‘THE ORIGINAL & THE BEST?’
Added 4th February, 2020
By Jonathan Crouch
When the Golf GTI was first launched in 1976, Volkswagen wondered whether it would struggle to sell an early production run of 5,000 vehicles. By 2012, two million sales later, the issue the issue the brand faced was not whether this car would sell, but who might buy it. After all, previous to 2012, this model had mainly sold to folk who, if they were honest, would probably admit to having out-grown the shopping rocket genre it originally created. In 7th generation form, this car needed to return a little to its roots - add an old fashioned dose of fun into the mature mix. It did.
You might not know that from the figures. In all the dynamic measures that tend to matter to hot hatch drivers - 0-62mph acceleration, top speed, lap times, lateral grip, braking performance and so on - this Golf never really seriously bothers the class best. You might not be immediately arrested by the looks either, or the initial experience on the drive round the block. But persevere. Forty years of experience in creating a car of this kind has to count for something. It does.
Importantly, Wolfsburg didn't here make the mistake of developing this GTI for the track rather than the road, so bumpy British tarmac doesn't bother it. You're always confident in pushing the performance envelope in a way that few rivals can match, yet that's possible without the sweaty palms that usually characterise red mist motoring. MK5 and MK6 Golf GTI models were also accomplished in this way, but with its extra power, lighter lithe responses and brilliantly sorted suspension, this MK7 version can not only be a confident performance car but a credibly exciting one too. So yes, it should sell to folk who want a proper hot hatch experience as well as a very mature one.
The very first generation version set out to define a fundamental standard for performance that was more precise than any other compact car. So it is here. Long after the novelty of some rivals has worn off, this GTI will always feel a class act. Crucially though, in this form, it's also a very entertaining one.