Volkswagen’s “Golf GTI” nameplate is synonymous with the term “hot hatch”. As a front-engined, front-wheel-drive replacement of the popular Beetle, the Golf GTI Mark 1 was a lightweight car with a performance engine (1.6L with 110 hp!) and its sharp handling prowess means it is great at carving the corners. One could even say that the first Golf GTI popularised the hot hatch segment which then led to a slew of choices for the consumer in the late 1970s and 1980s.
The VW Golf GTI Mk 7.5 is still a front-engined, front-wheel-drive machine, but it has grown in stature and horsepower. Now fitted with a 2.0L EA888 turbocharged engine which produces 230 PS and 350 Nm of torque from as low as 1,500 rpm, the GTI Mk 7.5 is still capable of the century sprint in a very, very respectable 6.4 seconds.
Moving power to the wheels is a 6-speed wet dual-clutch DSG transmission which does an amazing job on it own with precise gear shifts. DSG is essentially two clutches for two sets of gears (odd and even) run on two shafts. Compared to a regular automatic with torque converter, a DSG is quicker on gear shifts and has less drag within the system hence power loss is reduced. A down side to DSG is the clunkier feel especially at low speeds. But if you get bored with how well the DSG works on its own, you can always override the shifts either via the gear lever or steering mounted shift paddles.
The Golf GTI Mk 7.5 comes with Adaptive Chassis Control (DCC) which has an electronically controlled damping system that automatically responds to the road conditions, and braking, accelerating and steering input. There are five settings: ECO, Comfort, Normal, Sport, Individual to suit your driving needs (because sometimes you just want to stroll and not run). In ECO mode, the ‘coasting’ feature that disengages the transmission when you lift off the throttle at cruising speed. Doing this regularly will aid in improving fuel economy. The official average fuel consumption for the Combined cycle is 6.4 litres per 100 km (Urban is 7.8L/100km).
I would consider the Golf GTI an all-rounder. A jack of all trades, but in a good way. Put it on ECO or Comfort mode and you can easily putter about town for your daily commute, or along the coastal roads to enjoy the scenery; in comfort while burning minimal fuel. Slip it into Sport mode to let the trees sweep by in a blur. Or customise your own preference in the Individual setting. Any which way, the Golf GTI feels planted in almost every instant, even in Comfort mode. The car’s damping system works effectively to even out the undulations and bumps on our beautiful roads. Potholes are a different matter. Don’t be too optimistic with the potholes; the low profile 225/40 R18 tyres will not react too kindly and your ‘Milton Keynes’ alloy wheels won’t appreciate that.
Further, the wide rev range (1,500 – 4,600 rpm) where maximum torque is available to you means the car is quick to respond to sudden jabs at the throttle. The progressive steering is speed-dependent and provides a more direct feel for improved driving fun.
Inside, the red stitching, red perforations on the ‘Vienna’ semi-leather seats and the honeycomb-patterned dashboard and door trim give an inkling to the sporty character of the car. The layout is straightforward with the essential driving functions accessible from either the centre console or the GTI sports steering wheel; these are visible either on the 8″ Discover Media touchscreen display or the 12″ Active Info Display which doubles as a meter cluster. Media, phone, vehicle status, navigation and some climate control functions are accessed via the touchscreen display.
But while some are concerned with how it drives, others would also like to know the toys, gimmicks and safety features this hot hatch comes with. We start with the multimedia unit mentioned earlier which also features App-Connect that has MirrorLink, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity, as well as a Performance Monitor; cabin ambient lighting, GTI illuminated door scuff plates, ‘KESSY’ keyless access and start, rear cooling vents, automatic LED headlights with dynamic range control and dynamic cornering lights, powered and heated side mirrors with environment lighting and kerb view, heat insulated windshield, side and rear windows, as well as Park Assist 3.0 with parking steering assistance (I did not use this feature because I can park a hatchback faster on my own).
In terms of safety, the Golf GTI is built with seven airbags, Anti-Skid Regulator, Automatic Post-Collision Braking System, Intelligent Crash Response System, Driver Alert System, Engine Drag Torque Control, Extended Differential Lock, Tyre Pressure Loss Indicator, Proactive Occupant Protection System, brake pad wear indicator, along with the usual ABS, EBD, ESC, etc.
The Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk 7.5 has an on-the-road price of RM247,662 in Peninsular Malaysia. It is not the fastest thing on the road and is certainly less beastly than the Golf R. But it is lighter than the all-wheel-drive Golf R and feels more fun when thrown into corners. In that sense, the Golf GTI is not a master of none, but a master at providing value and good bang for your buck. Its practical yet sporty nature will appeal to those with young families who are not in the market for something purely sedate. Or maybe your are single and lonely and want to buy it because you can have fun with it.