VW Golf GTI Pirelli

As final fling for MkV, firm has teamed up with top tyre maker.

A Golf GTI named after a tyre company might seem to be a strange way to finish the MkV model’s life, but Volkswagen hopes it will have hot hatch fans gripped!

The Italian rubber giant has history with VW, too. In 1983, the car maker produced a GTI Pirelli based on the original Golf MkI. It was fitted with tyres from the firm and had distinctive 13-inch ‘P-slot’ alloys.

With a total production run of 10,500 units selling out within six months, it was a massive success. And now, 25 years later, the two manufacturers are celebrating their continued relationship by releasing a 21st Century version.

As with the original, the new car has a unique set of wheels, obviously shod with Pirelli tyres. Unfortunately, the style of the rims and the colour-coded bodywork detracts from some of the subtle detailing that makes the stock GTI look so good.

Inside, all the best bits of the standard model remain. Smart instruments and a well laid-out and solidly assembled dash are what make this one of the easiest hot hatches to live with on a day-to-day basis. In homage to Pirelli’s trademark colours, you get yellow stitching on the steering wheel and gearlever, but the most obvious interior difference is the tyre tread-effect material on the front seats.

Whatever you think about the trim, the driving position is perfect, and the seats are superbly comfortable, although they don’t offer as much lateral support as the figure-hugging buckets in the Renault.

But this GTI isn’t a stripped-out trackday special. As a result, the Golf has decent rear legroom and a practical boot.

The only mechanical change comes under the bonnet. As with the now sold-out GTI Edition 30, the 2.0-litre TFSI engine in the Pirelli has been boosted from 197bhp to a more generous 227bhp. There’s no doubt the extra 30bhp is appreciated on both road and track. The seven-second 0-60mph time we recorded was in wet conditions, and the German model offers plenty of overtaking grunt in the real world. What’s more, unlike the Renault and Honda, the VW remains relaxed and refined even when pushed. However, the Golf lacks the manic nature of the Civic, and doesn’t have the punch of the Focus. And as it weighs a substantial 127kg more than the Renault, it unsurprisingly can’t match that model’s pace. Nevertheless, it is still a very fast and usable road car; it’s simply not as raw as rivals.

The story is similar when it comes to handling. The GTI’s suspension strikes a great balance between body control and ride quality, while the steering is engaging and the handling accurate and composed.

In this company the VW is outclassed, though. Without the stiffer suspension and clever diff of the Honda and Renault, it relies on its stability control to deliver traction. On the track it feels softer and has less grip than the racy Mégane.

If you want a limited-edition GTI with a little extra power, you won’t be disappointed. But if you’re after a hot Golf that can set your heart racing like never before, you might wonder if the Pirelli is extreme enough...

Details

Price: £21,995Model tested: VW Golf GTI PirelliChart position: 4WHY: Ahead of Golf GTI MkVI’s arrival, this Pirelli MkV special edition has been launched.

Economy

AT £21,995 the GTI Pirelli isn’t cheap – only the Mégane has a higher price. Dubious styling additions also make the Golf the least successful transformation here, and that’s reflected in its residual, which is two per cent below the standard GTI’s. It will still be worth £9,434 after three years/30,000 miles, but a stock GTI will be £9,209 – despite costing £1,500 less new! Still, low CO2 emissions of 194g/km mean Pirelli company buyers fare better over rivals here.

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