In-depth reviews

Volkswagen Golf GTD review

VW Golf GTD channels the GTI with strong performance, but with affordable fuel bills to boot

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.0 out of 5

  • Smart looks, fast and composed, refined interior
  • High purchase price, DSG feels hesitant, rivals offer more power
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When the VW Golf GTD made its UK debut in 2009, its blend of hot hatch performance and fuel-sipping efficiency made it an instant hit. Now an all-new version, based on the latest MkVII model, aims to continue the success story.

Following a policy of evolution rather than revolution, the GTD doesn’t look much different from its predecessor, yet under the skin there have been major changes. It uses VW’s lightweight MQB platform, a punchy 181bhp 2.0-litre turbodiesel and an uprated, all-independent suspension.

Like the VW Golf GTI, there’s also the choice of a precise six-speed manual gearbox or the slick DSG twin-clutch tested here. Yet despite its performance-car credentials, the GTD promises supermini-rivalling running costs, with a CO2 output of just 109g/km for the manual and claimed fuel economy of up to 67.3mpg.

As with the standard Golf, VW now offers the GTD as an estate model for a £695 premium over the hatchback. The same 181bhp engine and gearbox options remain with only a slight knock-on affect in performance figures due to the added 100kg of weight. 

Engines, performance and drive

Three driving modes are available in the GTD. Normal, Eco and Sport. It’s in this latter setting where the GTD really comes alive. The 2.0-litre turbodiesel isn’t quite as potent as the Ford Focus ST diesel, but it revs smoothly and with incredible linearity. It’s connected to a six-speed manual gearbox, which goads you into revving the engine.

The GTD’s power unit does sound a touch grumbly lower down the rev range, but has a nice rasp higher up, and the chassis is so capable that you feel like you can use all of the engine’s performance.

Steering is accurate in the Volkswagen, which means you can drive the car with precision, even if it’s not overflowing with feedback. This does make the GTD feel a touch lifeless, but the refinement and long-distance cruising ability it brings means the car is nicely balanced.

It treads the line perfectly between a fast hatch and usable, comfortable family transport. The suspension is firm, with a plush edge to the ride even in Sport mode, and although bumps never feel harsh in the GTD, the car’s body control adds to its agility.

It’s helped by the XDS+ system, which brakes individual wheels to help turn-in and reduce understeer. Traction and grip are good and the technology works well and makes the Golf feel reactive and alert. 

Jump in the GTD Estate from the hatchback and you'll be hard pressed to notice any immediate differences from behind the wheel. Acceleration is just as sharp, turn in just as crisp and the ride equally impressive despite the weight gain.

MPG, CO2 and Running Costs

The Golf GTD isn’t cheap to buy, particularly when fitted with the DSG box, which pushes the price of our five-door up to a whopping £27,355. Yet stick with the standard manual box, and this drops to £25,900 – just £1,800 more than the much less well equipped Astra BiTurbo. Go for the more practical estate and it'll cost you an additional £695, which is great value considering the obvious benefits.

Adding to the car’s premium appeal is a comprehensive haul of kit, including adaptive cruise control, dual-zone climate control and DAB radio. It also has all the essentials, such as Bluetooth, an iPod connection and multi-function controls for the steering wheel. And it’s not just extra kit that helps the Golf justify its price.

It also benefits from excellent residuals – retaining 47.7 per cent of its value over three years. Another financial incentive is an excellent pre-paid service pack that takes care of three years of maintenance for £299. The six-speed manual car has CO2 emissions of just 109g/km, meaning that it’s a more cost-effective company car choice than the Astra, while in our hands the GTD returned a respectable 46.6mpg.

Interior, design and technology

It’s not as visually aggressive as its GTI cousin, but the GTD’s performance potential is quite obvious. A deeper front bumper, honeycomb grille with discreet GTD badge, tailgate spoiler and 18-inch Nogaro wheels help this car stand out, as do twin-exit exhausts and the bi-xenon headlamps that come as standard.

It doesn’t get the GTI’s head-turning red trim, but the GTD has bags more kerb appeal than the slightly dowdy Vauxhall Astra BiTurbo, for example.

It’s a similar story inside, where racy hot hatch styling cues are blended with upmarket luxury. There are just enough performance-focused touches to make it feel special, including the check-patterned upholstery, gloss-black plastic inserts and brushed-metal detailing, while the top-notch materials and first-rate fit and finish rival more expensive executive saloons. As you’d expect, the switchgear operates with precision, and the major controls are perfectly laid out.

Practicality, comfort and boot space

Open the Golf GTD’s boot, and you’ll instantly see its advantage as a family hatch. At 380 litres, the luggage space is not only large, but also a usable shape. There’s a square opening, no load lip and the rear wheelarches don’t intrude much. The roomier estate version boasts a 605 litre boot, making it the obvious choice for any growing family. 

Legroom in the back is adequate and the rear bench feels pleasantly wide, with plenty of room for three adults. Thanks to the Golf’s square roofline, there’s lots of headroom in the back, too. It has an open and roomy air about it as a result, helped by its bigger glass area, which provides great rearward visibility. 

There’s plenty of useful storage, too, with a false boot floor, good-sized glovebox and big door bins – the GTD gets front and rear parking sensors as standard, too.

Reliability and Safety

Despite its solid image, Volkswagen didn’t perform too well in our Driver Power 2014 satisfaction survey for reliability, coming in at 25th place. It’s even worse for the brand when it comes to dealer service, as it came second from last – not quite what you’d expect from a premium maker.

However, the Golf in all its forms has been on sale for three years now and in production in the millions, so initial niggles should have been solved.

The GTD comes as standard with seven airbags and a host of electronic safety systems, including VW’s city emergency braking, Front Assist and automatic post-collision braking systems to help avoid or reduce the impacts of a crash. This technology means the GTD performed well in Euro NCAP’s tests, scoring a maximum five-star rating.

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