New VW Golf GTI first drive

Golf GTIThe all new seventh generation Volkswagen Golf range was introduced to the UK in January this year and now four more additions to the line up are available.

These are the halo model GTI priced from £25,845, the diesel equivalent GTD costing from £25,285, the fuel and CO2 frugal diesel Bluemotion priced from £20,335, all available with three and five door hatchback body options, and the cavernous five door petrol and diesel Estates from £17,915.

Although Volkswagen are happy to publicise their ever-increasing sales figures, they have gone shy in the last year or so about predicting sales, such is the competitive state of the new car market. 

Suffice to say the Golf is the mainstay of the VW range and last year nearly 64,000 of them were sold making it the UK’s fifth best selling model range.   The Hatchbacks accounted for the vast majority of annual sales with around 54,000 units; Estates were 3,500, Golf Plus 1,800 and 4,500 Cabriolets. So far this year with the new Golf models taking their place in showrooms over 40,000 have already been sold, maintaining its fifth position in the UK sales top ten chart headed by the Ford Fiesta then the Ford Focus followed by Vauxhall’s Corsa and Astra ranges.

Golf GTI. What figures VW did reveal included the new 2.0-litre, 220PS TSI, GTI sees 90% of its 1,500 annual demand in the UK being for the 5-door model priced at £26,500 with the three door at £25,845.  The 6-speed DSG auto option will add Golf GTI£1,415 to those prices. Approximately 10% of GTI sales go to fleet/business buyers.  Top speed is 152mph, 0-62mph takes 6.5 seconds, manual gearbox five door model returns 44.1mpg for the Combined Cycle (32.1mpg on test), CO2 is 139g/km so VED road tax £125 a year and BIK company car tax 19%. The Insurance rating is 29E.

For the first time the GTI is available with a £980 Performance Pack option which pushes the power up to 230PS but also includes uprated brakes and a multi-plate limited-slip differential which allows faster and more controlled cornering speeds.  Top speed goes up to 155mph, 0-62mph is 6.4 seconds, it returns the same 44.1mpg (28.7mpg on test)  and CO2 emissions are the same as the ‘standard’ 5-Door GTI so VED/BIK taxes are the same as well. So far 20% of GTI customers have ordered this option.

Golf GTD. The 2.0-litre, 184PS TDI GTD also sees 90% of its 2,500 to 3,500 annual UK sales being the five door version with 60% of all sales going to fleet and business users. The Golf GTD prices start at £25,285 but the main selling five door version with the 6-speed manual gearbox costs £25,940.   A 6-speed DSG auto gearbox is available for an extra £1,415.  With its 184PS TDI turbodiesel engine and 380Nm of torque from 1,750 top speed is a healthy 143mph but the zero to 62mph time is 7.5 seconds.  You can see why company car drivers, given the chance to have one, go for the Golf GTD.  Officially this version will return 67.3mpg in the Combined Cycle; my swift but short test drive only returned 40.2mpg which was disappointing, the only disappointing thing about the car apart from the price.   With CO2 emissions of109g/km the VED road tax is £0 First Year rate then £20 for year two onwards and the smile will return to the faces of company car drivers because BIK company car tax is just 16%. No Performance Pack option is offered with the GTD. 

Golf BlueMotion. The Golf Bluemotion three/five door Hatchbacks  priced from £20,335 have a 1.6-litre, 110PS TDI turbodiesel engine with CO2 emissions of just 85g/km  and an official Combined Cycle fuel consumption of 88.3mpg.  This means VED road tax is zero cost and company car drivers will pay just 13% in Benefit-in-Kind tax.  VW expect to sell around 4,000 of these models in the UK in a full year.   In real-life motoring conditions my short-ish test drive returned 61.8mpg driven in a legal and realistic manner.  The acceleration was no ball of fire though but the ride was comfortable and the handling precise as we have come to expect from the latest Golf.  The Golf Estate also receives Bluemotion technology models late this year.

Golf Estate. The new Golf five door Estate is available with 1.2-litre   85 and 105PS and 1.4-litre 122 and 140PS TSI petrol units plus 1.6-litre 90 and 105PS and 2.0-litre 150PS TDI turbodiesel engines.  Depending on the engine chosen there are S, SE and GT levels of specification.  VW expect to sell around 3,500 of these models in the UK annually with 66% going to fleet and business users. The single best selling version is expected to be the 1.6-litre 105PS TDI SE, manual priced £21,475.  This has CO2 emissions of 102g/km so VED £0 First Year rate then £20 per annum for the second year onwards. BIK company car tax is rated at 15%.  The Combined Cycle fuel consumption is 72.5mpg but on my Cotswold jaunt using A/B roads the figure was 45.2mpg.  The most impressive figure is of load capacity. With all the seats in use the load space is 605-litres, 100-litres more than the previous model.  With the rear seats folded there is a huge 1,620-litres of cargo space, 125-litres more than the Mark VI version. Overall the carrying space is this Golf Estate’s most impressive feature, along with the usual new Golf’s ride comfort and agility. The least impressive feature is its price. The VW Group’s Skoda Octavia and SEAT Leon ST estates are cheaper but perhaps not as classy.

Volkswagen Golf GTI impressions. Because of its higher fleet and business user-chooser sales in the UK where lower taxes and greater fuel economy are important factors, the Golf GTD turbodiesel outsells its ‘halo’ petrol powered GTI model which for now remains the flagship of the seventh generation Golf. That is until the Golf R 2.0-litre, turbocharged petrol 300PS four wheel drive version rushes in next summer with a zero to 62mph time of 4.9 seconds. 

Priced from £25,845 for the three door model and £26,500 for the by the far best selling five door versions, the  new GTI is just £195 more than the previous generation despite substantial enhancements in performance, equipment and even a little more space due to the new MQB platform used for the seventh generation Golfs.

The latest Golf GTI uses a  Euro 6 compliant 2.0-litre turbocharged direct injection petrol engine with  Stop/Start function that provides 220PS of power and 350Nm (258lb ft) of torque, up from 280Nm/207lb ft over the previous model and there is an 18% improvement in fuel economy over the outgoing versions.  Insurance ratings have also been lowered by five groups, now down to 29E.

Officially the 6-speed manual versions of the new GTI will return 47.1mpg with 139g/km of CO2.  Top speed is 152mph and zero to 62mph takes 6.5 seconds.  On my brief first UK test drive using country A/B roads around the Cotswolds at legal speeds  the fuel consumption was just 32.1mpg, a lot lower than the official figure but then it costs to have fun!

But there is even more fun to be had with the new Golf GTI line-up.  For the first time VW are offering for both three and five door versions a Performance Pack option costing £980  which increases the power to 230PS  but he torque remains the same output.  Top speed goes up a little to 155mph; zero to 62mph acceleration time is a better at 6.4 seconds. This is hardly worth the extra cost on the face of it but the fuel consumption and CO2 emissions figures remain the same as the standard GTI manual gearbox models, so do the insurance rating.

Where the significant advantage comes, in addition to the larger front and rear ventilated disc brakes and GTI lettering on the front callipers, is with the addition of a new front limited slip differential.  This system more or less eliminates torque-steer as the punchy torque rushes in from just 1,500rpm. Even better it allows higher cornering speeds as the car’s handling remains completely neutral.  It reduces the need to lift-off with a multi-plate coupler positioned between the differential and Golf GTIright driveshaft balancing the power input and grip between the front wheels as cornering forces and grip change. Even with my short test, using the same test drive route as the standard GTI it was noticeable just how much this Performance Pack adds to the joy of driving this car as it sweeps through corners unhindered rather than braking in, and accelerating out, of bends. Of course it has its limitation and it’s well worth the extra £980 but to prove that to yourself you do need to drive the standard GTI back-to-back with the Performance Pack model to experience the benefits.  So far around 20% of new Golf GTI customers have ordered the Performance Pack model.  On the down-side, the extra performance in terms of maintaining a higher cornering speed, dropped my test drive fuel consumption from 32.1mpg for the standard GTI down to 28.7mpg for the Performance Pack version.

Overall the new and roomy Golf GTI remains just as desirable. Say GTI and automatically we think Golf – even though other brands use that title. It is the market leader in terms of desirability and image, even if not in terms of outright sales, it is very much a niche model but one to be given serious consideration  if a high spec, stylish, roomy go-faster quality five door hatchback is on your shopping list.

MILESTONES. New Volkswagen Golf GTI 2.0-litre TSI 220PS 5-door, 6-speed manual. Price: £26,500 (best selling version).  Engine/transmission: 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder, direct injection turbocharged petrol, 220PS, 350Nm (258lb ft) of torque from 1,500, 6-speed close ratio manual gearbox (6-speed DSG auto £1,415 extra). Performance: 152mph, 0-62mph 6.5 seconds, 47.1mpg Combined Cycle (32.1mpg on test), CO2 139g/km, VED road tax £125, BIK company car tax 19%. Insurance group: 29E. Warranty: 3-years/60,000 miles. For:  Better in all ways than the very good previous generation GTI and for very little extra money, more power, better fuel economy, lower emissions, lower insurance costs, what’s not to like, added appeal with the option of a highly recommended Performance Pack.  Against:  Getting expensive compared to other VW Group brand’s high performance models using the same platform/technologies.  Miles Better News Agency

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