- General

A Road Test And Review Of The Volkswagen Golf 6 GTI

The latest generation Volkswagen Golf, the Mk VI, currently holds the title of World Car of The Year 2009. More indicative of the success of the VW Golf though, is the shear volume of units sold since it’s inception over 30 years ago. 26 Million VW Golf’s sold in more than 120 countries around our globe, make it one of the best selling cars of our time. Then there is the GTI version.

Since the first generation Golf was launched in1976, VW have been assigning the GTI badge to those Golf’s which have received more power, stiffer suspension and subtle aerodynamic tweaks – and which originally helped to coin the term ‘hot hatch’. Over the years the Golf GTI has evolved and has always been a ‘crowd’ favourite – able to strike the balance between performance and practicality, with a look of understated athleticism. The new Volkswagen Golf 6 GTI is proclaimed by many as merely an update of the previous generation, a Golf 5.5 GTI rather than a wholely new version. And they wouldn’t be wrong, after all, what’s wrong with improving on the Golf 5 GTI, which made up for over 40% of all Golf 5’s sold in this country? This is the question we set out to answer.

The biggest change to the new GTI is at the front. The bumper, radiator grille and inner design of the headlights are a new creation. The outer grille, painted in high-gloss black, is a flat surface again, as it was with the first generation GTI, which made the car look wider than it was. The red grille surround is legendary and frames the grille at the top and bottom. Below lies the honeycomb radiator screen, bordered by vertically aligned front fog lights located on either edge of the bumper that help to give the new GTI its wider and lower appearance.

The black side sills running between the two wheels arches of the Golf 5 GTI have been replaced with a shorter and more stylish design.

At the rear, a new diffuser has been added with the twin tailpipes now residing on opposite ends. The only item left unchanged from the Mk5 GTI are the 18-inch “Detroit” alloy wheels. The openings in the 5-spoke alloys have a ‘piano black’ finish but a new set of wheels to complement the new face of the GTI wouldn’t have been a bad idea.

The overall styling of the Golf 6 GTI continues the heritage of sporting looks with a touch of class – we like it. 

When we tested VW’s new 1,4-litre TSI Golf 6 we commented that “we immediately felt at home behind the controls – like slipping into your favourite pair of jeans”. Well the new GTI is no different, except for one thing, it’s a GTI!

Heavily bolstered seats, a chunky 3-spoke flat-bottomed steering wheel, brushed stainless-steel covered pedals and decorative red seams on the steering wheel, gearshift surround and leather parking brake, immediately tell you this is not an average Golf. Instruments and controls are clearly legible, easy to reach and operate. The decorative inserts in the doors and instruments are finished in a black, high-gloss metallic look, which serve to round off a high quality interior.

Another key to the GTI’s success, has always been its ability to carry four people in comfort with a respectable sized boot for their luggage. This latest variant is no different and with between 350 and 1305-litres of carrying capacity, it will easily cope with the majority of your cargo needs. These attributes help to make the Golf GTI a hot hatch with a family focus – and if you’re travelling with loved ones you’ll be pleased to know that the new GTI is fitted with an arsenal of safety features. Suffice to say the Golf 6 has received a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating and even includes whiplash-optimised head restraints. 

The steering wheel fits snugly into your hands as you quickly find your ideal driving position. Paddle shifters are at your finger tips for rapid-fire gear changes. The sports seats hug you in anticipation of the drive ahead. Turn the key and the engine bursts into life and settles down to a quiet idle. Slot the DSG box into gear and as you pull off, the twin exhausts leave a burble in your wake. The ride is what you’d expect from a GTI, firm, but not jarring and comfortable on all but the bumpiest roads. Initially it feels as if the suspension might be too compliant but this theory is quickly dismissed as you up the pace through the turns.

New to the sixth generation GTI is the addition of what VW call the XDS differential. Essentially this is an extension of the electronic limited-slip differential and helps to eliminate understeer by anticipating conditions where one front wheel is likely to break free and then preventatively applies braking force. As a result, the GTI has fantastic road manners and really does handle well, even when pushed to the limits, the ESP brings everything under control in a smooth and efficient manner. Feedback from the steering is positive and provides a good feel for the road, although turn-in is sharper than expected and took us a bit of time to get used to.

The DSG gearbox offers fast and precise changes, and the auto-blip of the throttle on the down shifts is great, but… We couldn’t help feel that the efficiency of the DSG took some of the fun out of the drive. It can’t provide the connection to the engine and wheels like a manual gearbox can and in a hot-hatch that is part of the fun. Being responsible for the co-ordination of steering, brakes, throttle and gears is what a driver’s car is all about. It’s a rewarding feeling when you get it right and the reason why driving is so exciting for most. What we’re saying then, is that the DSG is excellent 90 percent of the time – in traffic it’s a joy – but for the remaining 10 percent, when you really want to have fun, the manual may coerce a bigger grin.

Among the current hot-hatch line-up (think R26, OPC, and ST) the new GTI is still the least powerful and the figures don’t stir up excitement. Power continues to come from VW’s 2,0-litre 16-valve turbocharged ‘EA-888′ motor. Now in it’s second stage of development, VW engineers have not simply added new or upgraded ECU software. The engine has received new components such as modified pistons and piston rings, a regulated oil pump, a new vacuum pump, a new high-pressure fuel pump and a new mass airflow sensor. The result is 155 kW at 5 300 rpm and 280 N.m of torque from 1 700 rpm to 5 200 rpm.

Driving the new Golf GTI the additional 7 kW over the previous model are noticeable. This GTI feels quick. Coupled with the DSG box, VW claim zero to 100 km/h in 6.9 seconds and a top speed of 238 km/h, ensuring the GTI can run with the pack. A flat torque curve gives the GTI great all round drive ability. Whether dawdling around town, overtaking on the open road, or racing between corners, the lump of torque is always at your disposal and ensures swift progress. 

What we like…

  • New face of the VW range and rear diffuser add a stylish edge to the GTI.

  • Well balanced chassis and handling provides quick and exciting driving.

  • Enough power, comfort and space to carry four people, or leave them at home and burn rubber.

What we would like…

  • A new set of 18-inch wheels to match the rest of the styling changes.

  • We’d spec a few optional extras for luxury and convenience, but overall the GTI remains the best all-round hot-hatch – for now.

Quick Facts

  • Engine Capacity: 1 984 cm cubed 

  • No. Of Cylinders: 4-cylinders, In-line

  • Aspiration: Turbocharged

  • Power: 155 kW @ 5 200 rpm

  • Torque: 280 N.m @ 1 700

  • Transmission: 6-speed DSG

  • Drive type: Front-wheel drive, with XDS differential

  • Acceleration: 0-100 km/h in 6.9 seconds (claimed)

  • Top Speed: 238 km/h (claimed)

  • Fuel Consumption: 7.4 l/100km (claimed combined)