Small steps ensure that the new Golf GTI doesn’t put a foot wrong
The new Golf 8 GTI isn’t all that different from the outgoing Golf GTI – despite more than five years of development time between the two. On the surface that might sound disappointing, or it could just be the best possible news for GTI aficionados. It would be correct to apply the old adage, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’.
The Golf 7 GTI was annoyingly good. On any Venn Diagram, you could imagine drawing, the Golf GTI would always sit somewhere in the middle of the overlaps – the Reuleaux triangle, to give it its proper name. Throw anything at it (school run, or mountain pass) and it always found and delivered something extraordinary. It was a lesson that is understated performance and practicality.
This level of flawlessness seems to have been transferred to the Golf 8 GTI. There are no vices and no silly gimmicks like drift mode or rear-wheel steering. However, in some markets, you might find a manual gearbox on the list of options. Volkswagen knows that these features make a car too niche, and what VW wants is to create perfect all-rounder…again.
Like its forebear, the new GTI is based on the same MQB platform with the same 2.0-liter turbocharged engine sending a modest 241bhp to the front wheels. Styling upgrades are fairly neutral and reined in; it’s been given a wider, toothier face, LED strip lighting and new alloys. Most of the visual upgrades actually occur inside.
Besides a 0-60mph time of 6.3 seconds, the latest Golf GTI has been set up to provide a crisper cornering experience. At the nucleus of revised spring rates (and optional adaptive dampers) is the Vehicle Dynamics Manager, VDM. Rather than these systems operating independently, VDM collects data from throttle position, steering angle, dampers and differential and responds in a holistic manner. Paradoxically, all this technology makes the driving experience feel simpler and more cohesive.
Overall the latest GTI is still a rapid, thrilling drive that’s perfectly suited and proportioned to 99% of roads and still manages to dial up or down the intensity depending on the demands.
The interior has embraced the latest technological advancements but be warned they can be a little unintuitive and juxtapose the car’s old school tartan interior. A pair of touchscreens control literally everything, including the climate control. This is an uncharacteristic mistake because making the small inputs on a screen that isn’t always well lit is extremely distracting business. Some settings are buried even deeper in the menus making them impossible to use without first coming to a complete stop, shielding the screen with one hand and jabbing at it with the other. Of course, all the features are there in this minimalist design but it’s a step backwards in usability.
Volkswagen has played it pretty safe with the latest Golf GTI. Small refinements have been made to ride and handling but these are almost unraveled by an awkward-to-use interior. The Golf 8 GTI could very well be the last petrol-only GTI and with the new all-electric ID range taking center stage, this feels like the end of a chapter. If the swansong is in order, the Golf GTI moniker might go out with a fizzle rather than a bang. Pawan Dhingara