NEW VW GOLF GTI

The archetypal hot hatch enters its eighth iteration and dials up the sporting thrills and classy cabin tech.

There might be a few shades of grey on Volkswagen’s GTI colour chart but there’s nothing grey about the performance and handling of the all-new model. Our Moonstone Grey test car featured traditional red GTI accents, tartan upholstery with a red pinstripe, and upgraded 19-inch Adelaide alloys. These add visual impact and come booted with very grippy 235/35 Hankook tyres. The jutting twin round exhausts and honeycombed front grille also make statements while an upturned roof-mounted spoiler is comparatively subtle. A light bar now extends between the front LEDs when illuminated.

180kW from the EA888 motor is enough to make the GTI dependably quick by modern standards, as Golf GTIs have always been. It’s not difficult to spin the fronts under hard acceleration, especially in winter, but traction in corners is exemplary. Much credit for this control goes to the front differential lock, previously found on Golf GTI Performance and TCR models. The e-diff maximises traction in Sport mode, making it easy to deploy the turbocharged punch. Spring rates are stiffer than before but adaptive damping is standard, so expect decent refinement in the Comfort setting.

If you need significantly more punch, the new Golf R delivers 235kW and 420Nm of shove, chopping two full seconds off the 0-100km/h time. A GTI Clubsport with 221kW/400Nm is also on the horizon.

There’s terrific attention to design detail inside and out with an interesting mix of textures, materials and tech features, all cleverly integrated in a handsome, nicely-built cabin. As is the new VW Group fashion, drive mode selection is via central screen menus. Choosing Individual in the Vehicle Dynamics Manager gives you a wealth of suspension firming options. Prod one of 15 points on the spectrum between Comfort and Sport and shock absorber firmness is adjusted accordingly.

With so much low-profile rubber with the optional 19-inch wheels, and a relatively short wheelbase in play, we typically wound things down towards Comfort to avoid bouncing from A to B but retained sporty shifting for the DSG and sporty steering feel.

Shift-by-wire technology is now employed to operate the slick-shifting transmission. The space-saving central control module has a small rocker switch for selecting drive modes as well as a button for the parking mode. The digital instruments are displayed on a high-def screen set within one large binnacle. And in the centre of the dash sits a 10.25in digital display for infotainment that, by contrast, is touch-sensitive and button-free. The look is very clean and uncluttered but at first glance the simplicity can make the cabin appear quite stark. Fire up the engine, however, and the displays come to life and you can tweak the ambient lighting to create mood.

We set the GTI plenty of hard-charging tasks during our week with the car and it knocked them all off without breaking a sweat. It proved a fast, finely-honed, user-friendly tool. It fits into your life so easily, you can soon take it for granted. It would have been more memorable if it had a hint more character but, for that, your VW dealership will gently guide you towards models designated ‘R’ and ‘Clubsport’…

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VW GOLF GTI

ENGINE 1984cc 4-cyl turbo

POWER 180kW (242bhp)

TORQUE 370Nm from 1600rpm

TRANSMISSION 7-speed DSG

DRIVETRAIN front-wheel drive

WEIGHT 1400kg

LENGTH 4.4m

WHEELS 19-inch alloy

TYRES 235/35 R19 (f,r)

0-100km/h 6.3 secs

FUEL CLAIM 6.9L/100km

PRICE from $61,490

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