Volkswagen Golf GTI (Mk1) Driving, Engines & Performance | Top Gear
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Saturday 2nd December


What is it like to drive?

Oh God the brakes. I step into the Mk1 after a fair few miles behind the wheel of its spiritual successor, the Up GTI, so I’m surprised when I firmly depress the middle pedal, and so little happens I consider giving the handbrake a judicious yank. But no, these are merely Eighties brakes. Not bad ones (the Fiesta XR2's are worse) but because they’re not power-assisted (among other things), you need Hoy-like thighs to bring the thing to a halt.

The steering too. The weight is surprising at first – the Mk1 feels four-times the weight of the Up when you’re parking – but that’s just the price of progress. The Golf makes up for it by offering actual, legit steering feel – not the artificial kind of ‘feel’ manufacturers spend millions programming in to their EPAS systems – but genuine feel that really tells you where the front wheels are on the spectrum of grip. And thin rubber means there isn’t much of that, so you can have fun at halfway sensible speeds.

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You need to dial in a fair bit of angle before the front wheels bite, and when they do there isn’t much precision there, but the GTI is nonetheless thoroughly deserving of its excellent reputation. Heaps of fun, with a strong, eager engine (we drove the 1.8) and sorted chassis.

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