OPINION | Here's what you really should know about the VW Golf GTI

I bet the reason why you clicked on this article is to see what this guy is on about. Because come on! It’s the Volkswagen Golf GTI we’re talking about here. 

Perhaps the best hot hatch money can buy. It's one of the most accessible cars that gift any driver with talent beyond measure; no matter how good - or bad - a driver you are.

volkswagen golf gti,gti,vw

                                 Image: Wheels24 / Charlen Raymond

Essence of GTI

Like the next guy, I like a car that does what it’s supposed to do. Whether it's transporting passengers or chasing the redline; if the car succeeds in its goal that’s a definite win. And it is the same with the GTI.

Forty years ago, when it was first launched, South Africans immediately fell in love with it. It became a hit. A cult-classic. It became a part of the South African culture like boerewors and biltong. It was as if Germany made a car for us. And one of the most prominent attributes in the GTI’s arsenal was that it was affordable. Almost anyone could afford it, and it made sense. It was fast (by the time’s standards), could seat five adults, had a boot and was fun to drive. In many respects it was regarded as the very first real hot hatchback.

READ: Special edition Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR confirmed for SA

What a winning recipe! What a car!To this day, manufacturers are trying to emulate what Volkswagen did forty years ago, but with varying success. Be that as it may.

Over the next four decades, six more generations of GTI followed, and with each generation, the car grew in popularity, the cult status increased, and the car became so much more… precise. The attention to detail bettered the competition, and the car was a better package overall. The latest iteration is perhaps the perfect definition of what the Golf GTI is.

vw golf gti

                                 Image: Wheels24 / Sergio Davids

But here’s the thing…

The current Golf GTI is kind of a swansong for the highly successful Golf 7. And low and behold, the GTI once again sets new standards. The 2.0-litre engine makes due with 169kW/350Nm, it accelerates damn fast, has a top speed of 248km/h, and it steers with a precision that comes very close to the 2016 Golf ClubSport’s. It’s so perfect, this GTI, that it makes you want to drive it all the time. There is no rest for the wicked. It’s so engaging from behind the wheel, and it takes minimal effort to get the most out of the car.

And that’s where I pull over to let out a big sigh. Because why, Volkswagen, why did you make the Golf 7.5 GTI so utterly impeccable.

Everything the GTI does is so very well damn good that it makes you wonder whether or not the car still has a soul. It’s as if VW, in their pursuit to improve the GTI, ripped out the car’s heart and made it more of a robot. Driving the GTI requires little to no effort to exploit the car's capabilities. There is no sense of fear or worry that the car will snap back and bite you. You don’t have that fear because you are too confident behind the wheel. Anyone can exploit the GTI’s prowess and that, in a country where road rage and hot-hotheadedness run rampant, can give anyone a chip on the shoulder.

READ: The essence of Vrrphaaa - Is the Volkswagen Golf GTI still the ultimate everyday hot hatch?

The Golf GTI is by far one of the best cars on sale today, and if given the keys to drive it again, I’d take it. Because driving something so perfect and precise as the GTI does have its rewards.

volkswagen golf gti,gti,vw
                                 Image: Wheels24 / Charlen Raymond

Money making scheme?

Perhaps my biggest frustration with the Golf GTI is that it doesn’t offer enough for what you pay. If ride quality is all you’re interested in, then fair enough. You will not be disappointed. But when you think of the GTI’s price tag of R565 800 and the fact that the car is fitted with the bare minimum, then it encourages a frown.

Standard features include heatable front seats, manually adjustable(!!) front seats, air-con, and cup holders, but to make your GTI stand out would require some of the following extras: 

  • Adaptive Chassis Control with driving mode selector: R13 200
  • Navigation system ‘Discover Pro’: R16 500
  • Park Assist with Park Distance Control: R7100
  • Rear view camera: R3300
  • Keyless entry and start: R5050

These are additional features that will set you back R45 150, pushing the GTI’s price to R610 950. That means the GTI’s standard price compared to the standard features of the 205kW/390Nm Renault Mégane RS 280 EDC Lux (R569 900), will leave you asking yourself some serious questions about your preference. 

I’ll admit, the GTI has a much better resale value and is a much more desirable car than the Mégane RS, but at the end of the day this car remains a highly-desired vehicle, no matter the costs of optional features, and it's a price GTI fans are willing to pay to drive the car of their dreams.

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