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Golf GTI victorious in hot-hatch battle


THE AUTHOR of a book I read recently put forth an interesting thought on the creation of a masterpiece.

He states that true art is created in the small space where absolute chaos meets order and logic. He was, admittedly, talking about the creation of an epic rock ’n roll melody, but I think the same theory rings true for the automotive world. The new Volkswagen Golf GTI is the best car to use in describing the abstract concept in the above paragraph. It’s a masterpiece born as a direct result of order and chaos coming together in a glorious Michael Bay-esque explosion.

I apologise for the dramatics, but I’ve been thinking of the best way to describe the new GTI without sounding like an overzealous VW salesman. Obviously I’ve failed miserably, but just so there’s no confusion on where I stand on the subject, I’ll state the following: the new GTI is easily the best car I’ve driven this year.

There are multiple reasons I can choose from to support my statement, but the most important by far is the GTI’s range of capabilities. It’s the Swiss army knife of the automotive world. It’s Meryl Streep on four wheels.

On the one side, you have the order and logic of Volkswagen’s latest hatchback. It’s well built, comfortable, economical and easy to live with. It’s no small wonder it was named the 2013 World Car of the Year.

Then there’s the chaotic part of the equation - the part that elevates it from mundane everyday transport to the king of the hot-hatch roost.

The recipe is simple: take one part Golf 7, add some aggressive styling cues, a beefy 2.0-litre turbocharged mill and drop the suspension by 15mm. Stick a GTI badge on the boot lid and take the rest of the day off for a job well done. It’s a recipe that is often copied, but never bettered.

The reason it’s never been bettered is simple. The Golf GTI doesn’t lean too far to either side. It hits the mark smack bang in that small space where order and logic meet the glorious chaos that is performance motoring.

I lived with this car for a week with the hope of catching it out. Something was bound to be wrong with it and I was sure the problem would manifest itself while I was exploring the Golf part of the formula. Nothing ruins a comfortable ambience (what you want on a day-to-day basis) quite like a rock-hard suspension and I was sure the GTI would let me down at some point.

Fortunately the engineers at VW made sure not to push the suspension upgrades too far in a sporty direction. The comforting nature of the standard Golf is still evident and the impressive standard-features list makes the GTI even more luxurious. It even has a USB port, so I couldn’t even resort to nagging about how VW/Audi stubbornly sticks with using only SD cards. Well played Volkswagen, well played.

So how did the GTI part fare? Well, if you’re an Opel Astra OPC or Ford Focus ST driver hoping for some criticism you can use to berate your GTI-driving friend with, I’m so sorry to disappoint. If anything, it’s even better as a GTI. The 162kW/350Nm engine is an absolute gem, mated to an equally brilliant six-speed manual gearbox. Admittedly, it’s down on power compared to every other hot hatch out there, but it just doesn’t matter.

To me, the GTI feels as fast as the new Focus ST and the much more powerful Astra OPC. It just goes to show that it’s not about how much power you have, but how much power you can actually use.

The GTI does a wonderful job of making the oke behind the wheel feel like a hero. It’s an easy car to drive fast, although it doesn’t have the same hooligan streak as something like the Fiesta ST. Is it boring? Maybe, but only if you spend your days flying a jet and shooting baddies for some black-ops operation. To us average folk, the new GTI is definitely exciting enough.

I’m sorry to let you ST, OPC and Renault Mégane RS drivers down, but there’s no real deal-breaking criticism I can think of. The manual gearbox did get tiring after a while, but that’s just because I’m weak and prefer an automatic (for the record, the GTI is available with a DSG gearbox, which I’ve been informed is even better than the manual).

Volkswagen has hit it spot on with the new Golf GTI. It’s a car for all occasions. If you have R370 000 to spend on a new car, the GTI is the one to have.

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