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Hot Hatch

Here's your first look at the new Mk8.5 Volkswagen Golf GTI

… and we can confirm Volkswagen is bringing back proper steering wheel buttons. Hurrah!

Published: 09 Jan 2024

The Volkswagen Golf turns 50 this year, and the celebrations/mid-life crisis (delete as appropriate) will kick off later this month with a facelift for the much-maligned Mk8.

And from first glance at this camouflaged Mk8.5 GTI, it would seem as though Volkswagen has actually listened to some of the criticism. Just take a peek at the interior. Yep, those are actual, physical buttons on the steering wheel rather than those shoddy haptic touch-sensitive pads that were first offered on the Mk8.

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“They’re dreadful,” we said of the wheel-mounted controls in our original review of the pre-facelift GTI. “Setting the cruise control or cycling though radio stations is now a right old chore. Please VW, bin this Apple-wannabe nonsense and put some proper buttons back in the GTI.”

So, this is good news. As is the inclusion of VW’s updated infotainment system, which features a massive screen plonked in the middle of the dash, but crucially adds illuminated sliders so that you’re actually able to change the volume or temperature at night. Phew.

And there are updates to the exterior too by the looks of things. We spy a slightly redesigned front end with a sharper bumper, and is that a full-width light bar hiding under the camo? Not sure, but there are certainly new rear lights, possibly a more pronounced rear diffuser and what looks like the Akrapovic exhaust system from the GTI Clubsport 45.

There’s no technical detail from VW as of yet, but obviously the 2.0-litre turbocharged four-pot will remain. All signs do point to the manual gearbox option being dropped though, which would be a crying shame for the hot hatch…

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