What is it? The benchmark hot hatch.

What’s in it? A 169-kilowatt turbocharged two-litre with a six-speed DSG auto.

Is it thirsty? I used 10.5 litres per 100 km in the city, 7.3 in the country. The official combined figure is 6.5.

Drive away $49,990.

Thumbs up Performance, power, build integrity and street cred.

Thumbs down High price, skinny spare and no manual gearbox available.

Volkswagen’s Golf GTi has lots of power, but it’s power unlike other performance cars. It’s the kind of power that you’ll appreciate and enjoy even if you’ve never broken a speed limit in your life. Delivery is smooth and highly linear making merging with freeway traffic and slipping through the morning rush easy. Even when you’re just tootling around the burbs this is a most satisfying car.

vw2And there are lots of nice touches, like the red highlight LEDs on the doors and a speedometer calibrated to put 100 kmh at the top of the dial, devoting more than half its space to readings that are within the law.

There can’t be much argument that the GTi is the benchmark for hot hatches. It goes, handles and stops brilliantly, it’s nicely made with great structural integrity and it offers a lot of practicality with the performance. The thing is that the benchmark car usually sets the benchmark price and the GTi is expensive. I suspect if VW dropped the price five grand every other hot hatch would drop about the same, but VW won’t be doing that anytime soon.

A base Golf, with a 90-kilowatt engine and a six-speed manual, is $22,990. This GTi Performance is $49,990 and it’s not even the most expensive (that’s the Golf R at $60,390). A regular GTi can be had for $45,490 with the six-speed DSG. So this GTi Performance costs $4500 more than the GTi and gives you another seven kilowatts, bigger wheels and brakes with red calipers, a diff lock and upgraded upholstery. I’d have a GTi but I’d prefer to sink the four and a half grand extra for this model into Mars bars.

It’s only available with a DSG gearbox, an electronic manual which I dislike given its dead spots on light pedal. A regular manual is far more satisfying if you’re into sporty driving. And despite the performance nature of this car the gearbox is calibrated for economy and persuading it to change down sometimes takes some doing, which I guess is why there are paddles.

But the motor responds fast and positively, and always has something in reserve. It’s a strong and enthusiastic performer. It’s matched with terrific handling that’s rock solid and taut. The ride is firm but excellent seating goes far towards making this a comfortable long distance ride. The seats are finished with Alcantara inserts, leather adds $3150. You’ll notice plenty of noise from the low profile tyres.

Published April 2015


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