Anytime you ask anyone what is the best small fast car, they jump to the Golf GTI. It really is that simple, it was always nice, compact yet quite practical, had good performance and was quite well priced. The truth is the Golf has gotten more fat over the years, especially with higher regulations for safety, demand for equipment and there are cars in the market that, technically, were better cars and gave better value for money. For 2014, VW has introduced a new Golf, the Mk7 and I am sad to report it has grown bigger in dimensions; it is 150mm longer, 12mm wider, 4mm lower and the prices have gone up as well!
Thought it was going to be all bad news? I just wanted to grab your attention! While the new VW Golf GTI is bigger and costs more, it looses nearly 100KG compared to the previous model! not only that, the engine now produces 217 HP compared to the Mk6 Golf GTI’s 200HP and there is more to the car as well!
The standard Mk7 Golf GTI starts at around 115’900 Dhs, and for this money you get a basic Golf with Halogen lights, no sunroof, basic sound system, cloth seats but still all the crazy fun! The mid range gets the absolutely gorgeous looking front LED accented Bi-Xenon headlights (with a lovely touch of the Red grill line extending to inside the headlamp), panoramic sunroof and costs around 123’000 Dhs. The model I tested was the top of the range Golf GTI (pictured above) with The LED accented Bi-Xenon headlamps, panoramic sunroof, upgraded sound system, rear view camera, automated parking system and black leather seats costing 133’900 Dhs.
They have put some really nice new touches, the brakes are now more visible with their newly designed rims that look like a spinning fan and the brakes now come with XDS (electronic differential lock). What this system does is monitor the all the wheel sensors and in the case of any slippage, it will send torque (some of the nearly 260NM) to the front wheels with most traction.
As a first time on a Golf GTI, aside from the ESP (Electronic Stability Program) it has something called Post-Collision Braking System which in the case of an incident and deployed airbags, it manages braking to reduce residual kinetic energy.
In regards to performance, the Golf GTI handles 0-100 in 6.6 seconds, and there is words of a performance pack (The dealership here in Dubai didn’t know much about) that handles 100 in 6.5 seconds. Fuel consumption is rated around 6 Litres per 100 KMs. I’d assume a real world estimate of 7 or 7.5.
This, said performance pack, supposedly offers 10 more horsepowers out of the engine, just a last squeeze of the lemon. I am not sure such a thing is really needed.
The rear of the car is pretty handsome as well. The Golf GTI comes with dual chrome tipped exhausts on either side of the bumper, with bright and dotted LED tail lamps. One of the things I like about their cleaner design is that the hatch for the rear trunk is actually the VW logo itself. Surely this isn’t new, but still is a very nice touch.
But that isn’t the only trick that VW logo has! It doubles as a latch that opens up to reveal the rear view camera. Really cool watching it tilt upwards when reverse gear is activated, weirdly though, it makes a very mechanical (like something is about to break) noise when heard from inside the cabin. That was scary.
I have entered the previous Golf GTI a few times, and yes it is pretty, welcoming and looks luxurious, this though, is a totally new thing to look at. Maybe to the untrained eye it looks very similar, but to someone who looks at almost every single detail and can notice subtle differences, this looks beautiful. One very important factor that caught my eye is how the center console is slightly tilted towards the driver, now that is a touch I love in a car! I am the driver, they are my controls!
So, back to the interior, the seats were covered in soft black leather, bucket styled that hugs your sides (really beneficial around corners) and from the first glance I can tell it is bigger than the previous generation, but just by a little. I am no tiny guy and this was a wider space to fit into. Sweet! Speaking of leather, everything seemed soft to touch, even the non-leather parts and the switches were all tight and solid, very German!
Inside, I was greeted with a very modern and high tech looking central steering section. The steering wheel is really chunky, I think one of the chunkiest steering wheels I have ever come across but it gives such a great feel, I truly felt like I was grabbing on to something that has a lot of umph! The steering wheel had tons of controls, the central trip computer, voice activation, volume controls, track control and even cruise control!
Behind the steering wheel is where the fun begins! There are two very beautifully finished paddle shifters, which are like gun triggers, they are hard spring loaded like and makes a very clear and powerful click assuring you, that you have changed gears! The speedometer is typical VW where it climbs by 10’s till 100 and then continues in 20’s. I like this because most of the real world speeding comes from a standstill or around 20 all the way to 100, beyond that its illegal and you could get into trouble, and this car will get you there. More on that in a bit.
The center console was lovely! the tilt may not look like much to most people, but it really did make a difference. The test drive was at night and let me just let you know that everything has a white backlight, a cool clear and clean white backlight. Everything looks HD.
The dashboard comes with a 5.8 inch touch screen display (No navigation throughout the range) with controls on the side for Media, Telephone, Radio, Mute, Sound, Setup, Car and Menu. The touch is fairly modern, it is capacitive meaning there is no need for pressure, almost like on modern phones. The system is fairly intuitive and quite decent for a Golf.
Below that comes the Air conditioning system with individual settings for either side, with various vent and air distribution settings.
Around the gear leaver is where things get interesting and techy! Starting anti-clockwise you have the car start/stop button (on the right side of the car), two empty buttons (I cannot describe how much I hate that on any car! why are they empty!?). a button to turn off traction control, a button to control parking sensors and the final button is the one I really wanted to try but didn’t have the time being this was just a test drive, the automated parallel parking system! Yes, this car can park itself around parallel parking. Surely the driver controls the brake pedal and gear changes between reverse and drive but it does all the steering and angle work. I really wish to get a GTI for a longer period of time to try this out!
To the bottom of the center console comes the electronic brake and auto hold (as seen in the Audi A6 test drive before this, it holds the brake for you at stop lights so you wouldn’t have to stay on the brake pedal the whole time). There is a two slot large cup holder with removable ashtray, a cigarette lighter and a little slot which will most often be used for either coins or the keyless entry keyfob, which by the way, looks not so exciting as the rest of the car.
I think I can sum this car up in one word, FUN! Let me explain how; you can jump into a Ferrari or Lamborghini and it would be a nice car to drive around in for about an hour, and it will be stupidly fast, look cool and the lot but there is a factor about driving that really matters, driving at the limit. I focus my reviews to the real world, this isn’t Top Gear (I’m a huge fan by the way and you all should be too!) and in the real world, it is extremely rare that you would be driving a Lamborghini or Ferrari at the limit unless you’re at the track. They are too fast, and this speed, in normal use becomes a little meaningless after a while. I never owned a supercar, but I think thats why most of them drive slower than Camrys.
On the Golf GTI though, it is really fast, I mean in the real world 0-100 in 6.6 seconds means this car is really fast, but with that speed, weight and size of this car, you will find yourself driving around on the limit in a lot of cases. I had a few minutes worth of test drive and I had the traction control light flicker many times, it becomes a lot of fun! Taking corners at speed, and accelerating hard, and before you know it, you are doing max legal speed but it was a lot of fun. The car handles really well, the cornering is sweet, plenty of grip from the tires, it feels planted and stable.
I drove it first in Automatic mode, the steering was nicely weighted, it wasn’t too stiff nor too soft, the feel of the thick steering is lovely, the visibility is quite good, big enough windows, the seating is superb and the car is really comfortable. I switched it into Sports mode (my moving the gear leaver to the right) and it becomes fully manual. A lot of cars’ sport mode just make them become faster but shifting is still done automatically, in this, sport means manual. Point complete.
I drove it around in sport, the whole car became slightly more stiffer, gear changes were immediate and upon downshifting, it was like a symphony from heaven where the revs sound like horsepower orgasms. It downshifts immediately as well, no lag here.
I do have to criticize one thing, which is a common issue with double clutch gearboxes these days, the slow speed is crap. This car wants to fly, give it full throttle and the gearbox is as smooth as butter, but during low speeds, 20’s and 30’s the gearbox is sluggish, its like it isn’t sure what gear to select and it feels out of sync, its just dying for the second you hit the throttle. I can assume driving this slowly is a bit of an annoyance. Other than that, its a lovely handling car with more than enough power to handle almost any overtaking and speedy requirements.
The thing that makes this car better than its competitors from Japan, Korea and others is the German factor, the refinement. Let me explain, It is ugly to have your Auxiliary in on the dashboard itself like some cars do, this is in the glovebox along with other ports. When you look into the glovebox there is a little elastic material that would hold your cars or other small items rather than having them roll around in theere. The SD card slot is in the drivers side glovebox, instead of leaning over to the box in front of the passenger. The door lining is in metal with a red strip, that red strip glows and so does the red strip on the door sill. It’s all about the small details.
The thing that interested me a lot in the specifications sheet is the fact that it grew in size, its a Golf, a growth must be interesting. I managed to get in the back seat (was a bit tricky to get in, just a little bit though) behind a 5’7 friend of mine. I am nearly 5.8 and i’m a bigger guy than him. I wouldn’t say I had much room but I fit, absolutely fine. In the back, the boot is a bit small but the rear shelf can be removed for some vertical space. If you need more space, ask your rear passengers to take a taxi and fold the seats down. Sufficient for daily use, even supermarket shopping, not too sure about travel bags.
At the end of the day, I really wanted to experience the brand new VW Golf GTI, I had heard a lot about it and I got to admit, its a job well done. The car may be bigger than the previous car and cost more but you get more space, and more technology in the car. It looks absolutely beautiful, it is somewhat practical, it is economical and it can handle performances that in most cases will be more than enough for any city driving with superb handling. In fact, the performance is good even in tests on a track.
Not alot of people will understand why a small hatchback like the Golf GTI deserves a price tag of around 133’900 Dhs, and I do not blame them on the basis of looking at it as a hatchback, but for those who do get the GTI experience, it is so worth it.
Crap.. Now I want one.