The new Golf GTI has been launched with plenty of fanfare, some old chap in a suit splashing about oddly in the rain and many saying that finally, after some insipid – but high-selling – attempts, Volkswagen has captured the essence of the original GTI.
Of course, it’s nothing like the original, which was a light-footed tinny thing. This is a heavy, more brutish vehicle for a different, more aggressive type of buyer.
As a package, the GTI hits all the right notes. It has big, bold alloys with axe-shaped spokes and a much more intimidating nose, with a deep black chin and striking honeycomb grille.
Inside, there are plenty of elements that lift the GTI above the standard version, like the grippy, ergonomically-moulded leather steering wheel, which is flattened at the bottom like a racing car. There are also deep, comfortable sports seats that clamp the driver and passenger in place, as well as aluminium pedals.
The seating position is exemplary, as the steering wheel will protrude as close to your chest as you need and the seats will also drop low. So all the contact points and positions are ideal for a fast car. The question is: will this be the first GTI for a long time to be a genuine blast rather than a lumpen car with a fancy badge?
It certainly has all the boxes ticked when it comes to engine and transmission. The 197bhp 2.0-litre turbo FSI unit is an excellent engine and has been used in various Audis, but this is the first time it has got a run-out in a Volkswagen.
There is also the option of the DSG gearbox, which costs a fairly hefty £1,325 extra but allows drivers to be as involved or uninvolved as they want, shifting gears manually via the paddles or sticking it in auto and letting the car do the work. All you need do is engage first and stamp the accelerator into the floor.
This will be followed by manic action by the electronic systems as the car tries to stop the wheels spinning and searches for some traction. Once some has been discovered – and this can be quite an involved quest – the GTI rockets forward with a muscular force and a fantastic bark from the exhaust.
The traction control is in close attendance up to about fourth gear, which can be frustrating. This is a great engine but it delivers so much torque and power low down that the front wheels struggle to cope under acceleration. It’s a different story with grip. The suspension has stiffer springs and dampers, thicker anti-roll bars and rides 15mm lower than the standard Golf. That’s noticeable through bends and in the pretty merciless ride.
The steering could do with being a bit sharper but the Golf GTI sounds, looks and feels just right and only price will cause user-choosers to stop and think before ordering.
Volkswagen Golf GTI DSG 5dr
Delivered price, standard car (P11D value): £21,622
CO2 emissions (g/km): 192
BIK % of P11D in 2004: 25%
Graduated VED rate: £160
Insurance group: 17E
Combined mpg: 35.3
CAP Monitor residual value: £9,450/44%
Depreciation 18.46 pence per mile x 60,000: £11,076
Maintenance 3.33 pence per mile x 60,000: £1,998
Fuel 11.33 pence per mile x 60,000: £6,798
Wholelife cost 33.12 pence per mile x 60,000: £19,872
Typical contract hire rate: £433
THREE RIVALS TO CONSIDER
THERE are some distinctive cars around this price and all four here deliver varying degrees of showmanship and varying degrees of performance. The Megane 225 and Golf GTI are performance-orientated flagships at the top of their respective ranges, while the A3 Sportback and 120i are less powerful but carry premium badges. All bar the Megane have automatic or semi-automatic gearboxes and all have five doors.
THESE cars are not cheap to keep on the road and even the cheapest, the Audi A3 Sportback, would cost more than £1,700 over 60,000 miles. The Renault is projected to cost a pretty huge £2,300 – a lot for what is effectively a lower-medium hatchback. Part of the reason is that all these cars run on expensive rubber – £150 per tyre is a low estimate of what it could cost to replace each corner. Do that a couple of times in 60,000 miles and tyres alone will cost half the total SMR budget.
DESPITE being a performance car, the Golf GTI manages a decent official fuel consumption figure of 35.3mpg – about the same as the normally-aspirated Audi and BMW and better than the rather thirsty manual Megane. The DSG gearbox doesn’t cause the car to use more than a manual, unlike a ‘traditional’ automatic and actually records a slightly better figure than the manual version. Over 60,000 miles, the fuel bill would be about £6,800 using that figure. On the road, however, getting the trip computer to read as high as 30mpg was nigh-impossible, let alone 35.
THIS is where the Renault loses ground as it will retain only 30% of its value after three-years/60,000 miles, according to CAP. The next-worst is the A3 Sportback, which retains 40%, leading to a total loss of nearly £12,000. The 1-series and Golf GTI are closely matched, shedding just over £11,000 each, making these some of the lowest-depreciating cars on the market percentage-wise. The GTI is predicted to hold more value than all the other Golfs in the range.
THE Megane cannot compete with the other three heavyweights and, on costs, looks out of its depth at this price point. Residuals, servicing and fuel costs count against it. The other three are very closely matched, although the Golf is marginally cheaper thanks to a good pence-per-mile depreciation figure.
After three years/60,000 miles, it would cost a fleet £19,900 to run, while the 120i and A3 Sportback would be about £400 more, so there is nothing between them.
EMISSIONS AND BIK TAX RATES
AGAIN, the Megane is the most expensive despite its lower front-end price and would cost a 40% taxpayer more than £2,200 in tax this year.
The Audi is the cheapest, with a benefit-in-kind tax bill of £2,020. The 120i and Golf GTI are both in the same tax bracket and, with similar P11D values, would have a bill in 2005 of about £2,160. It would seem that performance comes at a price.
THE Megane 225 is just too dear on all fronts to be considered here, while the other three are very closely matched. But when you look at what you get for your money, the Golf GTI is very hard to beat. The other two cars are excellent products, but don’t have the performance, kit or presence of the GTI. Volkswagen has produced a model that can really give the premium products a scare.
WINNER: Volkswagen Golf GTI DSG 5dr
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