The Golf 8 GTI packs the sort of punch the world has come to expect from a polished hot hatch.
Think of it as a sports car for people who don’t want to be seen in a sports car.
The GTI is the crowning glory of the new Golf range (until the super-fast R version is released).
But the whole range is fantastic. The entry-level TSI, priced at $37,990, is a sure-fire winner, and the GTI that I tested for a week is better again.
All Golfs feature impressive safety and driver-assistance features such as autonomous emergency braking, pedestrian/cyclist awareness, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assistant and more.
The Golf 8’s interior has been updated and refined to the edge of minimalism. Almost everything is now driven by the touchscreen or steering-wheel buttons. Thankfully, haptic touch sliders still work the heater and volume, but a few more buttons might be nice.
The interior is slick and feels like a much more expensive car. This is all well and good, but we may be coming to the end of the Golf line. Volkswagen is releasing its electric ID3 and ID4 in New Zealand soon, and I’d expect these will eventually replace the Golf. VW has just taken delivery of the first ID3 (a UK variant) for testing, in part because they’re already being parallel-imported and the local VW people need to know how to answer a few questions.
But on to the GTI.
The interior is the same competent cockpit as all Golf 8s. The magic is all under the hood.
The GTI is genuinely fun and is powerful enough to get you out of any situation. I highly recommend overtaking in it.
It is a solid and competent drive, rather than setting the road on fire like something sporty from its Audi stablemate.
Both the baseline model (TSI) and the $47,990 TSI R-Line have a 1.4-litre turbo-charged engine generating 110kW of power and 250Nm of torque. They need 5.8 litres of fossil fuel to travel 100km, which is pretty good.
The R-Line gains a few extras but maybe not enough to justify the $10k price increase. The key extras are heads-up display and 18-inch alloy wheels.
The GTI is on the yard at $61,490 and adds dynamic chassis control and electromechanical diff lock. More importantly, it has a two-litre engine producing 180kW of power and 370Nm of torque. That is a big boost over the entry-level models and you can really feel it in the drive.
The Golf 7 version was $5k cheaper but that was pre-pandemic, and supply issues seem to be generally pushing prices up everywhere.
The limited-release GTI TCR last year was a wonderful beast of a thing, packing 213kW of power and 350Nm of torque for $65,990. That starts to look like a bargain.
The GTI has a plethora of settings across its drive modes. It was in Sport mode when I picked it up and that worked very well, so it was in Sport mode when I dropped it back several hundred kilometres later.
Cornering is sharp, thanks to VW’s front differential lock. The GTI reads the road ahead to counteract understeer. Likewise, the damping control can be adjusted through the infotainment system to give you a sporty or smooth ride.
So, in a wonderfully German way, the GTI is a hot hatch that warms, rather than burns. And however you drive it, it’s a lot of fun.