What is it?
Ah, the GTI, past master of hot hatches, a car so good in every respect that it brings motoring journalists to tears of boredom. Every time another manufacturer launches a new hot hatch it is eagerly compared to the Golf as an entire profession prays for a new yardstick by which every car must be compared. Rarely happens.
But now Ford has come along with the new Focus ST, which nudges it for our vote of Best In Class. Luckily, Volkswagen has an answer: the Golf GTI Mk7. We’ve already seen it previewed and it will be ready for launch by the summer this year. Ford’s current leadership of the hot hatch sector may now be on countdown...
All GTIs come with Driver Profile Selection (DPS) which allows you to tweak steering ‘feel', throttle and DSG shift times (if you have it), but you'll need to stump up another £795 for the Adaptive Chassis Control to take charge of the suspension and damping. On choppy rural French black-top, we opted for Sport in everything bar the suspension; Normal mode is firm enough on the 18in wheels, and we strongly suspect that will be the case in the UK. The GTI in Performance trim does 0-62mph in 6.4 seconds and is done at 155mph, which is more than enough pace. It covers ground with less overt drama than a Ford Focus ST, BMW 135i, Renault Megane RS or Vauxhall Astra VXR, and checks its movements over crests and during unexpected direction changes with ease. The brakes are fine, too. Consequently, you find yourself travelling a fair bit faster than you probably realise. Is the GTI now too refined for its own good? Could be. It flatters the normal driver, which is obviously the point, but if you like your hot hatches a bit more edgy and interactive, it's still a bit... aloof.
On the inside
Much positive murmuring always accompanies Golf interiors because they just seem to have that edge over the competition, even as the competition goes out of its way to emulate VW. And, sure enough, the MkVII GTI is no exception, with its bombproof build, wonderfully tactile sport steering wheel, figure-hugging sports seats trimmed as standard in leather for the latest cars, and the subtlest of GTI detailing around that smart, understated cabin.
Available in three- and five-door, this is a spacious, comfortable and practical way to travel, and there’s always that sorely tempting option to do so at warp speed.
The GTI is fast and highly desirable, meaning hefty insurance costs whatever your age. It’s built like a high-performance tank, however, so you feel where your money is going with a car like this. And don’t begrudge it that not-exactly -brilliant 38mpg as you squeeze the throttle into the plush GTI-monikered carpets.
Strong resale values notwithstanding, this is not cheap transport, but it’s no pricier than its inferior rivals in this niche of the C-segment. So don’t shop around. This is where your money needs to be.