Driven: VW Golf GTI 2.0 TSI DSG

It’s the long-awaited launch of the new Golf GTI and VW couldn’t be coy about it for one moment longer because Mzansi wants its Vrrrpha! And now they’re getting it for R670k. Meet the Mk8 GTI.

And I do mean THE GTI, because the badge has lived on other brands, such as the Peugeot 208 GTI and of course closer to home, VW’s own Polo GTI. In fact, the moniker was conceived on a Maserati. But enough about lesser marques, because this is the one that started it all, this badge marks the genesis of the hot hatch. And 45 years later, well – we get this.

Well, technically R669,300 gets this – The Mk8 Golf GTI, with a turbocharged 2.0 TSI powerplant good for 180kW and 370Nm, paired to a 7-speed dual-clutch DSG transmission. This latest, most digitally augmented GTI will sprint from zero to hundred in just 6.4 seconds. Quicker, sure, more powerful, yes – but it is also 165kg heavier and we’ll see that manifest later on its handling.

There are of course quicker, less comfortable hatchbacks. And then there’s the fact that we live in an era of proper sports cars that have adopted the familiar hatchback profile, but these kinds of machines also creep ever closer to R1mil. Yeesh.

Hop aboard, settle into the GTI Vienna leather pews, and you’ll encounter an all-digital dashboard with a 10.25-inch instrument cluster with bespoke graphics, Climatronic air conditioning, a heated leather multi-function sports steering wheel with touch control and shift paddles. There’s almost no knobs at all in this cabin, that is apart from me. It’s a haptic world, where gestures and swipes rule. Also present, keyless locking and starting, Composition Media Radio, multi-colour InnoVision Cockpit, App-Connect, Adaptive Cruise Control with speed limiter, Park Distance Control, mobile phone interface with inductive charging function as well as 30-colour ambient lighting. Even the Harman Kardon sound system gets its own mood system. Safety remains a priority and now features Blind Spot Monitoring, Park Assist and Rear Assist with rearview camera.

My test unit also enjoys a panoramic sunroof, a mechanically swivelling towbar, LED Matrix headlights and the Black Styling package with black alloys. The exterior paint palette is extensive with three solid colours, four metallics and two pearlescent options. My murdered out test model looks mean, but I’ll admit that the lighter colours do a better job of showing off the GTI’s new face. People. LOVED. This car. On the road, wherever I drove it, I literally had a convoy of several generations of GTI around me, driven by every kind of enthusiast. People’s car, hey? The familiar honeycomb grill, those menacing chrome tailpipes and rolling on the 18″ inch Richmond alloys or new 19″ inch Adelaide – the GTI continues to command your attention.

How does it go? Exactly as you’d expect it to. Quickly, and with great competence. A more important question is, how does it go around corners. I can report that it has a MacPherson front and multi-link rear suspension, with new bushings bump stops and software, hydraulics, and bearings. Also, that it features a further enhanced stability (ESC) and launch control. But here’s the bottom line.

There I was. Climbing the Franschhoek Pass, redline singing, making full use of the 180kW and 370Nm on offer from the blown two-litre. Hand over my heart, this feels just like a previous-gen Golf R or Audi S3 in the way it grips, and even how the torque is poured out onto the wheels. Its power to weight ratio over the previous model barely changes as a result of the extra weight negating the bump in power, but the centre of gravity, and this is pure perception I’m sure, feels lower, allowing you to push harder and deeper into the pristine mountain pass’s bends. There’s no shortage of traction, and the soundtrack is nothing to complain about either, raspy and baritone, and punctuated by that abrupt flatulence we’ve all come to appreciate.

My parting thoughts on the GTI? No surprises here, but plenty of delight, and well worth the price of admission at a reasonable R670k. It remains the poster child for ‘evolution over revolution’, but I appreciate that with this eighth coming, they’ve at least hired a stylist to properly design its face. This feels like a newer, more digital instalment at last. That it still provides analogue thrills is only a pleasure.

Quick spec: VW Golf GTI 2.0 TSI DSG
Price: R669 300
Powertrain: 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder, turbopetrol, 7-speed dual-clutch
Performance:180kW/370Nm, 0-100kph in 6.4 seconds, 250kph, 7.0l/100km

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