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Surgical Whip Volkswagen Golf GTI 2.0 TSI (DSG) Review

Text by Clifford Chow, OneShift

The much-loved hot hatch has come across strong against the likes of rally-inspired compact cars, and inspirations of those (grin) and also compact performance coupes, carrying upon its shoulders, legions of fans.

And an improvement it is! Volkswagen's mid-life facelift to the Golf GTi brings a needed refresh to the iconic hatch.

With six generations behind it, the facelifted Mk7, or affectionately known within VW fan circles as the Mk 7.5, adds a few tidy bits of kit upgrade. The much-loved hot hatch has come across strong against the likes of rally-inspired compact cars, and inspirations of those (grin) and also compact performance coupes, carrying upon its shoulders, legions of fans, perhaps some haters alike. But what is there to hate?

 

The refreshed GTI gets a lightly restyled front end. A headlamp re-design disrupts the characteristic red stripe across the bumper, which itself breaks within the lenses, and visually carries the individual lamps. A new front bumper brings more optical girth to the front of the car, and like the previous car, gets fins on it, partially obscuring its front fog lamps.

Apart from a subtly redesigned rear bumper and new neater tail lamps, things are generally the same. You still get a tail pipe on each side of the rear, 18" rims with 255/40 tyres to match.

 

On the Inside

As a first, the GTI also now features their premium Dynaudio Excite Surround sound system.

There is generally a sense of practicality and familiarity, with a car which delivers very good legroom for both front and rear passengers, supportive seats (especially for those in the front). The driver's seat benefits from electric adjusters with memory for three, and that all-important lumbar support.

Interior build quality is brilliant, which is one of the hallmarks of a Golf, but with loads of high quality piano black surfaces going on, you might want to pack a soft cloth somewhere inside the car for an occasional panel wipe-down. But overall, the Golf does deliver well with the goods on the inside, like how you might expect cars one market segment above.

While some, like me might lament the disappearance of analogue dials within the instrument binnacle, the digital Active Info Display (AID), featuring a 12.3 inch colour screen more-than makes up for the lack of the visual mechanical link the dials gave, and they do provide you with crucial info like a large digital reading for your speed, SatNav display or even very clearly what drive mode and gear you're in. Quite similar to how Audi has been doing theirs.

A new Discover Pro infotainment system takes the place of the old unit, and now features gesture control. The GTI gets a 9.2 inch glass screen, and benefits from 5 nifty capacitive touch buttons sited along the left side of the screen. Unlike the one found in say, the BMW 5 Series, the Volkswagen unit only recognises left/right swiping hand gestures, but can still be tied in to quite a number of applications. The new user interface is highly customisable, with users able to arrange their widgets to suit their operating needs. Connectivity through Apple and Android phones are standard, but as a plus, users are able to even able to key in destinations via their mobiles to the infotainment system, via the car's mobile WiFi hotspot. Additionally, all audio and video inputs can also be controlled by mobile device.

As a first, the GTI also now features their premium Dynaudio Excite Surround sound system, with 8 speakers within the car, and a subwoofer neatly slotted into the space saver spare wheel in the boot.

And speaking about the boot, space is respectable with 380 litres and a flat adjustable floor. A low boot lip, together with the boot floor which is not too far away from the lip, helps to make loading and unloading easy. Drop the 40:60 style folding rear seats, and the extended cargo room is good for 1,270 litres.

 

The Drive

I did actually enjoy the drive in Eco mode, almost as much as flicking the hot hatch around some challenging corners.

The proven 2.0 turbocharged engine is a near full carryover from the previous car, but with some minor material changes to handle higher output. Engineers have coaxed out another +10 horses from the straight-four, and it now delivers 230ps. Maximum torque is on tap from between 1,500rpm to 4,600rpm, a generous spread. While there is a slight increase in power, emissions-wise the new car does perform slightly better, with 151 g/km of CO2, versus the previous car's 153 g/km.

The Golf hits 100km/h in 6.4 seconds. With its full 350Nm on tap from 1,500rpm, you are assured a constant push into your seat, as the car works through its proven wet clutch 6-speed DSG transmission, while delivering signature DSG farts with each gear change. We were hoping that VW would have introduced their wet clutch 7-speed into the GTI though. We do love how the car keeps its composure even under hard acceleration, never frightening, but actually very assuring.

Cornering ability is razor-sharp, with very minimal understeer and roll, while steering feel is good from the progressive electric unit. As expected, the suspension is on the firm side, however GTI is still quite easy a car to live with, being able to soak up plenty of what our local roads can throw at it. The front seats are very supportive, and we would dare say with just the right mix of support and comfort.

Driven at a leisurely pace, the 2.0's low-down torque delivery ensures that the car pulls readily, and is willing to upshift early under "Economy" mode, without the engine ever feeling sluggish. The now-familiar coasting function also helps drivers save pennies on fuel cost, and surprisingly, I did actually enjoy the drive in Eco mode, almost as much as flicking the hot hatch around some challenging corners.

New to the Golf, are a set of blind spot sensors, crucial to assisting you with lane changes, by monitoring vehicles behind you from speeds above 30km/h, and offering visual warnings at the respective wing mirrors. Rear Traffic Alert helps in preventing rear-ward T-boning by checking on approaching vehicles as you reverse, by providing an audible warning to the driver upon detecting an approaching vehicle, and is able to apply the brakes automatically, if the driver fails to react.

The Golf also now features semi-automated park assist, making the chore of gauging as you park a little less daunting. We also like that Volkswagen had also made it easier for drivers to park head-in with the system.

 

Our Thoughts

While the GTI might not be a cheap car, and it never was, it is able to deliver driver satisfaction, not only when you're gunning it around the bends, but even when you drive it delicately, or economically, it just delivers so well! With a few improved bits of equipment, and added performance, an already great iconic hatch has definitely set the bar higher.

In my lens, I would dare say that the iconic GTI is one of the very few cars you could simply purchase in full confidence, even without asking for a test drive.

 

In Summary

We Like

Build quality, Performance (Drives so well even in Eco Mode), Styling

We Don't

Screen for sunroof may come loose in years to come 

Verdict

It is difficult to find another car which is able to perform this well, be this sensible, have such a cult following, and not for one moment be pretentious.

 


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