Right from the start, way back from the very first model launched in 1974, the VW Golf has been a highly desired hatchback. With the introduction of the Golf GTi a couple of years later, the GTi has won the hearts of young drivers all over the world, Malaysia included. Back in the 1980’s and 1990’s when the brand was poorly represented here, only a few lucky ones who could afford to pay the premium for an imported hatch could get their hands on one, the majority preferring to spend their money on larger-sized Continentals rather than splurging on a brand that had almost zero service facilities.
I think that it was around 2008 when the Volkswagen brand made a comeback to Malaysia, and with it, the Golf became the most popular VW model to be sold, and spearheading it all was the GTi. When I got my first Golf in 2010, it was a Mk 6 TSi, with a 160 PS, 1.4 litre engine that had a super-charger and a turbocharger working in tandem – my neighbor couldn’t understand why I would spend in excess of RM155k for such a little car when I could have gotten a Camry or Accord for the same or less money. Ah but then, I was one of the few who appreciated what 160 PS could do for me. If I could have afforded it, it would have been a GTi in my porch, not the TSi.
My very first experience with a Golf GTi was back in 2006, and it was the Mk 5, which had 197 horsepower from its 2.0 litre engine. Power was transferred to the front wheels via a 6-speed DSG transmission – that was my first introduction to a DSG transmission, and I remember saying back then that this would be the future of gearboxes, and today, many other car brands are using the same type of boxes. I really had such a lot of fun driving the GTi from Kuala Lumpur to Penang, shifting up and down the gears using the paddle-shifters, and loving that ‘brup-brupping’ exhaust ‘farting’ as the gearbox control unit emulated throttle blips as one went up or down the box. It was really fun to drive.
I recently got my hands on the latest VW GTi 7.5 version, and this re-visit to the GTi leaves me without doubt that it remains one of the best sport hatches available today, despite the fact that other Continental brands also have similar cars available. The GTi is a very well-balanced car that is just about the right size and power, and handles much like a go-kart. Despite the sporty-handling, it still has a decent ride, making it a very good daily-use machine.
The Golf GTi is a FWD hatch with 5-doors, and has a 2.0 litre engine that develops 227 horsepower, and 350Nm of torque. With a compression of only 9.6:1, it will run happily on RON 95 fuel, and considering what RON 97 costs nowadays, this means substantial fuel cost savings, not to mention that you will not have any problems getting fuel even in remote places. Fuel consumption based on NEDC is mooted at 6.6 litres per 100 km, but for normal usage, real world figures would be between 7.5 to 10.0 litres per 100 kilometres, and higher if you are putting pedal to the metal. This car will achieve a 244km/h top speed, and accelerate from zero to 100 km/h in 6.4 seconds. The DSG transmission is a real pleasure to use, and of course the pedal shifters behind the steering wheel are an added bonus. Compared to ordinary slush boxes, the DSG is precise, with zero transmission slip, since it is really a manual gearbox with dual clutches that behaves like an automatic, minus the slip, of course.
One of the winning points in the Golf GTi would be its DCC (Dynamic Chassis Control) that allows three levels of damping, while five driving modes allow the user to select the appropriate engine tune, ECO, COMFORT, NORMAL, SPORT or CUSTOM. This allows a mix of tunes and chassis settings. For those who want to enjoy relaxed driving, ECO mode allows you to enjoy more fuel savings through its ‘Coasting’ function. Coasting function disengages the transmission when the car is on throttle overrun, i.e. when you lift off on the accelerator, and automatically engages the moment you step on the brakes, or accelerate. In Comfort, the suspension goes softer, and progressively gets stiffer with Normal and Sport. The fact that one buys a Golf GTi does not necessarily mean that one has to drive fast all the time, and the DCC certainly allows one to tune the chassis and performance according to one’s needs. As a note in passing, some cars do have what looks like driving modes, but usually they work only on the engine and steering, but not on the suspension.
The Golf GTi 7.5 runs on an electric power steering system with variable steering ratios, to provide easy steering at low speeds, and heavier steering at high speeds.
The Golf 7.5 will seat four passengers comfortably, and five at a squeeze. There is plenty of room and leg room for both front and rear passengers. A dual zone air-conditioner takes care of the cooling, and there is a rear blower as well.
In the front cabin, there is a 12.3 inch high definition Active Info Display for the driver, and an 8.0 inch touchscreen with USB and Ipod/Iphone Interface, SD Card slot, AUX-IN, Bluetooth, performance monitor, Driving Mode Selection and eight speakers. There is a host of other equipment, far too long to be put down, but suffice to say, it is all there to up the ante where accessories are concerned. The interior is plush, and seats are bound in black leather with red stitching.
For convenience, the Golf GTi offers keyless entry and keyless go, automatic headlights with Coming Home and Leaving Home function. Full LED headlights illuminate your way at night, and it comes with Dynamic Headlight Control and dynamic cornering lights. LED Daytime Running lights are standard. For ladies, and some men, Park Assist 3.0 would be appreciated, together with Park distance Control with optical display and a rear view camera integrated into the rear VW logo.
Safety is not forgotten, with 7 airbags including a knee bag for the driver. Other than the expected ABS, BA and EDB, the Golf GTi features Anti-Skid Regulator (ASR), Automatic Post Collision Braking System (APCBS) Electronic Stability Control (ESC), Hill Hold Control, Drive Alert System (Rest Assist) and Intelligent Crash Response System (ICRS).
On the road, the GTi can be anything you want it to be. Set it to comfort mode, and you can cruise is style and comfortably around town or country roads. If you want a sporty driving feel, you can select Normal or Sport, and if you want to do your own set of driving parameters, go to Custom and dial in whatever you want from the menu on the touch screen.
We had the car over a long holiday, and really had fun with it. It feels really planted – you feel like you are invincible because it sticks to the road around corners like it was on rails. I do have a MK7 R, which has more power and upgraded brakes, and AWD to boot, but the Golf GTi 7.5 feels lighter and easier to drive, and it certainly feels just as good to drive.
The Golf GTi retails for RM246, 490.00, in P Malaysia, and it comes with a 5-year manufacturer’s warranty.