Review: Volkswagen Golf GTI

Volkswagen Golf GTI

Where Malaysia Price RM212,711 (OTR, excl. insurance ) On sale now Engine 4-cyl, 1984cc, turbocharged, petrol Power 238bhp at 5000rpm Torque 370Nm at 1600rpm Gearbox 7-spd wet-clutch dual-clutch Kerb weight 1463kg Top speed 250km/h  0-100km/h 6.3sec Fuel economy 13.5km/L CO2 NA Rivals Renault Megane RS 280 Cup EDC

What is it?

The Golf is arguably Volkswagen’s most venerated model after the Beetle and the Bus, none more so than the Golf GTI. The eighth-generation Golf GTI is from Pekan. The lower duties puts a brand new Golf GTI within the reach of more drivers than ever before at just under RM213,000. The fully-imported seventh generation Golf GTI was around RM246,000.

*Note: since our test drive, the Golf GTI has been updated. Additional features include front fog lamps and IQ.Drive, advanced driver assistance system features (ADAS). The price has also increased to around RM245,000.

What is it like?

Red. A lot, a lot, a lot of red, red, red. The digital meters are encircled in red. There are red back lights and red markers. The infotainment screen has icons in shades of red. Red may be the emblematic colour of the GTI but the styling highlights have become an over-dominance verging on monotonous. Good for Chinese New Year, or going to war – if that’s how you feel about the daily commute, visually exhausting after a few hours.

The eighth generation GTI has an even more streamline exterior and sleeker styling inside. It comes with navigation, customisable screens and functions. However, finding the controls to change the settings was exasperating. Those accessed through the infotainment screen were in folders within menus. The icons for features were a red monotone. The lack of visual differentiation made it harder to recognise them at a glance. This added to the difficulty searching through the menu to find things. The options and choices within the menus were also sometimes unnecessarily bewildering. Sometimes so complicated that I forgot why I’d gone into the menu in the first place. Could I have changed the ambient lighting colour? Could the wing mirrors be set to close automatically when the car was locked? I never found out.

It could have been poor ergonomics but it was also difficult to find and navigate the touch switches to adjust the climate control settings or mute the radio. The placement and design were frustrating – small and flat on curiously angled surfaces, easily affected by changes in ambient light. They were not intuitive nor easy to find in a hurry. Those accessed through the steering wheel were equally convoluted.

I could have summoned up the voice assistant with a cheery “Hey, Volkswagen!” to do some of my bidding but it required too much annunciation. Also, the hits and misses while voice recognition becomes attuned is wearing – especially when the time with the car is so short.

Another irk was the gear stub. It was so short and small that there was barely enough mass to push up or down against to get into gear. Good thing there are paddle shifts. Surprisingly, there was only a rear camera, none in front. Another irk was the front passenger seat which was not electric.

Should I get one?

The answer is yes, despite my less than glowing thoughts on the un-intuitive nature of the car’s digital interface. Drivers eventually get to know their cars and where to find the important features or make do without what they can’t find.

A Golf GTI is a Golf GTI. The social cachet and lustre of Golf GTI ownership is quite immeasurable. The cachet is also the Golf GTI’s renown performance. The eight-generation Golf GTI delivers this with the aplomb of its predecessors – the grippy cornering and responsiveness on the open road that will plaster happy smiles on drivers’ faces long after the ignition has been turned off.

Most of the things that had vexed me about the car’s menu interface became trivial once on the road. The daily traffic jams didn’t seem to matter as much because driving the Golf GTI is a joy in itself. Did it matter that the cabin temperature was too low or that the blower was too noisy? That could wait until the next traffic light or when I reached where ever.

In addition, with the price of everything going up, there are very few brand new, more sophisticated and more technologically advanced things that are the same price as its predecessor three years ago.

So, if you’ve ever wanted to buy a brand new Golf GTI, there has never been a better time. We recommend Moonstone Grey.

Note: the recent equipment update which includes the addition of IQ.Drive, advanced driver assistance features, brings the spec list almost up to what Malaysian buyers would expect a premium brand to have. However, there is still no front camera – or better still a 360ยบ camera.