REVIEW | The Golf GTi is the humble performance hatchback

Image: Wheels24 / Sean Parker
Image: Wheels24 / Sean Parker

Like Bohemian Rhapsody or Home Alone 2, the seventh generation Volkswagen GTi has aged well. 

Squat, sleek, and with piercing LED lights the GTi is as comfortable in front of the 12 Apostles Hotel and your favourite Ekasi ‘jol’, Rands maybe. 

Passers-by find it striking to look at, knocking each other to turn their gaze and whisper: “Check out that GTi.” 

There’s no doubt it still has clout, despite the impending eighth-generation model due in South Africa before the end of 2020. 

The new model, like the current GTi and the two previous generations, employs a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine. Clearly, a recipe that works then. 

The 169kW and 350Nm stats are not class-leading figures and won’t win your argument around the braai or a car Twitter, but for the GTi it’s about the way those numbers are funneled through to the front wheels via the tried-and-tested six-speed dual-clutch gearbox. 

It’s rapid. Off the line, with launch control engaged (gearbox in sport mode, traction control off, left foot on the brake and right foot mashing the throttle) it scampers off like Mo Salah at full tilt. 

Over the fortnight and a bit that I spent with the car, the GTi showed how darn good it is as an all-rounder. 

Notable road trips included a drive to the Overberg coastal town of Hermanus. The drive from Cape Town was supremely comfortable down the N2, over Sir Lowry’s Pass, and Houw Hoek Pass. Both of those lovely pieces of tarmac act as a canvas to exploit the GTi’s dynamic capabilities. And damn it, it’s fun, thrilling and I had a huge grin on my face after pushing the car. 

The steering feel, the grip of the front tyres and the ability to tackle a corner with so much confidence by leaning on the remarkable chassis are what make the GTi a fantastic all-rounder. 

It’s the type of car I can’t wait to get in and drive again. And with its time coming to an end soon. It’s a privilege driving a car worthy of the famous three-letter badge.

And like Queen's album and Macauly Culkin's best Christmas film, the GTi will stand the test of time. 

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