Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Used Japanese Golf GTi review

Volkswagen Golf GTi review

The development team for the Volkswagen Golf GTI arguably has a more herculean task in producing the next generation of the iconic hot hatch in comparison with the team in charge of pumping out the next Golf R.

While the Golf R just keeps getting more powerful, now in the guise of a brutish 300hp monster, the weight of expectations from the car-adoring public over the iconic GTI is heaps more as it has the delicate task of balancing a docile daily ride with the corner-carving abilities to be expected of it without each of those two aspects ever overwhelming the other.

With so much resting on the GTI’s shoulders, the team had their work cut out for them. Just before we had some time with the car, we got a look at the specification sheet and things appeared very promising. However, we could not set it in stone until we actually put it through its paces.

For the first time ever, the Golf GTI now comes with two levels of engine output. The regular Advanced variant comes with 217hp while the Performance edition gets an additional 10 ponies as well as larger front brakes and an advanced electronic-differential that tweaks the XDS e-diff.

Unfortunately, the Performance version is not available in Malaysia yet.

Motivation still comes from the EA888 engine found in its predecessor, but a host of improvements from continuous development sees it making 217hp and a whopping 350Nm of torque, up by 9hp and 70Nm respectively. It achieves this by incorporating variable lift together with direct as well as port injection for a more efficient combustion process.

The GTI kick started the hot hatch movement back in 1975, providing the daily drivability, convenience and practicality of a hatch that could still light up the front wheels and slice its way through the twisties. The key in that equation was balance, something that its peers seem to have lost their grasp on right now.

While we absolutely adore the likes of the Renault Megane RS and the Ford Focus ST, they just lack that last 10 per cent of balancing daily drivability and performance like the GTI. Furthermore, the GTI does it with such subtlety and class, the way only a GTI ever could.

This time around, we think the Mk7 GTI actually looks a pinch less menacing from the outside on first glance. It is only once you have gone over it with a fine-tooth comb that you pick up details such as the fog lamps on the front bumper that is split by three slats and the 18-inch Austin alloy wheels. At the rear, the twin tailpipes and more aggressive bumper are a giveaway, as is the GTI badging. On a negative note, the GTI offered in Malaysia makes do without LED taillights.

The restrained theme continues inside with what appears to be a regular Golf interior with the additions of a few extras. GTI diehards will be pleased to know that the classic Tartan fabric seats are still standard, but can be upgraded to leather with the optional Tech Pack that we will dig deeper into later.

One of the most interesting highlights is the red strip that runs across the interior of the front doors that glows red, reminding you that this is a celery Golf you are in. The dash gets some carbon fibre-inspired trim and the GTI badging finds a home on the bottom of the steering wheel.

Headlining the dash is the 5.8-inch touch screen entertainment unit that also doubles up as the display for the air-conditioning and other ancillaries. Being a spruced up version of a regular Golf’s interior, there is absolutely nothing to complain about. Legroom is generous all-around as well.

On the road, the GTI shined in every aspect. The wide spread and extra torque made itself known, making overtaking easier on the highways. Moving onto the trunk roads, the GTI effortlessly carved its way through, displaying levels of grip and downright quickness that clearly ranked it a notch above its predecessor.

The six-speed DSG has been touched up as well, dutifully playing its part in allowing the GTI to adapt well to all driving conditions. Driving through the city, shift times were milliseconds longer, but throw it into Sports mode and you found yourself rifling through the gears with that slight exhaust backfire everytime you pulled a full throttle upshift.

One of the immediate things we realised was how much lighter the GTI felt. While Volkswagen did slice around 42kg off its weight through the use of its MQB platform that incorporates lightweight materials, the GTI felt loads lighter and responded much quicker to driver inputs.

Exploring the GTI’s limits has always been a predictable affair. Push too much and understeer will creep in. This time around, the Mk7 felt a little more neutral and lighter at the rear. However, understeer has been dialled in on purpose to make it easier to recover if pushed too far. The levels of grip were outstanding, allowing us to push through corners so much quicker before physics regained its grip on power.

There is one thing that needs to be stressed here and that is the importance of having the dynamic chassis control (DCC) function. It totally transforms the behaviour of the car. There are five modes - Comfort, Eco, Normal, Sport and Individual. Each mode alters the settings of the transmission, steering, dampers, engine and air-conditioning to give the car a different character.

Having spent some time in a non-DCC specced Mk7, we can say that the ride is a little too harsh and jarring as the engineers had to find a middle ground between all the different modes and only give it one setting. Therefore, the DCC is a must have if you are buying the Mk7.

However, the DCC is only available with the optional Tech Pack that is an extra RM10,000, which included leather upholstery and an electric-adjustable driver’s seat. If you ask us, the DCC alone is worth the additional RM10,000.

Specifications of the Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk7 Advanced

Engine: 1,984cc, DOCH, 16V, inline-four, turbocharged, dual-injection, variable valve lift
Transmission: Six-speed DSG
Max power: 217hp @ 4,500-6,200rpm
Max torque: 350Nm @ 1,500-4,400rpm
Safety features: Seven airbags, ABS, XDS+, ESC, Isofix anchorage points, hill-hold control

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