is the new VW Golf 1.4 TSI GT. It’s the small capacity, turbocharged petrol version of arguably Europe’s most iconic car, and this is the first chance we’ve had to sample a petrol-powered VW Golf on UK roads.

In the early days after the new VW Golf’s static launch at the Paris motor show, the car received a bit of a panning — as new Golfs often do — for not being different enough.

However, this time the criticism seems justified, for this sixth version really does change very little. This time, for instance, the Golf’s glasshouse is more or less unchanged, and VW has made few claims about new chassis technology or improved cabin space; both are more or less carried over.

What’s different, says VW, is the quality. Just as the rest of the field reaches Golf finish levels, VW has moved the goalposts once again.

The VW Golf 1.4 TSI GT gets the 158bhp version of the 1.4-litre TSI engine. This is a tiny 16-valve petrol turbo unit with continuously variable inlet valve timing. Its headline feature is a crank-driven supercharger, which is on hand to augment the more usual turbocharger when extra torque is needed.

The engine in the VW Golf 1.4 TSI GT drives through a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, but our test car had the optional seven-speed paddle-shift DSG, with full auto facility, that seems to suit it even better.

What’s it like?

From the first mile you drive, it’s apparent that the VW Golf has taken a long step forward in ride refinement. There’s a smoothness in the way the VW Golf deals with suburban bumps that puts it ahead of the Ford Focus, yet it has most of the Ford’s poise and body control even when used hard. The secondary ride is fully comparable with much more expensive cars, and plainly tops everything else at the money.

Even if your neighbours can’t recognise it as the latest VW Golf, you’ll never be confused when you drive it. The sweetness of the steering and controls, the ride sophistication, the noise suppression and the pervading quality of the Golf are all a couple of classes above the rest.

Chuck in the smoothness and sophistication of the seven-speed twin-clutch gearbox and the zing of the 1.4-litre twin-blown engine (easily mistaken for a meaty 2.0 litre except that it can deliver 40mpg in town) and you have just about the finest car in the class.

Should I buy one?

Yes. The new VW Golf 1.4 TSI GT is just about the safest new car you can buy anywhere in this market, from the residual values point of view, and there’s nothing you’ll enjoy driving more in its class.

Try before you buy, however. VW offers lots of engines; maybe you’ll prefer the prodigious low-end torque of its diesels, for instance. But there’s little doubt that the new VW Golf opens up a margin over the rest of its rivals in the areas that most please owners.

Steve Cropley

Steve Cropley Autocar
Title: Editor-in-chief

Steve Cropley is the oldest of Autocar’s editorial team, or the most experienced if you want to be polite about it. He joined over 30 years ago, and has driven many cars and interviewed many people in half a century in the business. 

Cropley, who regards himself as the magazine’s “long stop”, has seen many changes since Autocar was a print-only affair, but claims that in such a fast moving environment he has little appetite for looking back. 

He has been surprised and delighted by the generous reception afforded the My Week In Cars podcast he makes with long suffering colleague Matt Prior, and calls it the most enjoyable part of his working week.

Join the debate

Add a comment…
brompton 12 January 2009

Re: Volkswagen Golf 1.4 TSI GT

I also responded to an invite and went along to a local dealer for the launch display.

They had a display of well preserved previous models and with some other folks I relived camping trips across France in a 3 door MK1 with 2 kids. Can't believe how small and light the car was and that thin steering wheel etc. Sat in a Mk2 much like my two Jettas and then a Mk3 1.8 more trips and ferrying the children to universities each term We've only just passed a 10 year old Mk4 onto a niece.

Oh yes and the new car looked nice too although the rear seat squabs dont fold away like they used to. I'll need to try the 1.4T and the 140 diesel and the DSG to see which combination suits me best. I am sure that dynamically it will be better than my 2001 A4 but I wont just be able to throw the bike in the back. The Mk 4 could handle 5 dustbins of garden rubbish this is the acid test in real world suburban motoring!

simon_ingram 10 January 2009

Re: Volkswagen Golf 1.4 TSI GT

The typical used Focus is worth less than an equivalent Golf, but on the subject of life costs, check out how much more you will spend on insurance, servicing and parts on a Golf compared to a Focus!

Quattro369 9 January 2009

Re: Volkswagen Golf 1.4 TSI GT

jerry99 wrote:
have to say that it could have been more informative to read a report on the most basic petrol model rather than this high tech show case.

Totally agree.

Can we please have a test of a totally standard 79bhp 1.4 Golf S? No optional extras whatsover. Then we can see if it really is worth the money... (£13.5k)