Like a ham and cheese sandwich, Volkswagen’s Golf GTI is a staple food. It’s been around for as long as I can remember and it’s a common sight around the world.
Since its introduction in 1976, the Volkswagen’s formula for the little hot hatch hasn’t changed too much, but the cars themselves have come a long way.
The GTI story began in 1976 with the Mk1, with a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that developed an impressive 81 kW; later GTI models received a 1.8-liter engine. In the second iteration, this 1.8-liter engine was continued and the performance increased to 102 kW with the introduction of the GTI 16v. In 1993, a 2.0-liter engine was introduced into the Golf series in the Mk3 GTI, which had an output of 110 kW.
Controversial, when the Mk4 GTI was launched, it got a similar engine to the earlier iteration, which led to critics to label it as “naff”. Volkswagen listened and in 2002 the displacement dropped to 1.8 liters, but it received its most significant change to date – it was turbo-charged. This supercharged engine had an output of 130 kW and put the GTI back on the right track.
In 2004, the Golf GTI underwent its biggest change to date, with both the styling and the drive train being a drastic departure from the previous one. It had a 2.0-liter turbo engine with 147 kW and, thanks to a new gearbox, could go to 100 km / h in less than eight seconds.
To view all of the VW Golf GTI models listed on DRIVEN, click here
While there was still a manual transmission, the dual clutch transmission could snap between the gears faster than you could say “Wolfsburg”.
Not much changed for the Mk6 as it sat on the same platform, but the peak power was increased to 157 kW. For the Mk7, Volkswagen placed the Golf on the then new MQB platform and set the output for the GTI at 162 kW.
Now the Mk8 Golf GTI has landed in New Zealand and we thought it was a hoon.
While this new Golf GTI looks really different inside and out, the Mk7 sits on the same MQB platform, so the overall driving experience doesn’t differ too much.
In addition to the turbocharged 2.0-liter engine, which now has an output of 180 kW / 370 Nm, the Mk8 GTI has received a few technical tricks that ensure smoother driving behavior – and at the same time exceed the limits.
The Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC) system, first introduced with the Mk7 in the GTI range, has been updated for the Mk8 and works wonderfully. Electronic LSD is now standard.
As far as the driving impressions are concerned, there are hardly any differences to the Mk7 GTI in everyday use. The DCC system is a little more forgiving in Comfort mode, and Sport mode is a little tighter than I remember.
While it benefits from an additional 18 kW, it’s not noticeably faster than the Mk7. If anything, it feels slower at takeoff due to the lack of wheel slip and drama.
Volkswagen claims it will hit 100 km / h in 6.2 seconds, which is the same value reported for the Mk7 with the power package installed.
The GTI swallows bumps through the curves with ease, and in sport mode the body roll is reduced to a minimum. Steering isn’t overly direct compared to more stubborn hot hatches like the Renault Megane RS, but in the case of the GTI, mastering a craft isn’t a priority when it comes to being the all-rounder.
Exiting corners at low speed is an impressive proposition in this Golf as the traction control works perfectly with the electronic LSD to minimize any trace of wheel slip or torque steering. While the latter was not really an issue in any GTI generation, it is a masterpiece in itself to send 180 kW exclusively to the front wheels without having any negative effects.
As for the engine noise, you won’t be blown away by the sound, but it has a satisfactory rumble that doesn’t sound overly artificial. It doesn’t crack and pop like other options in the hot hatch segment, but it still farts like a classic DSG on aggressive upshifts when that’s your boat.
Cross-shopping the GTI gives you a number of options as the Hot Hatch segment is bigger than ever. With its starting price of $ 61,490, it competes directly against the Ford Focus ST and the Honda Civic Type R with manual transmission. Likewise, the Hyundai i30 N sits in the $ 50,000 region underneath, but doesn’t have the same high-quality interior, and all three of those options are much less subtle on the road.
Above that there are things like the upcoming S3 from Audi, the M135i from BMW, and the Mercedes-AMG A35, but they’re all quite a bit more expensive.
Overall, this new Golf GTI continues the line of what a perfect all-rounder with Hot Hatch should be. It looks great, it’s comfortable, it’s not intrusive, it’s relatively quick, and most importantly, it’s still a hot hatch at heart. Volkswagen has once again moved the goal posts for this genre.
VOLKSWAGEN GOLF GTI
ENGINE: 2.0 liter turbo
ENERGY: 180kW / 370Nm
TRANSMISSION: 7-speed double clutch, FWD
BUSINESS: 6.9l / 100km
PRICE: $ 61,490