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Volkswagen GTI back on top


SOMEONE famous once said, “To know where you are going, you must first know where you came from.”

The same is true for the new Volkswagen Golf 7 GTI. A child of the 70s, the Golf GTI comes from an era of ripped jeans, biker jackets, reckless abandonment fuelled by gangs of misfits and anarchy.

It’s no wonder then that the first Golf GTI immediately fitted in when it was launched in 1976. It would, however, only arrive in South Africa in 1982.

A timeless classic from a timeless era, the Golf GTI defined a fundamental standard for dynamic performance and its styling couldn’t be matched. It was the birth of an icon and a name that now resonates with petrolheads everywhere - Golf GTI. And while it comes from a time of hooligans and punk rockers who lived fast, partied hard and enjoyed life, the new Golf GTI has grown up, much like the youngster from the 70s, but it hasn’t lost that naughty glimmer that made the original such a desirable car.

Sure it’s a little old, but with age comes refinement and class and the new GTI still embodies everything the original GTI promised to be and a whole lot more.

Growing up is definitely fun if you are the GTI, as it continues to raise the bar in not only the hot-hatch segment, but it’s also redefining what we should expect from a performance hatch.

I’ve heard a few mumbles about the styling, where GTI fans are calling the car a bit bland and boring. I can’t say I agree. Admittedly it might not be an overly aggressive, in-your-face look at me, but the GTI insignia clearly shows the car’s intentions. The 18-inch Austin alloy rims, twin pipes out the rear and R8-like fins in the front bumper all hint at a level of sportiness. The GTI decals and red brake callipers, along with the front grille, are all confirmation of the brand’s performance heritage, complemented by the red line running through the front grille and into the headlights.

The interior is no different, with the welcomed return of the golf ball on the gear stick in the manual derivative. The luxury and level of finish is typical of German craftsmanship and the cabin is very driver focused with well-laid-out ergonomics. The GTI houses all the niceties found in the Golf 7, with a few extra bits to distinguish itself as a GTI, the most noticeable being the chrome pedals.

I’m sure a lot of readers are thinking, “Never mind the interior and looks, get to get good stuff - performance!”  So here it is.

This GTI is powered by a turbocharged 1 984cc petrol engine. Producing 162kW of power, it benefits from an increase of only 7kW over its predecessor. Not much, but it’s the torque delivery that is sure to surprise. Packed with 350Nm of torque available from 1 500rpm, means the GTI catapults itself from zero to 100km/h in 6.5 seconds and has a top speed of 246km/h in manual form, while the DSG model can achieve 244km/h.

The power off the line is phenomenal and the chassis set up and feel allows the driver to interact well with the vehicle. Sure, the Ford Focus ST might pack more punch in terms of kilowatts over the VW, but the level of refinement pushes the GTI ahead as it cements its spot as the king of the hot hatches.

Economy hasn’t been sacrificed and the new Golf GTI is equipped with a stop/start system and six-speed gearbox as standard. Incorporating BlueMotion technology has meant the car averages 6.0 litres/100km (a reduction of 1.3 litres/100km over the previous GTI) with a Co2 emissions rating of 139g/km. In the case of the optional DSG, the fuel consumption is 6.4 litres/100 km and emissions 148g/km.

I could rattle on about just how good the new GTI really is. But truthfully VW knew with this offering that it had to raise the bar and many thought it just couldn’t be done. Thankfully for any GTI fan, it has! This car ushers in a new era of Golf and GTI, leaving the competitors to play catch-up yet again.

South Africa has a strong following of GTI enthusiasts and almost half of VW’s Golf sales are GTIs.

Pricing includes a 3-year/120 000km warranty and 5 year/90 000km service plan.

Pricing: Golf GTI 2.0 TSI 162kW Manual R368 300 Golf GTI 2.0 TSI 162kW DSG R382 800

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