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Volkswagen Golf GTI review - Engines, performance and drive

The eighth-generation Golf GTI is still great to drive; with strong power reserves and an array of engineering trickery

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.5 out of 5

Engines, performance and drive Rating

4.8 out of 5

Price
£30,155 to £30,155
  • Still great to drive
  • Decent efficiency
  • Easy to live with
  • Expensive options
  • Some dubious cabin materials
  • Fussy infotainment system
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Power for the standard Mk8 Golf GTI is a solid if unspectacular 242bhp, but there is a degree of tech wizardry under the skin which helps to sharpen up the iconic hatch. The locking differential that was previously offered on the Golf TCR edition is standard on the GTI, while VW has also engineered stiffer spring rates and incorporated new aluminium sub-frames into the car’s design.

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One of the GTI’s key traits has always been its ability to offer a balanced set-up; not too hardcore to drive on a daily basis, but not too soft that it becomes dull and uninspiring out on the road.

VW has sought to enhance this quality with its Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC) system. Admittedly, it is a £875 option, although it brings an outstanding range of adjustability, even when on the move. Using a button located on the dashboard, you can toggle through 15 different damper settings, although through our own testing we think Comfort is the perfect default for daily driving. 

Switching to Sport mode means you get the usual sharper throttle and weightier steering, but also firms up the ride to an extent where it becomes uncomfortable over more uneven terrain. Individual mode allows you to retain the sportier feel to the steering and throttle, with the option of varying the ride setting to suit.

During our own test we found the Mk8 GTI better to drive than the previous model, with more responsive steering and a level of agility that puts it on a par with the lighter and well renowned Mk5 car. There is no issue with putting the extra power through the front wheels, and you’ll only notice a hint of torque steer if you’re pulling away hard on bumpy tarmac.

We prefer the six-speed manual ‘box over the DSG auto transmission, if only because it allows you to fully explore the relatively modest power on offer. Of course, there is the punchier 296bhp GTI Clubsport and even more savage 316bhp all-wheel-drive Golf R models to consider if you really must have the extra performance, but that’s not really the point of the more sophisticated GTI. 

0-62mph acceleration and top speed 

The latest Golf GTI continues with the same 2.0-litre turbo-charged, four-cylinder petrol engine from the previous model range, this time with a standard 242bhp and 370Nm of torque from just 1,600rpm. Straight-line speed is impressive, with 0-62mph dispatched in 6.2 seconds and a 155mph maximum, while the 296bhp Clubsport model manages the same sprint in just 5.6 seconds.

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Which Is Best

Cheapest

  • Name
    2.0 TSI GTI 5dr DSG
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £29,045

Most Economical

  • Name
    2.0 TSI GTI 5dr DSG
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £29,045

Fastest

  • Name
    2.0 TSI 300 GTI Clubsport 45 5dr DSG
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £41,580
Executive editor

Paul was employed across automotive agency and manufacturer-side sectors before joining Auto Express in 2020 as our online reviews editor. After a brief sojourn at a national UK newspaper, Paul returned as executive editor where he now works closely with our commercial partners.

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