As I lumber out of bed at 5 AM to start the long daily driving slog that many Gauteng residents must endure, only one thing manages to bring a wry smile to my face at that time of the morning.
My gleaming Golf GTI poised in the winter darkness, its low hunkered stance, menacing grill and warm comfortable interior a rare treat in the sameness of cars that pervade our streets these days.
My love affair with this machine started some time ago when I decided to take the plunge and replace a much beloved Polo TDI Sport. Yes, the Polo was frugal, capable and mostly comfortable, but my god it was quick.
When the time came to find an able replacement I was afforded the opportunity to drive a number of pretenders to the throne, including the excellent BMW 1 series.
Unforgettable first drive
The GTI was the last that I managed to drive, but it was the only one I wanted after enjoying its heady mix of power, poise and comfort one unforgettable Saturday morning.
I received the car shortly before a recent holiday trip, after a delay of some 5 months from date of order. The trip through the country from Gauteng to Natal, down to the Eastern Cape and back to Gauteng afforded ample opportunity to get to know the car intimately on the diverse challenging roads in South Africa.
One particular afternoon stands out in my mind as being the reason for this GTI's existence. On route from Natal to the Eastern Cape one has to traverse the treacherous roads of the Transkei, but for all the challenges of people, animals, fog and deteriorating road surfaces there is a winding piece of tar that, if not busy, must surely rate as one of the finest in the country.
I started out cautiously on the Kei Pass, but soon began to revel in the GTI's abilities to dive deep into corners with precious little body roll and then power out of them again with absolute poise and control.
The mix of nigh on perfect gearing, form-hugging leather sports seats and accurate steering ensure that you kiss corner apexes perfectly nearly each and every time. While the ever present thrust from the superb two-litre turbocharged power plant is there to move you to the next set of corners in double-quick time.
By the time I crossed the river at the bottom of the pass the grin on my face had become deep and I actually had to stop and catch my breath. I was totally overwhelmed by the sheer capability of this car on the Kei's mix of deep turns and heady heights.
To me, cars that can make you feel this way are rare, but the Golf GTI manages to be most things to most people. It is comfortable, powerful, well-priced and, on specials days, a tool that can take you to motoring nirvana.