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Comparison test: Golf GTI vs Golf GTD

2017-11-25 09:00

Sean Parker

Image: Warren Wilson


There's always lots of fanfare when a new Volkswagen Golf GTI is released in South Africa. The '7.5' is no exception, we asked our resident photographer Warren Wilson to capture the new details.

Cape Town - Choose a car. Choose a hatchback. Choose a Volkswagen. Choose the GTI... or should you? 

Volkswagen South Africa has introduced, for the very first time, a car they say is a diesel performance hatchback every bit as potent as its ubiquitous GTI - the new GTD. 

At the same time we thought it was a good opportunity to drive VW South Africa's best-selling Golf derivative, the GTI, back to back with the less expensive (by R35 000) GTD. 

On paper, the GTD's 2.0-litre diesel engine produces 130kW and 350Nm, while the GTI has 169kW and the same torque figure. Both are front-wheel drive but the GTI has a trick up its sleeve: dynamic chassis control. More on that later. 

The GTD (above) wears smart 18-inch alloy wheels, while the GTI (below) was fitted with optional 19-inch Santiago alloys. Despite having bigger wheels it didn't hamper the GTI's excellent ride quality. 

Both cars feature body kits that millenials will call 'lit' and while the GTD nameplate doesn't have as big a following as the GTI it managed to turn a few heads while on test. 

Midrand men will know that the GTI has fat twin tailpipes located at each end while the GTD has smaller twin exhaust pipes on the left hand side. 

In terms of spec, both cars were fitted with keyless entry, panoramic sunroof, a rear camera, sat-nav, blind spot detection, an upgraded sound system. VW's active info display which gives the driver a myriad of information was also specified, the 31cm screen houses five different 'modes'. It's a nice touch but you could do without it. 

The main infotainemt screen located centrally on the fascia is a 23cm unit that's touch sensitive and even has VW's gesture control. One blight is the location of the USB port (deep-set in a binnacle just below the screen). It's simply too small to fit one's hand in and plug in the connector. 

Apart from that, I had no qualms about the cabin and both are expertly finished. 


Let's get to what really sets these two cars apart: their engines. The GTD doesn't sound a gruff or agricultural as some diesel-powered cars do. The GTI has a smoother tone to its engine note (when it Sport mode) it emits a lovely vrrphaa noise when changing gears. 

Both are fast cars, but the GTI is more Usain Bolt while the GTD has a Wayde van Niekerk pace about it. 

The GTI takes 6.4 seconds to reach 100km/h from standstill while the GTD has a claimed time of 7.4 seconds. 

The oil-burner is not a slouch and it'll search for grip in first and second gears. The steering is nicely weighted and only in extreme circumstances can you cause understeer. 

It feels markedly agile for a turbodiesel car in its application as a performance hatch. The six-speed DSG (also  holds the gear nicely to extract the 130kW from 3600r/min. 

The engine really does make sense: powerful, torquey and economical. Is this all the Golf you need and more importantly does it deserve the GTD badge or is it actually a tarted up 2.0-litre TDI model? 


I've driven the 7.5 GTI extensively in 2017, from its launch in the Eastern Cape to testing it on some of the Western Cape's best roads. Is it better to drive than the GTD? Yes.

The GTI, fitted with 'dynamic chassis control', is a well-sorted hatch that possess all the ingredients that feels alive. 

The driving xperience is bang on perfect, there's enough urge, good feel from the steering and confidence, so much confidence from the front wheels that you're in control of one of the world's most complete cars. 

Top speed is claimed at 248km/h while the GTD runs out of puff at 230km/h according to the automaker. 

The sweet spot is tackling twisty asphalt and even when pushing hard into a corner you'll be reigned in by the electronics working their magic. 

It's difficult to really get into trouble with the GTI, it's so composed and well balanced that you almost feel it shouldn't be driven like a hooligan. 

Which one should you take?

The GTI (in test specification) commands a R39 100 premium over the GTD. There's an argument to be made that the GTD is simply a spruced top-of-the-range 2.0-litre TDI model festooned with GTD badges. 

I think it's a hatch with genuine hot credentials, something you can even chuck around a race track and still go home without refueling. 

The addition of the R12 700 dynamic chassis control option makes a big difference to the GTI and I'd implore potential buyers to tick that box. 

In the end, both cars feel remarkably similar but the GTI is a sharper, more nimble and responsive than the GTD primarily because of that excellent engine. 

These are two high-quality products, and the GTI in '7.5' form is arguably one of the best cars in the world. The GTD simply can't match it. 

Read more on:    vw  |  gti  |  volkswagen  |  sean parker  |  cape town  |  table mountain  |  road tests

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