THE Volkswagen Golf holds a special place in the hearts of a huge cross-section of the Irish driving public.
As a car for a young person, it was always affordable, attractive, reliable, inexpensive to own and your mates could fit comfortably in the back.
Not every Golf has stood the test of time, but of one thing we can be certain – the GTI version has always been, and will always be, the standard against which all other “hot-hatches” will be measured – and the current mark is sure to become a sought-after vintage.
What a car! And what a contrast – having spent a week test driving the enormous and tremendously fun Volkswagen Amarok, I swapped it for the Golf GTI. I went from unapologetic size and dominance to unrestrained and truly eye-watering horse power.
The VW team behind this new GTI have achieved what generations of motoring engineers have failed to do – they have made a car that does it all in terms of performance and comfort.
It’s all very well having a big pile of horses ready to unleash on an unsuspecting country road, but a car needs to behave itself on the morning commute too. And this is what we have here.
The GTI could not be better behaved in the city. It sounds great, with an exhaust note that is just on the right side of menacing; it’s got grunt without being a noisy beast when running about town.
The controls feel more family crossover than crazy turbo hatch. Steering is smooth, easy and responsive, the steering wheel is chunky and wrapped in leather.
The pedals all offer just the right kind of resistance for easy driving, unlike some of the unbearably heavy clutches you so often find in cars of this kind.
As mentioned, I took to the GTI following a week driving a truck, so I was understandably cautious with the throttle when first getting behind the wheel. I admit that I was a little crestfallen initially – where was the uncaged animal that I was expecting? The madness and the uncontrollable torque?
I needn’t have worried – it’s all there, all 220 horsepower of it (yes, 220!)
When the conditions are safe, legal and appropriate, the GTI can give Jekyll and Hyde a run for their money and change from mild-mannered city car to go-nuts power player. But the incredible hold is what really stays with you, long after the car has returned to the ordinary, everyday streets of Dublin.
If this car ate breakfast, then sharp corners would be top of the menu; there wasn’t a bend or a turn that it didn’t take without so much as a slip, slide or a skid. The grip and control under pressure is pure joy.
We can’t discuss the GTI without highlighting what sets it apart, visually, from the other Golfs in the range. Again, we are not left disappointed.
As standard, the GTI has its own style LED front fogs and deep red tail-light clusters, lower body setting (by about 15mm), electric auto-folding mirrors, GTI-spec sports seats, start/stop system, generative braking among other features.
This spec will come in at a price of €33,820 with the 2.0TSI 220hp engine.
The test model came with very tasty 18″ alloys, bi-xenon headlights with daytime running lights, fabric/alcantara top sports seats, parking distance control and rear tinted windows. The total price on this very special version of the GTI is a healthy €38,800.
So, a car as special as this is never going to come cheap – but for those who will appreciate the car they are driving, they will be happy to hand over their hard-earned cash.