2017 Volkswagen Golf GTI first drive…


If power is everything, you might look elsewhere. It rises by just 10 horsepower to 227 hp, reducing 0-62 miles per hour by just a tenth of a second. It’s a good thing there’s a Performance Pack version later, which now has 242 hp and the fancy electronic limited slip differential from before.

A facelift version of Europe’s most popular family hatchback, the Volkswagen Golf, has now arrived. It’s the usual stuff: new lights, bumpers, engines and equipment. But there’s also a reworked version of the Golf that we care about most – the GTI. Do the revisions make an already wonderful tailgate even better?

Small optimizations make the best hot-air tailgate on the market in the real world even better.

The same applies to the suspension. Others are stiffer and sharper. The GTI remains dynamically sweet and cultured, with depth and ability through the bucket load. It feels like it can withstand anything even the worst British roads can throw at it in its walk. It filters out the bad, but still lets you feel the good, so you can enjoy yourself.

But it doesn’t matter that the Golf is not the strongest car in its class. Because the way it unleashes its power remains delicious. Effortless, responsive and easy to turn – the GTI’s 2.0-liter turbo engine is a peach that proves to be more than fast enough for brisk off-road driving. It radiates quality, as does the six-speed DSG car with paddle shifting, which you can have alongside a normal six-speed manual transmission.

There is nothing invented about this car. The feedback and coherence is as good as ever in the four decades that a Golf GTI has been around. And all this from an interior that is as high quality, spacious and detailed as we are used to from the original Volkswagen hot hatch.

Our test car had a number of beautiful leather sports seats and was also equipped with the new 9.2-inch Discover Pro infotainment system. Combined with a 12.3-inch digital instrument package, it was an impressive looking setup, though not as intuitive as on an Audi. Sometimes it was a little fiddly, which is something you would not expect from a Golf GTI. This is perhaps an area that we’re not sure if it represents a quantifiable improvement over the past.

It is still the perfect example of a hot hatch – a car that is fast, desirable, affordable and accessible. Volkswagen has been perfecting this formula for four decades, and the latest Golf GTI shows that it knows exactly what it takes to build a pinpoint hot hatch. Thank God this is not a radical revolution. It’s another evolution of something that’s already pretty much to the point. Job done, Volkswagen.

Otherwise, the Golf GTI remains a hot hatch at the top of its game. In this sector there are more exciting machines, cars with more power, more limits, more excitement at the back of your neck. But none of them manages to combine the perfect overall balance of the Golf in terms of handling, handling, sophistication and all-round completeness.

Now on sale

Location Mallorca, Spain

Price £29,280

Power 227 HP at 4700-6200 rpm

4-cylinder in-line engine, 1984ccm, supercharged petrol

Gearbox 6-spd DSG

empty weight 1386kg

Torque 258 lb ft at 1500-4600 rpm.


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