Volkswagen Golf GTI
Sporty Golf is a hugely accomplished all-rounder that lives up to legendary badge
Why it won...
Three small letters are guaranteed to get enthusiasts hot under the collar: GTI. Volkswagen virtually invented the concept of go-faster family cars with the original Golf GTI in the Seventies, and the latest model lives up to the legend of its illustrious predecessor.
Subtly enhanced styling does just enough to get you noticed, without attracting the wrong kind of attention – and the rest of the car is equally well judged. Its smooth 207bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged engine is perfectly suited to the job. It’s willing and powerful enough to keep keen drivers happy, yet suitably docile and economical when you’re not blasting along country roads.
Next comes the chassis. It’s all too easy to ruin a hot hatch with unyielding suspension, but Volkswagen’s engineers have delivered a brilliant compromise between handling agility and comfort. And then there are the details. High-class touches such as the evocative telephone-dial alloys, flat-bottomed steering wheel and distinctive tartan upholstery all strike exactly the right tone.
Video: watch our video review of the VW Golf GTI
Of course, it’s no coincidence that the regular Golf is our favourite compact family car – the hatchback provides solid foundations on which to base the GTI. Those talented underpinnings can easily handle the hot model’s extra power, and its spacious cabin and high-quality trimmings help to make our winner both hugely desirable and very easy to live with.
Our pick: The five-door manual represents the ultimate combination of practicality and value. The higher-powered Edition 35 special is arguably more desirable, but the standard package is so well judged it’s hard to justify the extra outlay…
MINI Cooper SD Adding a powerful diesel to the MINI mix has been a masterstroke. We think the latest go-faster supermini is even better than the John Cooper Works flagship. The new powerplant has done nothing to diminish the MINI’s livewire handling, and its impressive low-down shove provides strong performance.
Renaultsport Clio 200 This Clio is fast enough to embarrass cars costing twice the price, with the chassis upgrades and frenetic 2.0-litre engine ensuring an absorbing driving experience. Even though there are faster machines out there, few provide as much fun from behind the wheel for so little money.
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- 2Best Compact Family CarIt's a third category win in as many years for VW's family favourite
- 3Best ConvertibleGerman firm produces another serial class winner
- 4Best Family CarIt's a hat-trick of victories in the family class for Skoda's big five-seater
- 5Best SuperminiA mix of great handling, smart looks and practicality keep the Fiesta at the top of the supermini pile
- 6Best City CarBig-car options keep tiny Hyundai at the head of the field
- 7Best LuxuryGerman limousine is still the best in the business
- 8Best CrossoverLast year's Car of the Year is still the one to beat in the crossover class
- 9Best Compact SUVSmallest Range Rover marks a new dawn for the firm
- 10Best Hot Hatch - currently readingSporty Golf is a hugely accomplished all-rounder that lives up to legendary badge
- 11Best EstateThe load-lugging Skoda Superb Estate wins two years in a row
- 12Best Supermini-MPVNew supermini MPV heads straight to the top of the class
- 13Best RoadsterRear-wheel-drive thrills keep two-seater at the top of the pile
- 14Best ExecutiveGerman firm Audi has finally toppled arch-rival BMW for executive honours
- 15Best MPVSpanish firm picks up its first-ever gong for its no-nonsense, great-value seven-seater