Following my recent accident, the insurance company promised they’d be sending me a hire car, they also said it’d be ‘like-for-like’, still when your car is smashed up just having wheels is a good start, but still half expected something us petrolheads would at best refer to as a ‘shitbox’. So it was a nice surprise when the rental company rang the next day to say we’re delivery a Golf, a GTi no less. As an ex mk2 Golf GTi owner, and the mk6 reputed to be a return to form from VW & not just marketing BS, I was half looking forward to seeing what this was like.
Design wise I’m really liking the current small VW line up, especially the Scirocco, and the Golf feature some really nice design touches, like the VW emblems on the headlight reflectors…
and the rears are nicely LED without being too over the top LED bling
Though there’s some bits I don’t like, the aux in socket is a bit, well I’m sorry VW, but it’s very £0.05p Maplins afterthought…
Inside there are hark backs to the original mk1 Golf GTi with the tartan interior, it’s a nice place to be, deep hugging seats, a very nice chunky leather steering wheel , the detailing continuing to the red stitching on the wheel & seats. If you keep the standard 6 speed box you get the good old Golf ball inspired gear knob too. There’s an air of quality to the interior, it feels solid, the leather on the wheel feels quality, and has a very nice chunky feel, the plastic around the radio is a bit shiny for my liking, but it’s honest plastic being plastic. The door cappings/dashboard inserts are shiny striped plastic, which looks quite nice, definitely preferable to plastic attempting to be shiny aluminium, wood or shiny carbon fibre. All the buttons click with the reassuring VW click, and is all pretty logically laid out.
Mind you, it bloody well should have an air of quality to it, as tested it rings in at £27,400, yet still lacks DAB or BT handsfree which with the impending doom of FM, and handsfree being a must have in my book, but it’ll cost you another £650 to add both! One option I was wishing had been specced early on with the car was the adaptive suspension, it was very fidgety on any ridges in the road, and that’s on the standard 17s, never mind the much nicer looking 18s (another must have), not a good combination with my neck.
After not much of a drive in it I was rather wishing they hadn’t specced the DSG box either, whilst not doubt it makes the Golf easy to just jump in and drive, it robs it of involvement, oh it does all the nice stuff like blipping the throttle for downshifts, but there’s non of the satisfaction of getting it right yourself, and flip it over in to manual (only possibly from drive and not from sport…) and it’ll still ignore you sometimes, was in one situation in forth, coming up behind a cyclist, just opened the throttle a little so as to pass, and the car decides oh you’d really want second, so next moment you’re high revving as passing the cyclist and now looking/sounding like a bit of a knob, cue rant at gearbox in manual ignoring you… It also seems to do a bit of hunting, and can be jumpy from starts, especially if you’ve slipped an extra notch back in to sport mode. I really expected the DSG to be better than that, there’s also paddles on the back of the steering wheel but personally preferred to use the Tiptronic gear lever to them.
Unfortunately things don’t improve with the engine, there’s no question that it’s quick, the turbo charged 2.0 4 pot kicks out 207bhp, and combined with the DSG box a shove of the throttle will soon see the speedo needle whizzing to the legal limit, however whereas in the ST this fun accompanied by the glorious 5 pot burble, this had all the aural appeal of my washing machine. Sure even my old 8v sounded nicer. With that & the DSG just slushing up perfect smooth changes, it complete robs it of any soul. Just sit it on some road, point the wheel in the right direction and push the throttle, and it deals with it, it’s even less fun than driving on the Playstation. Stick it on some old mk2 GTi hunting grounds and even in my crippled state, you could tell it was too fast for the old back lanes and twisty B roads the Golf used to excel in, and the chassis can easily deal with the speeds you can corner those at, go in too fast and the brakes are superb too, very sharp. On some more open A roads you could feel it was capable, but felt like to enjoy the car you’ve really got to push it beyond any posted speed limits, or what my neck can take currently.
So a bit flawed? I’d love to revisit this car in a few months when I’m feeling better, and also with a manual box. I’d also love to test the Volvo C30 @majorgav @ petrolblog is currently testing (if VW/Volvo are listening), you get the 5 pot turbo from the ST, I specced up a 3 door GTi with my preferred options and came in at over £28k, and I could get a better specced Volvo C30 for under £27k, the Golf with some of the features of the Volvo would be over £30k… I’m also probably being harsh trying to compare it too much to my old mk2 which I loved, and the Golf now has to compete with the new breed of uber BHP hot hatches. The Golf GTi is certainly a comfortable, quick, and very practical car, and finished to much higher standards than the Focus ST was (but so it bloody well should be for the extra money), and seemed less flawed handling wise too, so it’s the place you’d want to be to go from one end of the country to another, but find a twisty road to play with enroute…the jury is still out on that one.