Volkswagen Golf GTI review - Engines. performance and drive

The eighth-generation Golf GTI is still great to drive; featuring more power and an array of new engineering trickery

Volkswagen has increased power for the Mk8 Golf GTI to 242bhp, but while a little extra poke is welcome, there are other advances under the skin which help sharpen up the iconic hatch. The locking differential that was previously offered on the Golf TCR edition is now standard on the GTI, while VW has also engineered stiffer spring rates and incorporated new aluminium sub-frames into the car’s design.

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 - in fact, Golidlocks would love a GTI.

VW has sought to enhance this quality by introducing a new trick Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC) system. Admittedly, it is a £785 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 we thought Comfort was 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 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. 

Engines, 0-60 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 6.4 seconds and a 155mph maximum. You’ll need to pay almost £4,000 extra, over the six-speed manual GTI, to secure the 5.6-second sprint time of the 296bhp Clubsport model.

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