Mileage: 1,351 miles
Real world fuel economy: 28.9mpg
Ever since the Volkswagen Golf GTI made its hot hatch class-defining debut nearly 40 years ago, the weight of expectation that greets every new generation is almost unbearable. Yet unlike my pathetic attempts to lift just a few kilos, the rapid Volkswagen can easily shoulder the burden of four decades of hot hatch history.
This latest seventh-generation model of Volkswagen's iconic Golf GTI is the fastest, most refined and practical version yet. And with a solid gold image and classy interior, it’s also dripping with premium appeal.
However, there’s an argument that Volkswagen's relentless push upmarket has diluted the Golf’s fun-loving appeal and previously unbeatable performance per pound ratio.
There’s certainly no escaping the fact the Golf is more expensive than its rivals, with the standard five-door weighing in at around £27,000. And our car is even pricier thanks to the addition of the £995 Performance Pack.
This is a costly upgrade, but it boosts power by 10bhp to 227bhp, and adds a clever, electronically controlled limited-slip differential and bigger brakes. This kit looks modest on paper, but it transforms the way the Golf drives.
Our car has covered little more than 1,000 miles, but the rorty-sounding turbocharged 2.0-litre engine already feels more eager than the standard GTI’s, while the special diff reduces understeer and boosts traction. It’s not the only optional extra that enhances the driving experience either, because we’ve also added the £815 adaptive dampers.
In Sport mode, this system stiffens the suspension significantly, helping to improve body control over bumps and reduce roll in corners. In combination with the Performance Pack, the sophisticated suspension helps deliver the driver involvement that’s missing from the ‘normal’ GTI. Yet the Golf’s best party trick is its ability to combine these driving thrills with everyday usability.
Set the dampers to Comfort and it rides almost as softly as a luxury saloon, plus the cabin is well insulated from wind and road noise. And as with all versions of the Volkswagen Golf, the GTI is roomy and versatile inside – although the tartan seat trim, golf ball gearlever and red stitching on the steering wheel are constant reminders that you’re in something a little bit special.
The 380-litre boot can’t match my previous Skoda Octavia (with which the Golf GTI shares Volkswagen's lightweight MQB chassis) for space, but there’s still enough room for my young son’s pram and all the luggage you’d need for a week’s holiday.
Sadly though, there are some question marks hanging over the Volkswagen Golf GTI. While our car feels beautifully built, a recurring gearbox rattle (issue 1,317) has already forced a trip to the dealer. And despite gentle running in, the fuel return of 28.9mpg is a little disappointing.
Despite these issues, the Golf GTI is already living up to the promise of its legendary badge. In fact, it’s so good that every time I climb behind the wheel I feel like the weight of the world has been lifted from my shoulders.
Click for our full Volkswagen Golf GTI review
Insurance quote (below) provided by the AA for a 42-year-old living in Banbury, Oxon, with three points.