Quality, all-round professionalism, ownership experience
Not as exciting to drive as some rivals
What is it?
The quintessential hot hatch. Rarely the most exciting, most engaging or best-handling car in its class, but usually the most sophisticated and desirable, the Golf GTI has been around in some form or another since the mid-Seventies, when it was dreamt up by a team of just six blokes working after-hours. It was an instant hit - VW planned to build 5,000 of them, but ended up selling six times that in the space of just one year.
Now 45 years and more than two million GTIs later, the world is gearing up for the launch of the eighth-generation Golf, with its mild-hybrid powertrains and touchscreen-heavy interior. You can read our full review by clicking on these words. There will be a new, Mk8 Golf GTI, of course, based on the same platform and using the same engine, but the Mk7 GTI isn’t quite dead yet. You can still buy (and indeed spec) one. And there are still many, many reasons why that’s exactly what you should do.
Released in 2014 then updated in 2017, the Mk7 GTI followed the rather good Mk6 and incredibly good Mk5 (the less said about the Golf Mk3 and Mk4 the better…). It’s based on the same ‘MQB’ platform as various Skodas, Seats and Audis and, yes, the new Golf.
Back when it was new you had a choice of GTIs - there was the standard car, then there was the ‘Performance Pack’, which added power and a trick diff’. Today the Performance Pack is the base car, the car reviewed here, but you can upgrade to the marginally more hardcore TCR (of which you can read a full review right here) if you have the means. The manual gearbox died when WLTP emissions rules kicked in, so now all GTIs are DSG only. The three-door is dead too, but that’s ok, as the five-door is the one you wanted anyway.
Our choice from the range
What's the verdict?
Even though it's effectively an outgoing model, there's still a lot to like about the Mk7 Golf GTI. Yes rivals are broadly cheaper, more powerful and more fun to drive, but that's business as usual. None can match the GTI for desirability and quality - it's a hugely classy, class-less object that is hard to beat as a day-to-day car. If you're not bothered about being seen in last year's model, look out for deals on these things as production tails off...