HomeTechnologyVW Golf GTi universally loved

VW Golf GTi universally loved

Andrew Muzamhindo Analyst
There is no doubt that the Volkswagen Golf GTi is a universally loved car. Whenever a new version is launched, it gets the market talking. The 2022 model is no exception.

Launched in the 70s, the Golf GTi, the first model Golf GTi would go on to inspire the whole vehicle segment, the performance hatchback. The eighth reiteration of the icon is now available in some markets. I have to admit that the GTis on our roads are grey imports and at the time of writing, the GTi had never been sold officially in Zimbabwe by the local dealership. I am sure this is due to pricing more than anything else. The South African economy is driven by credit, whilst cash rules locally. I also do not see local companies buying GTis as company cars. It’s a “flambo car”, so companies are looking for practical cars.

A car becomes an icon when its design DNA and character remain recognisable for decades. It is also important for an icon to provide fresh ideas in order to cope with the challenges and competition of its time; just like the VW Golf GTi. For 44 years Volkswagen has been reinventing this icon of sporty, compact cars while retaining the original concept  generation after generation. The eighth reinterpretation of the Golf GTi is now celebrating its debut. Newly designed and engineered  fully digitalised and networked; a Golf GTi that is fit for the modern era. The Golf Mk1 from 1976 has long evolved into a vehicle family. This was followed in 1982 by the first Golf GTD with a turbocharged diesel engine, and in 2014 by the first Golf GTE to feature plug-in hybrid drive. And so, it stands to reason that a new Golf GTD and a new Golf GTE are celebrating their world premières alongside the new VW Golf GTi. Three Golf variants, three characters, three efficient and clean drive systems  but one design and specification philosophy.

While the new GTi shares its platform and drivetrain with its predecessor, there have been quite a number of changes made to the eighth-generation model, some of which are positive, while some of which we found quite irksome during our week spent on board the newcomer. We also had an early example of the MK7 GTi as well as an MK6 variant at our disposal for a short time during our test, allowing for the obvious comparisons to surface.

One of the pricklier topics with the new GTi is the way that it looks, particularly from the front, where there are small headlights (matrix LED items fitted to the press unit) with an LED light bar that extends from the centre of the front quarter panel on either side and meet at the Volkswagen badge just above the number plate. There are large front air intakes on the lower side of the front bumper which also house the daytime running lights. The side profile of the car is relatively similar to the product it replaces while the more angular rear-end complete with the signature dual exit exhaust tips, to this writer’s eyes, is the new car’s best angle.

The interior of the latest GTi is polarising, as it certainly appears modern and well-executed, but upon further inspection, and with its predecessors in mind, we found some of the material quality to be of a lower standard than you would expect from a GTi. Volkswagen has tried to fully digitise the interior of the latest Golf, and there is no denying the clean aesthetic that this has created by removing or relocating various buttons in the cabin, but this has not exactly worked as well as you may imagine.

We found the infotainment system to be slow to respond in some instances, which is frustrating when media, climate control, driving modes and various other vehicle-related settings must be carried out on the screen. Settings for the traction control and various other vehicle-related items are still better operated by a simple button or will be more user-friendly if they are not hidden within the sub-menus in the system.

There are shortcuts to some of the assistance systems, the climate control, the parking assistance menu and the driving modes below the screen, where the hazard button is housed, which are helpful. Below these shortcuts there are two USB C ports and a wireless smartphone charger, allowing wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality, which is a big plus.

There is a 10.25-inch digitised instrument cluster that works well and is configurable in terms of both colour and display while the latest steering wheel again highlights an issue for the GTi. In place of regular buttons for functions on the multifunction steering wheel are haptic pads, meaning you can run your finger over the pads to change settings, which proves irksome and less effective than a standard button while also ensuring the glossy surface is perpetually smudged.

Moving away from the in-car technology, the beauty of things not changing very much from a platform perspective means that the MK8 is still a practical 5-door hatchback, with supportive sports seats, a reasonable 374-litres of boot space and enough space in the second row for two adult occupants over longer journeys.

The familiar EA888 engine can be found under the bonnet of the GTi, and the same can be said of the 7-speed DSG gearbox, however, both have received some updates, with the engine getting a new Garrett turbocharger and improvements to its refinement. Power is up to 180kW and 370Nm of torque, but weight is also up, meaning that the front-wheel drive GTi is not any faster than its predecessor, with -100km/h coming up in 6.4 seconds and the top speed rated at 250km/h.

Out on the road, the GTi is certainly firmer than its processor and slightly more up for spirited driving when in Sport mode, versus a standard MK7, but is not an incredibly sharp driving tool when compared with the likes of a Honda Civic Type-R. We managed to drive the MK8 back-to-back-to-back with an MK7 and an MK6 and noted that the current model has a busier ride quality but has a more linear power delivery and handles slightly better, with improved traction out of low-speed corners and a more confidence-inspiring turn-in on medium to high-speed corners than standard versions of the previous GTi.

The progress is minimal, and only obvious when stepping from an MK7 into an MK8 within a short time frame. Some of the progress can also be attributed to the latest tyres with improved technology on the MK8 versus the older rubber on the MK7 and MK6 sampled. When you are not driving in a spirited manner, the GTi is still a very good daily drive, but is more in tune with a firm ride than the previous models, making it slightly less usable than before, but still the best performance hatch for those for an all-rounder.

The GTi forms part of the larger Golf 8 range, which was crash tested by the Euro NCAP assessment programme in 2019, where it achieved the maximum 5-Star rating. The rating includes 95% for adult occupant safety, 89% for child occupant safety, 76% for pedestrian safety and 79% for its safety assistance systems.

Volkswagen claims a fuel consumption figure of 7.0 L/100km for the GTi, however, our time with the product resulted in a combined figure of 9.2 L/100km, which is respectable for a performance car driven by someone with a heavy right foot.

The new Volkswagen Golf GTi is an agile, raw, efficient and high-tech compact sports car for the digital age.

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