I PICKED at the seams of this engine, poked it with a stick, tried to provoke it into that moment where I triumphed.
I drove on part throttle, full throttle, lifted off suddenly, accelerated suddenly, generally in the wrong gear, and did everything I could to be able to say to you: ‘Yes, it might seem clever with its fancy turbo/supercharged engine, but in fact there’s a flaw.’
But the result of all my cunning schemes was that yes, it might seem clever with its fancy turbo/supercharged engine, but that’s because it is.
The Golf GT produces 170bhp from its 1.4-litre TSI engine thanks to the aforementioned modes of forced induction, and manages fuel economy in the high 30s mpg, and CO2 emissions of 178g/km.
That’s a pretty good combination for a high mileage company car driver and, unusually for a petrol, is challenging diesel’s traditional strengths of economy and performance in the same package.
The supercharger does all the brawn, providing low-down torque at a diesel-like sub-2,000rpm while the turbo, cutting in a later point, does the sprinting and the 170bhp bit.
Direct injection also helps the fuel economy, meaning that when the turbo is resting at a 70mph cruise, the 1.4-litre engine – which in a conventional set-up would be working its little heart out – is using the bare minimum of petrol.
The inspiration for this engineering wizardry is emissions. Lowering the amount of carbon dioxide produced by their cars is the European Union-enforced goal of all carmakers and logically, using smaller engines is the basic first step.
But Volkswagen’s approach is commendably bold. It knew that to bring this technology in, and make it stick, going down the super-economy route was not right. So we get the GT, a powerful, but sub-GTI model. How better to prove that small is beautiful than by making it sexy?
The GT looks more like a standard Golf than a GTI, because Volkswagen is hugely protective of the GTI brand, seeing it as a separate entity from other Golfs.
So some discreet GT badges, a slightly more aggressive-looking grille, 17-inch alloys and twin exhausts are all that indicate this car has some go.
Inside the sports seats, a three-spoke steering wheel and turbo boost gauge hint at the fact this car will do 0-62mph in less than eight seconds.
On the move, it doesn’t make the most edifying sound in motoring. I think functional is an apt description, and it does indeed do its job.
It’s a sporty drive, still manages a healthy 36mpg average, and is smooth without being whisper quiet. In fact, at motorway speeds it can get a little boomy.
But overall you cannot escape the feeling that this is the future of engine technology.
P11D value: £18,407
CO2 emissions (g/km): 178
BIK % of P11D in 2006: 22%
Graduated VED rate: £150
Insurance group: 16
Combined mpg: 38.2
CAP RV (3yr/60k): £7,600/41%
Monthly lease (3yr/60k): £362
Three rivals to consider
All these cars have around 170-180bhp. The Astra and 307 have turbo petrol engines, while the TSI benefits from a supercharger, too. And Volkswagen claims the TSI can go toe-to-toe with diesel. We’ll see – by pitting it against its own 170bhp TDI cousin.
Golf TSI: £18,407
Golf TDI: £19,422
Emissions and tax rates
THE two Golfs really do the business in terms of BIK tax. Despite higher front-end prices, their low emissions mean the diesel would cost a 22% taxpayer £79 a month, while the petrol’s lower P11D price means it will cost £74. Monthly, the 307 would be £86 and the Astra £98.
Golf TDI: 160g/km/22%
Golf TSI: 178g/km/22%
All four are similar on service, maintenance and repair costs. Large 17-inch wheels with expensive rubber amount to half the total SMR cost. For example, the cheaper Golf TSI 140 has 16 rather than 17-inch wheels, resulting in a tyre bill of £300 less than the 170 TSI model.
ppm 60k total
307: 3.64 £2,184
Golf TDI: 3.79 £2,274
Golf TSI: 3.93 £2,358
Astra: 4.11 £2,466
The Golf TSI costs massively less than the Astra or 307 in fuel. But the TDI Golf is miles ahead and over 60,000 miles would save around £1,200. We know it’s possible to get near its claimed figure of 46.3mpg, but it’s too early to tell if the TSI’s 38.2mpg average is a reality.
Golf TDI: 9.81 £5,886
Golf TSI: 11.74 £7,044
307: 13.35 £8,010
Astra: 14.29 £8,574
despite higher front end prices the Golfs are predicted to be worth thousands of pounds more than the Astra and 307 at disposal time. The TSI, with a £1,000 lower new price than the diesel, loses £10,600. Only heavier discounts from Vauxhall and Peugeot could redress the balance.
Golf TSI: 17.80 £10,680
Golf TDI: 18.82 £11,292
307: 20.32 £12,192
Astra: 20.74 £12,444
The diesel Golf is the cheapest to run over three years/60,000 miles, although it is close between it and its petrol sibling. Low fuel costs are its ace card, but the TSI drags back some of that through its superior RV. The Astra and 307 just aren’t at the races here.
Being blunt, the Vauxhall and Peugeot just cannot compete. Too expensive on almost all counts, there’s nothing they do that the two Volkswagens can’t do better. Which leaves the choice of a Golf. Petrol or diesel though? The TDI has better fuel costs, but the TSI depreciates less and offers drivers lower benefit-in-kind tax bills. I think I’d have the TSI: petrol suits a hot-hatch better and not getting diesel-covered hands at the fuel pump appeals, too. It comes down to such small margins.