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MALLORCA, Spain – It has 30 N.m more torque, is only a second slower to 100 km/h and will cost nearly R40 000 less at launch in July, but does the latest addition to the South African Golf line-up, the GTD, match the pricier and punchier GTI for driving thrills? We’ve come to Mallorca to drive them back to back on nearly deserted roads to find out.
Replacing the slow-selling 2,0 TDI from the pre-facelift Golf range, the GTD, which isn’t all that new considering the first version was launched back in 1982, ushers in a more powerful engine than that car (130 kW – detuned by 5 kW versus Euro versions – and 380 N.m offered between 1 750 and 3 250 r/min) and, of course, the round of changes effected to the Golf 7. Remarkably, this is the first time Volkswagen has given a Golf range a major midlife revision.
So, what’s new?
Volkswagen lists 10 major new features on its global bestseller, some of which won’t find their way to SA. Most notable are the new Discover Pro infotainment system; gesture control; semi-autonomous driving and related safety features, including Front Assist with Traffic Jam Assist, City Braking and Trailer Assist; a new 1,5 TSI engine (which isn’t destined for our market – we’ll retain the current 92 kW 1,4 TSI); upped power to 169 kW on the standard GTI – the Performance Pack GTI will follow in 2018; and redesigned bumpers front and rear, LED rear lamps across the range and xenons ditched in favour of LEDs at the front.
At an estimated R507 000, the GTD, which is mated solely with a seven-speed dual-clutch ‘box, will boast the new headlamps as standard, as well as 17-inch Curitiba alloys, sport suspension, climate control and heavily bolstered seats.
Design-wise, you’ll need to be a Golf anorak to spot the changes, but they encompass extended chrome striping front and rear, new alloy wheel designs and a new colour called Turmeric Yellow that looks better than it sounds.
The changes inside are equally slight. Discover Pro spans 9,2 inches and does away with the hard buttons sited either side of the smaller screens. That’s both good and bad, of course: the screen visually updates the already class-leading cabin to a fine degree, but requires the driver’s eyes to be diverted from the road for too long (and the new gesture control has very limited functionality).
New to the Golf is optional Active Info Display – a digital instrument pack displayed on a 12,3-inch screen – as well as some revised trim items.
To the GTD
It looks almost identical to the GTI, only really lacking the red striping in the grille and the hot hatch’s new-design wheels. Otherwise, it’s near impossible to tell them apart. Except when you start the GTD, of course. As refined as VW’s venerable 2,0-litre turbodiesel is, it can’t hope to match the smooth nature of the 169 kW petrol in the GTI.
But buyers of GTDs would expect that. What might come as a surprise, however, is how close the diesel feels to the hot hatch in terms of driving dynamics. There’s the same keen turn-in, impressive lack of body lean, consistent weighting to all the controls and lack of turbo lag.
Mated with the seven-speed DSG transmission, the GTD punches to 100 km/h in 7,4 seconds – it feels even stronger than that – but consumes a claimed 4,9 L/100 km (we averaged nearer to six).
A no-brainer, then?
Perhaps. It’s a pity VWSA has decided to exclude the new 110 kW/250 N.m 1,5-litre from the local line-up, as I suspect that would be the ideal vehicle if you’re in the market for a warm-ish hatch with all the refinement, comfort and solidity so integral to the appeal of the Golf 7. However, in the GTD, Volkswagen’s engineers have managed to capture some of the spirit of the GTI in a package that’s less expensive, easier on the wallet in day-to-day use and devoid of the baggage that comes with the hot hatch.
Considering 60% of South African Golf sales are GTIs and Rs, I suspect the GTD will do very well once it lands here in July.
Fast factsModel: Volkswagen Golf GTD
Price: R507 000 est
Engine: 2,0-litre, 4-cyl, turbodiesel
Power: 130 kW @ 3 500-4 000 r/min
Torque: 380 N.m @ 1 750-3 250 r/min
0-100 km/h: 7,4 seconds
Top Speed: 230 km/h
Fuel Consumption: 4,9 L/100 km
CO2: 129 g/km
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch
Maintenance Plan: 5-year/90 000 km service plan