Volkswagen Golf GTI Edition 30
It doesn’t have a premium badge, but the VW is still a great package
Despite coming from humble origins and nearly being killed off in the Nineties, the hot hatch is on great form. The class is more diverse than ever before, with plenty of upmarket models now available. BMW and Audi have their own versions – the 130i M Sport and S3, each with more than 260bhp. Yet both were left bruised when they took on VW’s superb Golf in Issue 944.
So how will the GTI fare when tasked with meeting the 1-Series Coupé and TT head-on? It has space on its side, but while the 350-litre boot is generous and the user-friendly rear seats shouldn’t be sniffed at, the cavernous interior means the driving environment isn’t as snug.
No hot hatch can match the elegant styling of the TT, but in terms of visual impact, our long-term Edition 30 model has an ace up its sleeve. The 18-inch powder black alloy wheels – are now a £1,500 dealer-fit option, and although they look rather ostentatious, they give the car a far more purposeful stance.
Elsewhere, the detailing is as well executed as ever. The thin red line around the grille, the distinctive rear lights and the subtle bodykit all differentiate this car from a run-of-the-mill Golf. Yet it still comes across as tasteful.
The overtly sporting approach would be for nothing if the German three-door didn’t have the performance to back up its looks. On paper, it’s not too promising; the Golf delivers 227bhp and 300Nm of torque, and lags 75bhp and 100Nm behind the BMW. Even the fact it weighs over 200kg less isn’t enough to level the playing field, while the front-wheel-drive layout means traction is lacking off the line. The VW completed the sprint from 0-60mph in 6.4 seconds – that’s a lengthy 1.3 seconds slower than the 135i.
But this isn’t the whole story – once up and running, the turbo GTI recorded virtually identical acceleration times to the TT, making it faster than the firm’s R32. The engine is a gem: efficient, tractable and well mannered. Our only gripe is that it doesn’t sound as good as its six-cylinder rivals, and lacks their linear power delivery.
What it does have is snappy throttle response, firm brakes and a precise, clean gearchange. These features highlight just how well engineered the GTI is – the standards are every bit as high as in the BMW or Audi. Plus, the Golf is light to drive, easy to see out of and well laid out inside, all of which helps to make it effortless to live with.
So can it really be as exciting to drive? In a word, yes. The suspension is every bit as well set up as the Audi’s, delivering a near-perfect blend of ride comfort and handling ability. The steering wheel isn’t only great to hold, but provides more detailed feedback than the BMW’s. And although the front-drive layout means the Golf doesn’t put its power down as well as its rivals, it’s superbly balanced, responsive and entertaining.
Admittedly, the GTI doesn’t have the panache and desirability of the TT, nor the 135i’s straight-line speed. But it’s a very well rounded car that’s great to drive in all situations. What’s more, it has brilliant seats, a faultless driving position and, despite the hatchback architecture, manages to come across as sporting and special inside.
If you sit in the VW, you wouldn’t think it costs nearly £8,000 less than the BMW. And although we’ve criticised the Golf in the past for being more expensive than its direct rivals, in this company it looks like a real bargain.
Price: £22,322Model tested: Volkswagen Golf GTI Edition 30Chart position: 2WHY: The GTI is one of the most upmarket hot hatches. Can it match its more expensive rivals here?
After 16,000 miles, the 2.0-litre FSI turbo in our Golf rarely falls below 30mpg. It’s not only the most efficient car here, but also has the longest range, at 374 miles. Yet running on super will raise your annual fuel bill by £120, to £1,857.
Evidence of the latest Golf GTI’s high standing in the hot hatch market can be found in its used values. A three-year-old Edition 30 that’s covered 36,000 miles is still worth £11,875 – that’s an impressive 53.2 per of its price when new.
The VW should be the most affordable car to run in this test, with the first three services at £550. However, as with the TT, the first check on our long-term car cost more, at £255. The single-year recovery deal is miserly, too.
For buyers looking to keep costs down, the VW is the best option. Not only is it far cheaper to buy than either rival, it’s also taxed at six per cent less. Higher-rate owners pay £2,232 a year to the Treasury – £1,456 less than 135i buyers.
In this review
- 1IntroductionThe all-new 1-Series Coupé aims to take BMW to the top of the class for driving fun. But is the powerful flagship 135i a match for the Audi TT and Volkswagen Golf GTI?
- 21st Audi TT 3.2Can our current class favourite hold on to its crown here?
- 32nd Volkswagen Golf GTI - currently readingIt doesn’t have a premium badge, but the VW is still a great package
- 43rd BMW 1-SeriesAll-new two-door serves up unique looks and a mighty engine.
- 5Facts and figures