Volkswagen Golf GTI (2012-2019) review - Interior, design and technology

It’s no surprise the latest Golf GTI looks like the last… but the onboard tech is a leap forward

The Golf GTI's design is certainly evolutionary rather than revolutionary - it looks virtually identical to the previous model, but that won’t be a surprise to VW enthusiasts.

As usual, there are a number of relatively subtle design elements that set the hot model apart from the standard Golf hatchback, including a roof spoiler, GTI badging, a bodykit and a sports exhaust. But the most noticeable feature is the red stripe that runs across the grille and into the headlamps.

Subtle styling tweaks set the TCR apart from the lower-end GTI Performance. A deeper front splitter and side skirts are complimented by a more aggressive rear diffuser, a large rear wing and TCR puddle lights. Of the five exterior colours, three (red, white and the TCR-exclusive Pure Grey) are available with a contrasting black roof. Thankfully, the graphics on the side are a £555 option.

The GTI’s interior picks up the theme from the grille, with discreet red highlights helping to create a sporty atmosphere. The flat-bottomed, three-spoked GTI steering wheel has red stitching, there are aluminium pedals and the classic golf-ball-inspired gearknob is a pretty cool touch as well. The rest of the cabin is standard Golf hatchback fare. That’s no bad thing, as it means you can expect a clear and concise design with a large centrally mounted touchscreen, and a top quality feel.

You can spec the standard GTI with leather seats, but we'd always go for the chic tartan cloth seats that come as standard. Other standard equipment on the GTI includes DAB radio, Bluetooth connectivity and adaptive cruise control.

Again, the TCR adds a few subtle upgrades, though it’s less ostentatious inside. All TCRs get an eight-speaker stereo and the larger Composition Media infotainment system. There’s some unique seat fabric, too.

Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment

The standard eight-inch touchscreen in the Golf GTI is great, with a bright, vibrant and sharp display that responds much more quickly to inputs than the one found in the Peugeot 308 GTi. There’s lots of kit, too, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto included as standard as part of VW’s Car-Net system, which also offers three years’ online information for traffic data, fuel prices and more.

On top of this, the GTI gets VW’s 12.3-inch Active Info Display as standard, replacing the Golf’s regular analogue dials with digital instruments. It’s highly configurable and means you can display the satellite navigation map in front of you, so you don’t have to glance down to the centre of the dash to view it.

The beauty of the set-up is how easy it is to operate, though. The menus are logically laid out and it’s quick to process your demands, making it easy to use.

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