What is it?
This is the new VW Golf GTI, the Mk6, although it’s not quite brand new. Beneath the new VW Golf GTI’s freshened body lurks an upgraded version of its predecessor’s underpinnings and floorpan. Given the praise heaped on that car, it’s a great starting point. Still, there is still plenty that is new about Wolfsburg’s latest hot hatch.
The styling changes successfully set the latest VW Golf GTI apart from the standard Golf. At the front, the angular headlamps with unique inner graphics are neatly offset by a shiny black honeycomb grille and a front bumper with an integrated splitter.
Further back, black extensions are added to the side sills, a spoiler is mounted above the rear window and a deeper rear bumper houses chromed tail pipes.
Step inside the VW Golf GTI and you find an upgraded version of the standard Golf’s excellent cabin. The heavily cushioned seats support and secure your body well, and offer a broad range of manual adjustment. They are, however, mounted higher than those in the VW Scirocco, so you get a slightly less sporty driving position.
It might appear the same on paper (right on down to its bore and stroke) but the VW Golf GTI’s turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine is, in fact, different to that found in its predecessor. Part of Volkswagen’s new EA888 engine family, it produces 207bhp, an increase of 10bhp over the old Golf GTi and generated 200rpm further round the dial, at 5300rpm. Torque remains the same as before, peaking at 206lb ft from just 1700rpm.
What’s it like?
The first thing that hits you is just how flexible this latest Golf GTi engine is; it’s as happy on the autoroute behind Nice as it is screaming up the snaking roads leading into the surrounding mountains.
You can feel the shove begin to swell from 1500rpm, and it remains wonderfully consistent. It is only when you approach the abrupt 7000rpm cut-out that it begins to run out of breath. And boy, does it sound good; there is a delicious rift of induction blare and a hearty rumble through the exhaust.
The new VW Golf GTi’s 0-62mph time remains at 6.9sec in manual guise. Top speed has increased by 3mph to 149mph. Still, Volkswagen’s data is notoriously conservative, so don’t be surprised to see independent tests improving on those figures. And there’s no doubting the efficiency of the new engine; its CO2 emissions of 170g/km are 54g/km less than a Focus ST’s.
A six-speed manual gearbox comes as standard, while VW’s six-speed DSG double-clutch unit is an option. Our test car was a manual; the shift action is light and the travel is long, meaning it can sometimes snag when you hurry the lever across the gates. However, it is imbued with an excellent spread of ratios.
In suspension terms, the new Golf GTi follows the lead of lesser Golf models, using MacPherson struts up front and a compact four-arm multi-link rear. It’s little changed over the old model. But while the hardware is familiar, it has all been tuned to provide the sort of sharpness and response that hot hatch customers demand. Firmer spring and damper rates lower the body by 22mm (front) and 15mm (rear) compared with other Mk6 Golfs. Beefed-up anti-roll bars are also fitted for added body control.