The popularity of the Volkswagen Golf GTI remains as strong today as it was when the original was launched in 1977, and it’s easy to see why. The original brought super performance to the common man and was the first car to combine power, economy, handling, practicality and price in such a desirable package.
That legacy continues unabated with the arrival of the seventh generation GTI in the UAE. Demand has outstripped supply of the initial shipment from Wolfsburg, and the first cars were handed over to their new owners this past week.
There’s a whole list of reasons owners should be happy with the new car. First, it’s faster than its predecessor. Underbonnet poke comes from a new, third generation reworking if the Volkswagen direct injection 2.0-litre turbo EA888 inline four which, in GCC spec, produces 210 horspower (10-hp up on the previous GTI) and 350Nm torque (up 70Nm ). The sprint to 100km/h arrives in a factory claimed 6.5s, and top speed is rated at 244km/h.
Secondly, it’s riddled with safety features that VW simply couldn’t squeeze into its predecessor. That little opening in the grille below the number plate contains a radar-operated speed and distance sensor which lies at the heart of the car’s City Emergency Braking system. It’s designed to work at speeds under 30km/h, and will jam the brakes on if it senses you’re about to hit another car up the jacksie. And that’s just the start.
Most importantly though, it’s a phenomenal car to drive, both in everyday traffic and when you really need to press on. We don’t mean in a bone-rattling, track-ready-racer-designed-for-the-road kind of way; more that VW has returned to the sort of driving dynamics and feel that disappeared when the 16v Mk2 was phased out.
It’s longer, wider and lower than the Golf VI, making the interior a roomier place with more head, shoulder and elbow space to swing that steering wheel through its 2.1 turns lock-to-lock. Most of that extra 53mm length has been slotted between the wheels, giving rear seat passengers more space to brace for corners.
The bottom line is that the GTI has remained true to its roots, and poses the question: do you really need anything else?
How the VW Golf GTI shapes up
Front-engine, front-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 5-door hatchback
Turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 16-valve inline-4, iron block and aluminium head, direct fuel injection
217 hp @ 4500 rpm
350Nm @ 1500 rpm
6-speed manual, 6-speed dual-clutch automatic
PERFORMANCE (C/D EST)
ZERO TO 100km/h
PROJECTED FUEL ECONOMY (C/D EST)