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Driven: Volkswagen's refreshed Golf GTI

2017-05-15 13:41

Sean Parker

Graaf Reinet - "They can make it, they just choose not to”, says a colleague after we’ve driven 260kms in the updated Golf GTI.

The car he is referring to is the Clubsport S; a stripped out road racer, of which only 400 were built, and all of which, have been flogged. So, yes unfortunately everyone else will have to make do with the ordinary GTI, but is that a bad thing?

The simple answer is no, the GTI is still the best hot hatch you can buy in South Africa today. If you’re looking for a car that’s elegant, understated, powerful, luxurious and fast then this is THE car for you.

No manual gearbox

For 2017, VW has ditched a manual gearbox, so you’ll have to do with only the brilliant twin-clutch. Its also benefited from a slight engine software upgrade to produce 169kW (like the previous Performance Pack version).

Armed with a GTI sporting the optional 19” Santiago wheels (18” wheels are standard) I had plenty of time to get under the skin of the model that makes up 55% of all Golf sales in South Africa. Those spiffy wheels will cost R8100.

Firstly, it feels more powerful than the claimed kilowatt output and that mostly comes down to the seamless manner in which the power is laid down. You’re fully aware that all the power is at your disposal and can be exploited rapidly.

Is it enjoyable to drive?

Yes, if you’re willing to drive a hatchback that isn’t ‘shouty’ and goes about its business more akin to Angela Merkel than Donald Trump.  

Blasting through the Eastern Cape (at the national speed limit) it occurs to me just how quickly you can find a good rhythm in the car which is supremely capable when the asphalt becomes twisty.

We have prices for Volkswagen's Golf '7.5' and GTI in SA

Prod the Adaptive Chassis Control (ACC) mode button next to the gear lever, and select Sport as the GTI’s steering weights up nicely in your hands and the rev counter rises in anticipation of what’s in store.

ACC tweaks the exhaust note, stiffens the suspension and offers a sportier steering and throttle feel.

I found myself ‘loading’ up a gear via the steering-mounted paddles before ‘firing’ it through at the opportune time. It’s a helluva satisfying gearbox to use when you’re driving in a spirited manner.

And when you’re trying to emulate your favourite racing driver the GTI offers a comfortable ride on par with many German sedans. Yes, this is where the GTI excels by offering a composed car when you need to roll up to your partner’s folk's house.

Yes, it’s still the best

I have no doubt that the updated GTI will increase its market share in the Golf range because it’s still the best all-round hot hatch you can buy in South Africa.

With the advent of a few safety and technology systems that you can read about here, SA’s favourite hot hatch shows no signs of letting go of its crown.

For the record, VW claim the GTI will reach 100km/h sprint in 6.4 seconds and has a top speed limited to 248km/h. Claimed combined fuel consumption of 6.4l/100km. 


GTI DSG - R545 800

More from VW

Three more models will be launched in the second half of the year: a 2.0-litre TDI with 81kW, the Golf R with 213kW and the all-new GTD with 130kW will be introduced in the second half of the year.


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