The Volkswagen Golf GTI was the original hot hatch and 46 years later, there’s a new one
BY CALLUM HUNTER
A few weeks ago we delved into the latest hero version of the BMW M5, arguably the definitive super-sedan, and now it’s time to scale things down a bit – literally – and look at hot hatches.
The craze of high-performance, practical runabouts can be traced back to 1975 with the introduction of the original Volkswagen Golf GTI, a car that inspired a whole new segment of vehicle that keeps going from strength to strength even today.
At the time of writing, there are currently nine hot hatches on the market retailing for less than $60,000 and there are about to be another three join the party, one of those being the new Mk 8 Golf GTI.
The fact the Golf, let alone the GTI, is about to land in its eighth generation speaks volumes – Volkswagen has a winning recipe.
Traditionally the has GTI has never been the fastest or most powerful offering in the class but it have been right up there for all-round usability and refinement, not to mention its competitive pricetag.
That last point however looks to be wavering a little given the new GTI will check into local showrooms in May priced from $53,100 plus on-road costs – almost $6000 more than the outgoing version.
It’s not like you’re getting any more power for the money either, with the current model’s engine being carried over literally untouched into the new one, meaning power and torque are still rated at 180kW and 370Nm respectively – far from poor, but definitely down on the segment leaders.
According to Volkswagen Group Australia (VGA), the extra six grand is justified by the inclusion of the brand’s new IQ.Drive semi-autonomous driving technology/safety suite – as well as being a new-generation model.
“In standard form the GTI is the most impressively equipped sporting hatchback for any price comparable or approaching it,” VGA said in a statement.
Currently being rolled out across VGA’s portfolio as part of model-year updates, the IQ.Drive suite bundles together semi-autonomous driving aids with the vast majority of the car’s active safety features.
The suite is comprised of travel assist, front assist with pedestrian and cyclist monitoring, adaptive cruise control, lane assist, oncoming vehicle braking when turning, driver fatigue detection, side assist, rear traffic alert, rearview camera, park assist, emergency assist, exit warning system, front and rear paring sensors, manoeuvre braking and tyre pressure monitoring.
For the uninitiated, travel assist is essentially a blend of lane keep assist and active cruise control.
Other standard equipment highlights include a digital instrument cluster, 10-inch ‘Discover Pro’ infotainment system, honeycomb patterned dash and door trim, push button start, LED headlights, sports seats, classic tartan cloth upholstery, black headliner, stainless steel pedals and red stitching.
As usual for a performance model there are bigger wheels, a more aggressive bodykit and style elements and an inevitably stiffer/more capable chassis tune.
But, the whole point of a hot hatch is to mix fun and fast with practical, so here are the headline stats: 0-100km/h is up in 6.3 seconds, adaptive damping is standard, as is a front limited-slip front differential, while drive goes to the front and the only transmission choice is a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.
For those who care, fuel economy is pegged at a reasonable 7.0 litres per 100km on the combined cycle, but 95 RON unleaded is needed at a bare minimum.
If there will be one or two chinks in the new GTI’s armour however, they will be its lack of extra punch as more and more of its rivals sail past the 200kW mark, but more importantly, its price.
Later this year the new Skoda Octavia RS will arrive Down Under priced from $47,790 – $5310 less than the new GTI.
Many of you may be thinking ‘so what?’ – well, you may or may not be surprised to learn the Octavia RS and the Golf GTI ride on the same platform, are powered by the same engine and feature much of the same standard equipment with the only REAL difference being the Skoda’s increased size and the badge.
So while the Golf is marginally faster – 6.3s vs 6.7s to 100km/h – the Skoda is actually offering more car (literally) for less money, especially if you opt for the wagon.
That will matter to some people and not to others, but however you look at it, the new GTI is at the more expensive end of its class while being at the lower end of the power tables.
Regardless however, there has never been a definitively bad GTI – the vast majority have been fantastic to drive, in fact – so we wait with bated breath to get into the new Mk 8 and have a steer… it should be good!