Volkswagen Golf GTD

As smart as its GTI brother, but greener and cheaper to run... GTD takes some beating

The Golf GTI needs no introduction – but its GTD stablemate flies under the high-performance radar. We’re big fans of the diesel, so does it have what it takes to see off its newest rival? 

From the outside, the VW’s conservative looks attract compliments and criticism in equal measure. Fans love its neat proportions, classy details and desirable badge, yet it hardly pushes creative boundaries. Still, the use of lower side sills, bigger rims and the GTI’s aggressive front bumper add a hint of menace to those straight-laced looks. 

Video: watch CarBuyer's video review of the VW Golf

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Inside, you get more GTI cues in the form of sculpted sports seats with tartan fabric. These are so good that you won’t even bother to check out the price of leather (it is £1,815, by the way). The shapely steering wheel is another welcome hand-me-down from the petrol model, and its multifunction design and tactile finish make it great to hold. This quality permeates the whole cabin as the switchgear, instruments and trim are all excellent.

Although the Renault comes with more high-profile kit, 2Zone climate control is standard (a similar set-up costs £410 in the Mégane), while VW’s Multi Device Interface lets you connect an iPod to the stereo. Also, the clarity and simplicity of the Golf’s cabin sets it apart from the Mégane.

The GTD swallows passengers with ease, and the rear seats offer noticeably more knee room. 

The 350-litre boot is about the class norm, while the standard 60:40 split-folding seats with load-through facility add to the car’s practical nature.

But it’s the driving experience that most people will remember. Fitting the company’s punchy 168bhp TDI to the Golf was a masterstroke, as it delivers terrific overtaking pace.

 The Renault is more responsive low down, but once the GTD is on the boil it pulls strongly across the range. Its petrol-like manners add to the fun and it even sounds the part, emitting a purposeful growl as the revs rise. More weighty steering and a slick shift boost that sporting impression, so the sharp brakes come as rather a disappointment. They’re harder to apply smoothly than the Mégane’s.

The Golf isn’t only about straight-line pace – it’s capable in bends, too, where it delivers incredible mid-corner composure and grip. However, our test car featured the firm’s clever ACC adaptive damper technology. The variable system costs a hefty £765 and boasts three settings: Sport, Normal and Comfort. It gives the GTD different characters at the touch of a button.

In its firmest setting it isn’t as hard as the Mégane, while its softest mode feels nearly as comfortable as a regular Golf. 

Add the VW’s traditional virtues of brilliant refinement and a solid-gold image, and you have a desirable recipe. Superior economy and emissions are the icing on top.

Details

Chart position: 1WHY: The Golf GTD is the flagship diesel, with looks and performance to rival the hot GTI. It’s the car the latest Mégane has to beat.

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