VW’s latest GTI - we drive it!

2013-07-05 12:35

In February 2013 Volkswagen's 7th-generation Golf arrived in South Africa. No sooner was it here than petrol heads began asking: “When's the GTI coming?”

The original Golf GTi (as it was known then) created a class benchmark; in 2013 the seventh-generation continues to raise the bar… and then some.

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The tagline for the new GTI (as it is known now) reads: “Often copied. Never equalled.” Well, the first bit is certainly true (especially among its generations) while the second part ignores current French and US offerings – such as the Renault Megane RS and Ford Focus ST.

The last time the GTI was toppled as SA’s top hot-hatch was during the 1990's when the third generation 2.0 85kW version was launched locally. Many readers were quite vocal in our GTI sneak peek published in June 2013. As a result I thought I’d incorporate some of our readers’ comments; after all, without our audience's participation, what’s the point?


Wheels24 reader Marco Hudson said: “Same old same old, this GTI looks boring. Even the alloys look dated and the dash is very old school. Very disappointing."

When it comes to Golf, the word “boring” tends to crop up time and time again due to its design. Unsurprisingly VW has aimed for evolutionary over revolutionary. 

The trouble is even minor design tweaks here and there require a lot of effort from designers and engineers. As VW designer Andreas Mindt explained: “Many people say we at VW are lazy with design elements. The truth is a lot of work goes into each element to make it ‘new’ yet recognisable as one of our models.

“There’s so much precision and connectivity in the design. Every line is connected. Technology and design work hand-in-hand. To do all this is incredibly hard and the product is really special.”

As seen in the transition from Golf 6 to 7, subtlety is the order of the day. To help set it apart from its more sedate sibling, the model receives (a few) restrained styling tweaks. Most of the work went into its performance.


At the front there's a reinterpretation of the first GTi’s radiator grille. Another great touch is the Audi R8-esque fins dividing the LED fog lights.

Shuffle to the rear and you’ll find a spoiler, tinted diodes and chromed exhausts. It’s nothing too radical, though it’s sporty enough to be instantly recognisable as a GTI.

Given how many GTI’s leave VW’s showrooms monthly, it seems “boring” (read: conservative) designs are exactly what the local market is clamoring for.

Wheels24 reader Brutus McGregor said: “I was a big OPC fan but one day I decided to try the GTI 5 with a DSG. Never looked back, maybe just try it. The GTI rules, the rest follow.”

I agree Brutus (awesome name btw), no matter your preference in automaker, VW’s GTI sets the benchmark for other hot-hatches to follow. I think it’s a testament to VW just how hard its rivals have to push to take on its quintessential hot hatch. Fortunately for the buyer, in 2013, they not only match the GTI but in some cases (Megane RS and ST) raised the standard even higher.


The model is powered by a two-litre turbocharged engine delivering 162kW/350Nm. The turbocharged engine is created from the third generation of VW’s EA888 engine series.

The  GTI is equipped with a stop/start system and the engine is mated to a six-speed transmission. Combined fuel consumption is rated at six litres/100km with emissions of 139g/km. Equipped with a six-speed direct shift transmission (DSG), fuel consumption increases to 6.4 litres/100km with an emissions rating of 148g/km CO2.

The engine enables the model to rocket to 100km/h in 6.5sec on to a top speed of 246km/h (DSG - 244km/h).


So what it’s like to drive? In short – a grin-inducing, speech-robbing barrel of fun. The engine allows for smooth power delivery and effortless speed while its electronic stability control (ESC) provides jaw-droppingly good handling characteristics.

The ESC allows you to disengage the ESP for launch control (Anti Skid/Spin Regulator- ASR is temporarily switched off) and for dynamic driving on a track with ESC Sport.

The ESC Sport mode delays the traction control from engaging too soon which allows to perform some buttock-clenching manoeuvers  before the system reins you in and saves you from, well, yourself.  It’s as if it’s saying: “OK, you’ve had your fun, now let's not do something stupid.”

Unfortunately you can never fully anticipate the road ahead as fellow SA motoring journalist found in Slanghoek (Breedekloof) between Wolseley and Rawsonville. The pair collided with a bakkie. The bakkie performed a U-turn in the path of the oncoming GTI resulting in the crash. Fortunately nobody was seriously hurt.

The feedback through the steering wheel and chassis is great giving you total immersion behind the wheel. You do however get the sense that this is a very “serious” car completely at odds with the boy-racer buyers it attracts. The manual guise is what this vehicle was made for - boosting the driver's immersion factor. The DSG is sublime in operation though not as sporty as its manual sibling. This is somewhat mitigated by switching to semi-auto mode and using the paddle shifts.

Body roll is nearly non-existent and, due to the electronic differential lock, understeer is kept to a minimum. VW has once again created a superb vehicle... it's just, well, so has everybody else.


The cabin benefits from leather sport seats, steering-wheel (shift pedals for the DS) and stitching. As befits its hot-hatch status, the instrument cluster has a unique graphic display, red ambience lighting and stainless-steel sill guards and pedals. Purists will be pleased to see the “golf ball” gear knob has returned after missing the sixth generation.

Standard kit includes progressive steering, fatigue detection system, automatic multi-collision braking and an electronic differential. Optional features include dynamic chassis control with a driver-selected drive choice. An optional 400W Dynaudio sound system can be ordered.

Despite its focus on performance, the GTI retains the Golf’s practicality. The rear bench can fold (60/40) and provides cargo length of 1.5m. Boot capacity is 380 litres.

ST vs. GTI

The GTI faces off against the likes of the Opel Astra OPC, Megane RS and the Focus ST. By VW’s own admission, the Focus ST is its biggest rival. VW's product marketing manager, Hein Schafer, said: “We feel we have a complete package to offer, with plenty of features and tech.”

In terms of performance, the ST has more power but is less frugal (7.2 litres/100km) and has greater carbon emissions (169g/km).

The ST has Ford’s superb SYNC audio/Bluetooth system while the GTI has a touchscreen with satnav an option. Another advantage the GTI has over its Ford rival is its ability to park itself - the driver just gentles the throttle; ST owners have to maker do without a reversing camera.

Then again, most of the extras avaible to GTI owners will raise its price - more on that later.


Then there’s the value-for-money proposition. The new GTI gains a lot more kit, rides on a new platform and has a revised engine for only R10 000 more than the outgoing model – Golf 6 GTI: R358 400.

Wheels24 reader Aldrin Joseph said: “ST3 has four doors and bi-xenons. On the GTI that's a R9600 option. This pushes the GTI manual to R377 900. GTI is a great car but way over priced."

I concur. The optional extras of any VW often push the price of its vehicles way high. The GTI is no exception as you’ll see from its list of options at the end of the article. The other side of the coin is having the ability to add creature comforts depending on your budget. With the ST, what you see is what you get.

I guess the key word here is “optional”, meaning the extra kit is available but at a premium, as opposed to “non-existent” as shown by its many rivals.


South African fans of new GTI will be pleased to hear Schafer say the Performance Edition will come to SA by 2014. "Some testing still remains but we know our customers want it and we have pushed to bring it here."


Many readers felt pricing and its timid design would negatively affect Golf sales. So how is the new model doing in SA? Since February - May 2013 VW has sold 2295 units with an average of 574 per month. The huge petrol increase reported in June 2013 will no doubt hamper future sales in SA.


Even though it's down on power against its rivals, it can perform on circuits or out on country roads, making it one of the most versatile hot-hatches on our roads.

Gone are the days when the GTI was the obvious choice for a hot hatch in SA. Bar the third generation, the new range is a competent, though expensive, contender. Whether it needs to be taken seriously around a track or being chucked about on a spirited drive on the open road, the GTI is a vehicle that can perform any task it’s given brilliantly.

Golf GTI 2.0 TSI 162kW - R368 300
Golf GTI 2.0 TSI 162kW DSG a/t - R382 800

It's sold with a five-year or 90 000km service plan, a three-year or 120 000km warranty and a 12-year anti-corrosion warranty. Service intervals 15 000km.

Optional extras:
Metallic paint – R900
Sun roof – R9000
Tow hitch - R4000
Bi-xenons – R9600
Keyless entry – R4600
Auto high beam – R1050
Parking radar – R3050
Auto parallel parking – R6350
Reversing camera – R3000
Adaptive chassis control – R10 200
Mobile device interface with iPod/iPhone cable – R850
Discover Pro Radio with satnav, USB and Bluetooth -  R18 350
DynAudio 300w sound system – R8200


  • revino - 2013-07-05 13:01

    VW must realise its not porsche and that its customer base is not deep pocketed. As much as buys want improved dynamics and build/tactile quality they also want to see forward thinking modern design. there are a lot of pretenders to the VW GTI throne but not a lot to the 911 throne.The GTI is an aspirational purchase to the youth whilst those that but it are upwardly mobile, young (at heart?, trendy, wanting to make a statemen. how can you with a car that looks like a facelift of a facelift even tho its all new. A lot of thought might have been put into design elements... but it was not to take the car forward, but rather keep it looking slightly modern but very much the same. The youth of today embraces change...if one looks at cell phone technology or Tv's. They can accept new designs as long as theres continuity and its not too radical. this criticsm can be levied at the entire VW group witha brash of new models looking like facelifts of the old ala A3. even BMW is guilty of this. the one thing it does protect is resale value of the previous generation... why would anyone want to update with a similar looking car. The GTI is playing in a highly competitive, design driven market and one of its USP's is heritage and then drivability and then quality. The test will be...the fact that its priced so close to the teutonic 3... do these factors overcome the snobbery that goes with owning a Mercedes, BMW or Audi. This obviously excludes the Golf afficianados and loyalists.

      Colleen Atheitis - 2013-07-06 09:49

      Fact of the matter is that the Teutons have run out of ideas and are not innovators. They have come up with yet another trying-to-please-all-the-Sheeple, based on incremental, boring design tweaks. There is nnothing striking about the pile of steaming turd, other than its priceyness. 6-speed 1800's with over 175kW+ and start-stop technology have been around since 2009, but The Sheeple are now only becoming of it now with the release of this over-priced sloth-mobile. Fact of the matter is The Sheeple will fall over backwards to be a possessor of this egregeous Teutonic Disaster, just be at the centre of the bell curve. Yawn...

      Brutus Mcgreggor - 2013-07-07 09:18

      At least we don't drive fords snicker snicker......

  • Mncedi Mgwigwi - 2013-07-05 13:21

    VW produces good cars. Pity in the Eastern Cape that after sales service is pathetic.

      Colleen Atheitis - 2013-07-06 14:57

      Good for the oil companies...they make a fortune from all the top-up oil for Golfs...

  • Stig De - 2013-07-05 14:17

    I would like to retract my comments when I said at R368 300 its priced right, I just didn’t realise long list of options that are must-have like Sunroof, Xenon lights etc. basically an okay specced GTI is 400k anything below that you driving a poor man’s GTI. So MQB platform is not cheap after all, and those Kia Rio mags I don’t know who copied who

  • Fredster69 - 2013-07-05 14:24

    Nice car, but overpriced

      RM Elegant - 2013-07-05 14:49

      well said FRED. The time is coming...nothing lasts forever

      Brutus Mcgreggor - 2013-07-07 09:18

      Say that to the dealerships that have a two years waiting list and counting

  • RM Elegant - 2013-07-05 14:45

    The truth is VW (moreso VWSA) takes us for granted because they know the heritage of the brand will almost always ensure they become the foremost "hot hatch" of choice. They keep behaving like this (as with other German Marques in their respective class) and there will come a time when this will catch up to them. The day the public finally realise that other marques (Koreans, Japanese etc) give value for money (more extras for lesser cost) it'll be the end of this "Multichoice-ry" behaviour

      Chrono Man - 2013-07-06 08:56

      You hit the nail on the head but why are people so gullible? Had 2 VW products, crap quality, started studying JD Power and discovered that VW is a dysmal brand. Not what I say, but people's experience. Coupled with the price it's actually a total rip-off. But then one has to realise that in some countries, e.g. Switzerland you have to have a permit to drive a car that is older than 2 years. Maybe some brands are starting to make cars to only last out the warranty period.

      Colleen Atheitis - 2013-07-06 09:57

      The only excitement in driving a Golf is the anxiety of whether you have packed a tin of oil in the boot just in case you need to top it up again...

  • RM Elegant - 2013-07-05 14:48

    Given how many GTI’s leave VW’s showrooms monthly, it seems “boring” (read: conservative) designs are exactly what the local market is clamoring for....well SERGIO we still subscribe to dstv but does that mean it's brilliant??

      RM Elegant - 2013-07-05 14:53

      point is, selling because you haven't had decent competition till about 3-5 years ago doesn't mean you are brilliant ;)

  • Aldrin Joseph - 2013-07-05 15:10

    ST has 4yr/120 000km comprehensive warranty. 20000km service intervals and keyless push button start standard. GTI price should have been 10k less. If u go for "important" options: metallic pain,keyless,& mobile device it will set you back R15050 + manual model = R383350.00 With the above in mind,the big questions: Is the new GTI worth the extra 30K over the ST? Is it 30K better ? - If money is not an option - yes it may be, but i think not.

      Brutus Mcgreggor - 2013-07-05 20:12

      Ok, after three years, go trade in your GTI 7 or your ST3. And one thing the guys from ford missed completely, a decent double clutcher. Only two things that elevates the golf over the ford.

      Colleen Atheitis - 2013-07-06 14:52

      The other thing that will elevate a Golf over a Ford is the Flatbed winch when your Golf engine seizes from oil starvation...

      Brutus Mcgreggor - 2013-07-07 09:17

      Zzzzzzzzzz yawn

      Philip Parker - 2014-12-04 09:34

      Colleen Have your Golf seen to you must have an unique problem. My 2007 GTI mk5 and 2012 GTI mk6 use very little oil. Maybe 500ml between 15000km services

  • Tlangela Ntshembo Mkhacane-Sbavhula - 2013-07-05 16:01

    VW can't please everyone, those that try are never successful.

  • Sthere Dlamini - 2013-07-05 18:19

    so, you're telling me that the ST3 with all the bells and whistles is still faster, cheaper and has more boot space than the G7 ?!?

  • Kwashirai Chigodora - 2013-07-05 23:07

    ST for the traditional hot hatch guy who wants to be able to thrash it without worrying about if it breaks will i be able to fix it... GTI for the snob who likes hot hatches but still wants to be able to claim he is better than everybody else... just because he is. *nose in the air* he hates pulling up next to a BMW 320 because not matter how much he paid for his GTI the BMW will always be better... just because it is *nose in the air *

      Brutus Mcgreggor - 2013-07-06 14:05

      Zzzzz, me thinks you cannot afford a GTI

      Colleen Atheitis - 2013-07-06 14:55

      Enjoying your STI Brutus?

  • Seriousman Veryserious - 2013-07-06 00:09

    No thank you. I like my Aston Martin.

      Johan Hardbliksem - 2013-07-06 09:13

      Austen Martin, waste of money, slow, all beat and no speed. The english cannot build proper cars

  • Nick Rogerson - 2013-07-06 06:48

    I bought the Tdi 7 and I am pretty happy with it. A really great interior. If you want to make a statement rather buy something else I spose. Nobody at the office even knew it was a new car, except for other Golf drivers. It's never going to be as quick as the ST Ford, but then it also doesn't have that annoying dash with all those silly buttons on either. Just a really great quality drivers car, which goes really well around corners, and I spose that is what VW stands for.

      Makaveli - 2013-07-06 08:23

      Roger are u insinuating that the Golf is much of a drivers car than the ST and the Megane RS? Really? Is that the reason it has a double clutch? The focus has always been known as the best drivers car in its class due to its unrivaled handling, the Megane RS is still the undisputed track machine, the golf, well, it's a very civilized car, meant to also be driven by novice drivers with an L sign and women as well.

      Brutus Mcgreggor - 2013-07-06 14:06

      Track car, how boring zzzzzZzzz

  • Vince Hobs - 2013-07-06 08:20

    Each to their own,its a matter of personal preference as to whether you go with st3 or General transpot for idiots(GTI).

      Brutus Mcgreggor - 2013-07-06 14:07

      No class, fords are for inbreeds, focus ST is just a modern XR 6 nothing more

  • Vinesh Moodley - 2013-07-08 08:03

    brutus mcgreggor is a f%@cking snob. I bet his dress sense is as appealing as the boring new golf!

  • Riaan Jooste - 2013-07-08 10:46

    Taking out close to R400k without any options and only a "Service plan" hurts! And then as far as "Another advantage the GTI has over its Ford rival is its ability to park itself" goes...it is still an option of around R10k...? So is it really an "advantage" then?

  • Muhammad Sheik Oumar - 2013-07-08 11:39

    The ST and GTi are both great cars. But for some reason the Ford seems to be just a little bit better. Sorry VW but I would rather have the ST3.

  • Dean Hendricks - 2013-07-11 12:54

    I just have to point out that there really are some tossers commenting on the "interwebs" lately. I don't know about the rest of you, but when I purchase a car, I purchase a car that I am happy with and nobody else. It makes no difference to me what the next person thinks; whether it be a GTI, ST, Meg RS or even a Type R. If your choice puts a smile on your face when you get behind the wheel or even look at it, then it was the right choice. At the end of the day... to each their own. Why waste time and effort trying to force YOUR OPINION on others. Be happy with the choice you make and be happy for the next person on their choice.

  • Denver Naidoo - 2013-07-21 11:12

    Ah the smell of VW raping consumers in the morning.... I'm sorry people, but there's no getting past the fact that it's superior expensive, under powered and (by my taste) very generic looking. VW have pulled the wool over SA's eyes - seriously, how can cars like the Megane RS and the Focus St be deemed poorer choices than the golf? It's simple logic that should dictate this golf is a joke. Sadly people will continue to overlook the non golf's and fill our roads with the most boring and predicable sight - golf gti. Even if the focus and Megane were worse cars, I'd rather drive one of those just so that my car doesn't blend into the scenery like the golf.

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