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Volkswagen Golf GTI DSG review (2011 onwards)
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GTi. Three simple letters but so much meaning. Volkswagen invented the notion of the hot hatch in the 70s and, after various model changes and a few hits and misses, here we are at the Golf GTi MK6.
And it's impossible not to be captivated by this car. Here is a motor that blends discreet performance with everyday practicality. One day, it's a boot-load of parenthood-paraphernalia, the next your favourite road and 210hp at your command.
Some critics accuse the Golf GTi of being too perfect, too much of an all-rounder to raise the pulse. Let's find out if they're talking jibberish.
Where does it fit?
Volkswagen charges a premium for the Golf GTi. Prices start at £25,045, but to get our favourite version, the double-clutch DSG auto, you'll need to spend £26,925.
That seems pricey alongside the Renaultsport Mégane
(£23,650), Mazda 3 MPS (£23,155) and Subaru Impreza WRX (£21,790), but that's the price you pay to eliminate compromise.
Or, you could look at it a different way. If you want a premium hot hatch, the choice is either the Audi S3 or BMW 123d. The Golf is a substantially cheaper option.
Is it for you?
Based on the regular Golf hatchback, you can have the GTi with three or five doors. We've tested the five-door version and found that practicality is not an issue. The rear will seat three comfortably and, when not in use, the seats fold flat to open up 1,305 litres of boot space, more than an Audi A4.
Aside from all this, you've still got the heart of a sportscar in there, so Mum or Dad can enjoy performance motoring without splashing out on a second sportscar for the weekend.
What does it do well?
The performance is what this car is all about - if it wasn't you'd buy a diesel Golf. And it won't disappoint.
The turbocharged four-cylinder engine generates 210hp and 206lb/ft of torque so there's always an even spread of power on standby should you need it. Sixty takes 6.9 seconds and flat out you'll be closing in on 150mph. Does anyone really need to go any quicker?
Better still are the gear changes, so quick you don't notice them. The DSG gearbox has two clutches, one for the even gears, another for the odds, and as such it can hammer them home much, much quicker than you could with a conventional pedal and stick.
For an extra sporty touch, the gearbox also blips the throttle on downchanges.
What doesn't it do well?
The Golf GTi is the grand tourer of the hot hatch world. On a long cruise you wouldn't wish to be in anything firmer or nosier. Having said that, show it a bend and a keen throttle and it will put a smile on your face; it isn't a walkover on the handling front.
But for some people it doesn't have the hard edge of the Renaultsport Mégane. The Mégane is firm and loud, the turbo will pin you to your seat and it will turn direction like a hungry shark - great if you're on a track or a Sunday afternoon assault through the countryside, but not so perfect day-to-day. For some people, the GTi is merely lukewarm in comparison.
What's it like to live with?
Day-to-day is where the GTi excels. It acts and feels like a regular Golf. It's well built, packed with equipment, comfortable, smooth and refined. But if you want to, you can unleash the inner beast with a stab of the throttle and have yourself a good old time.
How green is it?
Enjoy its performance too much, though, and you're not likely to see the claimed 38.2mpg that VW quotes. Carbon emissions, of concern now as it relates to how much your road tax bill is, is 173g/km. Cars over 225g/km pay a heavy penalty, so the GTi is a fairly guilt-free purchase.
Would we buy it?
The Golf GTi is one of those cars you instantly feel comfortable with. It flatters you, but it's also massively entertaining should you wish.
Couple that with its generous practicality and this is one car you'll want on your shortlist if you fancy a family car and a sportscar but can only afford one.
Bing has pictures of madder Golf GTis
Buy a used Golf GTi from £400
GALLERY: VW Golf GTi
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