By Clive Funziwe
The Golf GTI needs no introduction; it is many things to many people. We can even argue that it is the 911 of hot-hatchbacks. It delivers on many counts, pace, handling, practicality, fun and most of all – it is relatively affordable when all things are considered. This means that we have to question, where in the podium of desired hot-hatches does it fit in – with the release of the MK8.
What’s underneath the bonnet?
The MK8 GTI uses a 2.0-litre turbocharged 4-Cylinder engine that pushes out a more than adequate 180kW, up from 169kW and now has 370Nm. The codenamed EA888 engine is paired to a 7-Speed DCT and VW claims it will sprint from 0 to 100km/h in 6.4 seconds, which is a conservative time, considering some personal tests we did that gave us 5.9/6.0 seconds.
How does it drive?
The initial grip might have some wheel spin, but once the MK8 is hooked up – grip is in abundance, even in corners. The MK8 may be 165 kilograms heavier than the MK7.5 but its overall handling is miles ahead. One of the most used descriptions is how hot-hatches have handling that is Jekyll and Hyde, but in the case of the MK8, this holds exceptionally true. Both on road and on track driving are equally rewarding and there is no one particular thing that the MK8 does better than the other, balance is a constant theme here. The weight of the steering, its directness, the front end grip and overall driver connection is so rewarding and yet does not take away from the comfort and sensibility required for daily driving as well as the practicality, which brings us to the MK8’s plethora of gadgetry.
Modern, feature packed interior
Panoramic sunroof, dual climate control, Harman Kardon System, Park Assist, Lane keeps assist, lane departure warning, heated seats, heated steering and a radar guided cruise control are some off the noteworthy features. Space is good for hot-hatch but taller than average adults might feel a little cramped over long distances.
The seats are however very comfortable and the leather is good quality. The entire cabin has good build quality, barring one of two things that we did not like. The ventilation display is not illuminated and this is more than counter intuitive for a modern car, never mind the levels of ergonomics we expect from a top notch VW product. Another let down is the use of the piano black finish over the infotainment display and instrument cluster. We are not fans of how shiny it is and the look it gives. It does take away a mark or two for what is otherwise a brilliant, minimalistic and contemporary dash design.
We really do admire how VW can constantly improve the Golf GTI and also retain the good looks that seem to be most people’s cup of tea. As a do it all hatch, the GTI remains the benchmark in our books. It may not be as razor sharp as the Civic Type R, or as refined as the BMW 128ti or sexy as Mercedes-Benz’s A35, and even losing some marks in executing some bits of the interior – but there is no matching this value proposition and street-cred.
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