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Is this the best Volkswagen Golf GTI ever?


There is no denying the fact that South Africans love the Volkswagen Golf GTI. Ever since the fifth generation arrived in 2005, the iconic hot hatch has enjoyed a rather successful run.

Does the recently facelifted Golf 7.5 GTI still have that flair or has it become a bit too mature over the years? Like the standard Golf, spotting the differences between GTI Mk 7 and 7.5 are near impossible on first glance, but look closer and you will note the slimmer LED headlights, new front and rear bumpers, running LED taillights seemingly borrowed from sister marque Audi, and 19-inch Santiago alloy wheels.

Inside, the Audi-esque look continues with the biggest drawing card being the (optional) 12.3-inch Active Info Display instrument cluster. It is not as versatile as that found on some Audi models, but it still displays navigation as well as trip information.

Another new addition is the infotainment screen. My test car featured the top-of-the-range Discover Pro system which is not only massive, but also clear and user friendly. The touchscreen also features a form of gesture control. By waving your hand in front of the screen, the display will switch the radio station and flip through music on your USB or Bluetooth connected smartphone.

Overall, the GTI features a rather luxurious cabin filled with top quality materials meticulously put together. It’s also spacious and practical with a large boot and 60/40 split folding rear seat. However, this is a GTI so the only thing that really matters is the drive. Driving a Golf with that iconic badge on the bootlid and grille is without doubt a special occasion as it has been the benchmark hot hatch for over 40 years.

Volkswagen has really given the GTI some serious mechanical bits to keep it that way. Under the bonnet lies a tweaked version of the popular 2.0-litre TSI engine, now pushing out 169kW/350Nm, linked to a slick shifting six-speed DSG. 

There are also different driving modes which come courtesy of the optional DCC (Dynamic Chassis Control) system. This gives the driver the option to alternate between Eco, Normal, Comfort and Sport mode. Each mode presents a different set up for the car.

I found myself alternating between Eco and Sport most of the time. The GTI is a hoot to drive, it is dynamic, fast and has loads of front end grip. Overall, if it’s a fast dash or leisurely drive you are looking for, the GTI offers a driving experience worthy of the highest praise. 

There are also a number of new driver safety features which all seem to have autonomous driving intentions. Items such as adaptive cruise control, rear traffic alert, autonomous emergency braking as well as Blind Spot Assist are all firsts for the GTI.

So after my time with the new GTI, I can report that it is the best GTI yet. It offers what could be the perfect package. It has the right badge, it has the performance, the technology and the quality.

Unfortunately, it is no longer a car for the youth. It comes across as a very grown up package and with my test car having a sticker price of just over R600 000, one would need a grown-up’s salary to afford one. Is it worth it though? Absolutely.

Article written by Justin Jacobs
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