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PORT ELIZABETH – South Africans love the Volkswagen Golf GTI. Up to 55% of Golf sales locally are GTI models, which VW SA says is the highest percentage globally. In Germany, for example, GTI sales account for between 8 and 10% of range sales.
It was clear at the local launch that Volkswagen wanted to put emphasis on its new 1,0-litre derivative (which CAR will be testing in due course), but during the launch we spent more than 500 km in the new GTI, heading from the coast into the beautiful Karoo.
So, what’s new?
Admittedly, this is essentially the Golf 7,5, a facelift of the outgoing Golf 7, which means the exterior changes are subtle. Highlights include new front LED headlamps, a new front bumper and fresh rear LED taillamps. All the launch cars were also equipped with the larger (and optional at R8 100) 19-inch Santiago alloy wheels.
The interior offers the same perceived quality we have come to expect of the Golf, in particular the GTI. All test units came fitted with the optional (R20 200) Discover Pro infotainment system, which includes a 9,2-inch screen, gesture control and “soft” buttons.
Apart from the phone connectivity, satellite navigation and a host of other features, the highlight – in terms of driving – is the Adaptive Chassis Control. As before, this allows you to select between several settings for the exhaust note, throttle and engine calibration, steering and suspension, to name a few.
Behind the wheel
On the open road leading from PE to Graaff-Reinet, the Golf GTI was in its element. A large section of this road is extremely bumpy, but the Golf really took it in its stride. Select the standard 18-inch wheels and it will no doubt offer an even better ride.
What VW has done with the 2,0-litre, turbocharged engine is basically standardised the previously offered Performance Pack. The result is 169 kW between 4 700 and 6 200 r/min and 350 N.m between 1 500 and 4 600 r/min.
At CAR we know that VW is certainly capable of building a hardcore hatchback (read our GTI Clubsport S road test in our upcoming June issue), but the updated Golf GTI follows the same path set by the Golf 5 GTI. In short, it’s an all-round usable hot hatch.
The engine revs cleanly to its 6 500 r/min redline, while partial throttle applications are met with a surge of torque. Gear-changes are quick and efficient thanks to the six-speed DSG transmission (a manual gearbox is no longer offered locally), while there’s just as much fun to be had by selecting the manual option and swapping cogs yourself via the steering-mounted paddles. Early upshifts before the redline are just as exciting, as you then remain bang in the middle of the maximum torque range.
Even cruising at high speeds, the Golf is unfazed, feeling stable on the road, with the cabin faultlessly quiet.
The GTI now offers more technology than ever before. This includes Adaptive Cruise Control, a Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Traffic Alert and even a rear view camera system with Trailer Assist, for those who wish to throw a tow hook onto their hot hatch.
Ultimately, the Golf GTI is still the best everyday useable hot hatch out there. It delivers enough performance for both the general driver and enthusiasts, while also doubling as a car as comfortable and easy to drive as any of the other Golfs in the range.
*The Golf GTD and Golf R will be launched in July.
Fast factsModel: Volkswagen Golf GTI DSG
Price: R545 800
Engine: 2,0-litre, four-cylinder, turbopetrol
Power: 169 kW between 4 700 - 6 200 r/min
Torque: 350 N.m between 1 500 - 4 600 r/min
0-100 km/h: 6,4 seconds
Top Speed: 248 km/h
Fuel Consumption: 6,4 L/100 km
CO2: 149 g/km
Transmission: 6-speed dual-clutch automatic
Maintenance Plan: 5-years/90 000 service plan
*All claimed figures