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Volkswagen Golf GTD: month three
Pros: Diesel muscle, economy/performance/ride/handling compromise, clean sporty looks
Cons: Gearbox growing notchy, questions over value proposition
Where have I been?
This month I've finally managed to exorcise the nagging feeling that I haven't been using the Volkswagen Golf GTD as much as i should. Just lately it's clocked up some respectable mileage on video shoots, car launches and a working weekend away at the Goodwood Festival of Speed.
These longer journeys aside, it's been occupied in the role of family workhorse with our unfeasibly large pushchair wedged into the boot and the child car seat installed in the rear. Through practice, I've now got the installation of said car seat down to no more than 20 seconds with a minimum of swearing. Not great I know, but a big improvement on where we were a couple of months ago.
I've got installation of the child car seat down to 20 seconds with a minimum of swearing
The problem of keeping the 'Candy White' GTD clean wasn't helped by the ongoing hosepipe ban in our neck of the woods. Other areas relaxed restrictions in the face of enough rainfall to turn the thoughts of otherwise reasonable men to ark construction but our water company held firm.
The final realisation that the GTD was long overdue for a sponge bath came one morning when I went to climb into the car and noticed a rogue cat had walked all over the bonnet. Instead of muddy feline foot marks, the local moggy had cleared little paw printed patches of cleanliness in the prevailing grime. Once the wave of shame had subsided, it was off to the shed for the bucket.
What do I like?
A car's balance between performance, economy, comfort and responsiveness is very much a matter of personal preference but for me, the GTD comes very close to the sweet spot. At least for a £25,000 machine you'll use every day.
It isn't earth shatteringly quick. A petrol-powered Golf GTI will take around 6.9s to do the 0-60mph sprint and the GTD is over a second slower, but any lack of outright zip is expertly disguised by the diesel's lusty mid-range torque. You just have to wait for the terrain to take an upward turn and it feels like you're suddenly a match for the crème de la crème of the hot hatch world.
plant the throttle and you can surge majestically up steep inclines
Drop a gear, plant the throttle and you can surge majestically up steep inclines like they were gentle descents. It's good fun and because the GTD only feels moderately quick when you're not tackling alpine passes or launching up motorway on-ramps, you're encouraged to take a more relaxed, economical, law-abiding approach most of the time.
It's a similar story with the handling. By top class hot hatch standards, the GTD is no scalpel-sharp track tool. On the other hand, the ride is forgiving enough and when you feel like pushing things on a bit through a tasty set of bends, the steering has reassuring weight and the sports suspension keeps everything in check. It's a car of compromises, no doubt, but for my needs the GTD strikes a great balance. Does that mean I'm getting old?
What don't I like?
GTI is a massive brand for Volkswagen. It's been there from the start with the original fast Golf routinely credited with the inception of the hot hatch movement back in the late 70s when boy racers wore bubble perms.
By contrast, GTD is a new development, a fast hatchback for the age of global warming, eye-watering fuel prices and CO2-based taxation. It works too. The real questions seem to relate to whether it represents value for money.
There was a 2.0-litre TDI diesel-engined version of the fifth generation Golf with the same 168hp power output but it wasn't badged GTD. It was called GT, had none of the GTI styling add-ons and was priced some £2,000 below the level of its equivalent GTI.
These days we're on to the Golf mark six and the 168hp GTD is within £100 of the GTI on price. It gains the looks of the GTI inside and out but while the GTD brakes and suspension are upgraded from the standard Golf's, they're not quite the same as you get with the GTI.
The GTD rides 15mm lower than the standard car but a GTI is 22mm lower, has stiffer springs and different dampers. This is partly out of necessity given the extra weight of the diesel engine but there are also differences in the braking system. At the front, the discs are identical but at the rear the GTI has beefier 282mm discs compared with the GTD's 253mm items.
maybe the GTD value proposition isn't quite as sparkling as we thought
The other key differences are mainly cosmetic. The GTI's red brake callipers can be glimpsed through its 17" Monza alloys while the GTD has black callipers and Seattle Shadow 17" wheels. A GTI has an exhaust pipe on each side at the rear while the GTD has two pipes together on the left.
The point is that despite what the price list might have you believe, Volkswagen's GTD and GTI Golf flagships don't present customers with a straight toss-up between diesel and petrol. It's more complex than that and given Volkswagen's historical pricing of its petrol and diesel Golfs, maybe the GTD value proposition isn't quite as sparkling as we thought.
The old petrol v diesel question has been mulled over and debated extensively in the office this month but there's still been time to note that the GTD's gearbox may not be working with the same slickness it had at the outset and to trace a loud squeaking sound to a rear seat back that I hadn't clicked back into place properly. Otherwise, the Golf and I are getting on famously.
What's next for the Volkswagen Golf GTD?
I'm looking forward to putting even more miles on the Golf next month with a few longer journeys on the horizon. We're also planning a special fuel economy test that's intended to show how much influence your driving style can have on mpg returns. It's more fun than it sounds too so watch this space.
Volkswagen Golf GTD: final report
Volkswagen Golf GTD: month four
Volkswagen Golf GTD: month three (this review)
Volkswagen Golf GTD: month two
Volkswagen Golf GTD: month one
Volkswagen Golf GTD: arrival
Read Volkswagen car reviews
First Drive: Volkswagen Golf GTD
Read more long-term test reports
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