Volkswagen Golf GTI (2013-present)

It’s faster and more advanced than ever, but the Volkswagen Golf GTI hides beneath a sober design

Strengths & Weaknesses

Strengths 

Fun to drive on any road
Practical enough for the daily commute
Well-built and comfortable for a hot hatchback

Weaknesses 

The petrol engine isn’t very efficient
Slower than rivals
Not the car to buy if you want to make a statement
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Volkswagen Golf prices from £14,499   Finance from £230 per month

Hot hatchbacks might have been linked to tearaway teenagers screeching round car parks in a cloud of tyre smoke and tacky-looking bodywork.

But for 41 years, the Volkswagen Golf has been the subtle face of these high-performance family cars, Like a habanero pepper, its innocuous exterior hides a fiery heart: performance and agility that can add spice to any journey, even if it is the school run.

And that’s the point. It doesn’t just look sensible, it is a pragmatic choice. With the same sizeable 380-litre boot, passenger space and solid build quality as the rest of the Golf range, it will fit in with everyday life. There might be a few clues as to the car’s performance - such as the red line that runs through the headlights and some extra bodywork but no-one will think you’re going through a mid-life crisis - unlike with other hot hatchbacks, such as the Honda Civic Type R, or Ford Focus ST.

In 2017, the GTI was updated along with the rest of the Golf range, with minor design tweaks and a small power increase to 230hp. That’s the same as earlier Golfs from this generation, which were fitted with the Performance Pack upgrade.

The changes allow Volkswagen to boast of improvements, but they make very little difference to the way that the car drives. And that’s excellent news. Whether you buy a brand new car or a Golf GTI from 2014, it will feel alive as soon as you press the start button from the tartan-covered driver’s seat, and the engine starts with a growl from the exhaust.

Push hard on the accelerator and the tyres scrabble for grip before the Golf darts off. Sharp and responsive steering lets you flick the car from one corner to another and the car stays stable throughout, with very little leaning in corners and a smooth ride that means you’re not bounced about by bumps in the road.

The manual version is good, but the automatic is better: you still get the option of changing gear with paddles and the instant, electronically controlled shifts suit the responsive turbocharged engine, which delivers a smooth surge of power.

There’s plenty of grip so you can scoot through corners at speed, but fitting the Performance pack makes cornering noticeably more precise, thanks to the limited slip differential that’s fitted, maintains power to a wheel with grip if another one loses traction. It also brings better brakes and a small power upgrade (15hp in the latest cars), which is barely noticeable.

Performance pack or not, the Golf GTI has less power than a Honda Civic Type R, Mercedes-AMG A45, or its faster four-wheel-drive sibling, the Volkswagen Golf R. But none switch to being calm and collected in the same way as the Golf, particularly if you pay for the optional advanced suspension, called Dynamic Chassis Control. Select Comfort mode (there are five driving modes that adjust the feel of the car) and the GTI feels almost like a standard Golf. The ride is fairly smooth, and the car is quiet, like in a Peugeot 308 GTI.

In fact, it feels underpowered if you’re not pushing on because the car is programmed to change gear early (or tell you to change up a gear if you have the manual gearbox) to save fuel. You can expect around 33mpg in real-work driving, and that will drop further if you use the car’s full performance.

It also comes well-equipped, with sat-nav, a digital instrument display behind the steering wheel; climate control; and, for when you’re bored of driving, adaptive cruise control that maintains a set distance behind the car in front. Earlier cars were less well-equipped: sat-nav, for example, was an option.

There's also Isofix in the back for securely fitting child seats, the same five-star Euro NCAP safety rating as the rest of the range and useful options, such as headlights that can use main beam without blinding other drivers.

It’s all seems very sensible - until you press the Start button.

Last Updated 

Tuesday, January 1, 2019 - 15:30

Key facts 

Warranty: 
3-years / 60,000 miles
Boot size: 
380 litres
Width: 
1823mm
Length: 
4268mm
Height: 
1442mm
Tax: 
£200 in first year, £140 thereafter / Pre-April 2017 cars: £145

Volkswagen Golf History 

  • April 2013 The current-generation VW Golf GTI goes on sale. A Performance option adds 10hp and offers more precise cornering, thanks to a limited slip differential.
  • May 2016 A high-performance limited edition version, the VW Golf GTI Clubsport S, goes on sale to celebrate 40 years of the VW Golf. Only 400 are built worldwide.
  • April 2017 An updated version of the Golf GTI goes on sale, with a little more power, a minor redesign and better interior technology
  • May 2017 A Performance option for the Golf GTI is launched, with 15hp more power, better brakes and improved cornering with its limited slip differential.
  • January 2019 TCR version released.

Understanding Volkswagen Golf car names 

  • Golf
  • Engine
    2.0 TSI 245PS
  • Performance pack
    Performance
  • Body style
    5 Door
  • Gearbox
    DSG
  • Engine
    The size of the engine is shown in litres (all Golf GTIs have 2-litre engines) and the horsepower is shown too. Volkswagen tends to abbreviate this to PS
  • Performance pack
    The Performance version of the Golf increases power and cornering ability.
  • Body style
    The Golf GTI is available as a three-door or more practical five-door hatchback.
  • Gearbox
    DSG indicates that the car is fitted with an automatic gearbox.

Volkswagen Golf Engines 

2.0 TSI

At first glance the Golf GTI seems to match performance with a reasonable fuel economy of almost 45mpg.

However, that’s the official mpg figure., Figures from the Equa Index, which are based on real-world car testing on public roads, suggest that you can expect around 33mpg. Less if you drive faster.

That discrepancy isn’t unusual - the test used to generate the official figures is notoriously unreliable - but does mean that the Golf could cost more to run than you expected.

GTI Performance cars have an extra 15hp and marginally worse fuel economy, but you’re unlikely to notice much of a difference.

Progress is swift, with a surprising amount of pace gathering the moment the right foot is buried to the floor, and like the classic hot hatch that it is, power is delivered to the front wheels, as opposed to all-four as favoured by some rivals.

In fact, the performance on tap here is more than enough to give some dedicated sports cars a run for their money but the engine is flexible enough to serve as an excellent daily drive.

So when you just want to relax, it’s quiet and smooth on motorway journeys. That may bother drivers who want speed and noise wherever they drive, but it’s not that sort of car. The engine note feels a little muted, even when the drive mode selection switch is flicked to its most aggressive 'Sport' setting, but it does make it very easy to live with.

TCR cars use the same engine, but tuned to develop 286bhp. 0-62mph comes up in 5.6 seconds. The TCR sits 5mm closer to the ground, and the steering is also sharper than regular GTI cars.

 

Fuel

Official fuel economy

Power

Acceleration (0-62mph)

Top speed

2.0 TSI

Petrol

44.1mpg

230hp

6.4sec

155mph

2.0 TSI Performance

Petrol

42.8mpg

245hp

6.2sec

155mph

TCR

Petrol

42.2mpg

286bhp

5.6sec

162mph

 

 

Volkswagen Golf Trims 

GTI

Just one trim level is available here but because this is one of the more expensive models in the Golf range, the current car comes generously equipped as standard.

The exterior receives the 'GTI styling pack', which adds new shape front and rear bumpers, large 18-inch alloy wheels, a rear spoiler and the honeycomb grille with GTI badging. Bright LED headlights are also a standard feature, while tinted glass is added for the rear windows.

Inside, there is tartan ‘Jacara’ cloth upholstery, heated seats and piano black inserts on the dashboard that helps raise the interior to a more premium level over lesser Golfs.

New for the updated version is a 12.3in screen behind the steering wheel that replaces analogue dials. Because it is purely digital, it can be customised to give a variety of read-outs, including navigational directions and infotainment information.

Adaptive Cruise Control is standard in post-2017 cars, while the large 8in dashboard touchscreen, offers ultra-clear 3D mapping of European roads, as well as digital radio and the ability to connect a smartphone for online app access.

Dubbed Car-Net, this service enables users to use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto software for simple control of apps on their smartphone, as well as use some of Volkswagen's own apps, which can do things like pull in a local weather report or advise on fuel prices in the area.

Customers can specify the GTI to an even higher standard by adding things like an optional leather interior and the new 9.2in dashboard screen called Discover Navigation Pro, which eliminates many physical buttons. You can also use gestures to control it (waving a hand in front of the screen to answer calls, for example) which is largely a gimmick.

The Lane Assist Plus pack, including Dynamic Light Assist is a worthwhile addition, despite its £1,225 price, as it includes a range of hi-tech equipment, including the intelligent headlights that can operate on main beam and screen out some of the light to avoid blinding other drivers - enabling you to see further. Traffic jam assist, which enables the car to accelerate, brake and steer in slow-moving traffic, is included too.

Volkswagen Golf Reliability and warranty 

Despite Volkswagen recently hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons, it remains a builder of safe and reliable machines and the standard Golf is still the fourth best-selling car in the UK.

It’s reliable too, finishing 12 out of 75 in this year’s Auto Express Driver Power customer satisfaction survey with a high 94.6% reliability score.

Its 3-year warranty, which has a limit of 60,000 miles, is fairly standard across the industry now, and there’s an extensive UK dealer network should something go wrong.

Used Volkswagen Golf 

The Golf GTI is a car that’s much in demand, and so you’ll pay a premium for it as a used car - just as you do for it when new.

Prices for the current model, which first appeared in 2013, are approaching £15,000, so you’ll pay less than £250 a month, based on representative finance quotes.

Pre-update cars came with less standard equipment - notably sat-nav - but the driving experience is barely different, which is what matters to most GTI buyers. It’s also worth looking for a model fitted with the Performance Pack, which has better brakes and a limited slip differential that maximises grip when cornering, increasing precision.

Volkswagen Golf Prices

Volkswagen Golf GT Edition

1.5 tsi evo 150 gt edition 5dr

  • Doors 5
  • Fuel petrol
  • Economy
  • Gears manual

Starting at: £21,255

You could save up to: £4945

1.5 tsi evo 150 gt edition 5dr dsg

  • Doors 5
  • Fuel petrol
  • Economy
  • Gears automatic

Starting at: £22,500

You could save up to: £5115

1.5 tsi evo gt edition 5dr

  • Doors 5
  • Fuel petrol
  • Economy
  • Gears manual

Starting at: £20,573

You could save up to: £4852

1.6 tdi gt edition 5dr

  • Doors 5
  • Fuel diesel
  • Economy
  • Gears manual

Starting at: £20,939

You could save up to: £4896

2.0 tdi gt edition 5dr

  • Doors 5
  • Fuel diesel
  • Economy
  • Gears manual

Starting at: £22,171

You could save up to: £5064

2.0 tdi gt edition 5dr dsg

  • Doors 5
  • Fuel diesel
  • Economy
  • Gears automatic

Starting at: £23,416

You could save up to: £5234

Volkswagen Golf GTE

1.4 tsi gte 5dr dsg

  • Doors 5
  • Fuel petrol/plugin elec hybrid
  • Economy 166.2mpg
  • Gears automatic

Starting at: £26,497

You could save up to: £5683

Volkswagen Golf GTE Advance

1.4 tsi gte advance 5dr dsg

  • Doors 5
  • Fuel petrol/plugin elec hybrid
  • Economy 156.9mpg
  • Gears automatic

Starting at: £28,081

You could save up to: £5899

Volkswagen Golf GTI Performance

2.0 tsi 245 gti performance 5dr dsg

  • Doors 5
  • Fuel petrol
  • Economy 44.8mpg
  • Gears automatic

Starting at: £27,402

You could save up to: £5778

Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR

2.0 tsi 290 gti tcr 5dr dsg

  • Doors 5
  • Fuel petrol
  • Economy 42.2mpg
  • Gears automatic

Starting at: £31,533

You could save up to: £6297

Volkswagen Golf Match Edition

1.5 tsi evo 150 match edition 5dr

  • Doors 5
  • Fuel petrol
  • Economy
  • Gears manual

Starting at: £19,420

You could save up to: £4695

1.5 tsi evo 150 match edition 5dr dsg

  • Doors 5
  • Fuel petrol
  • Economy
  • Gears automatic

Starting at: £20,666

You could save up to: £4864

1.5 tsi evo match edition 5dr

  • Doors 5
  • Fuel petrol
  • Economy
  • Gears manual

Starting at: £18,738

You could save up to: £4602

1.6 tdi match edition 5dr

  • Doors 5
  • Fuel diesel
  • Economy
  • Gears manual

Starting at: £19,447

You could save up to: £4698

2.0 tdi match edition 5dr

  • Doors 5
  • Fuel diesel
  • Economy
  • Gears manual

Starting at: £20,719

You could save up to: £4866

2.0 tdi match edition 5dr dsg

  • Doors 5
  • Fuel diesel
  • Economy
  • Gears automatic

Starting at: £21,964

You could save up to: £5036

Volkswagen Golf R

2.0 tsi 300 r 5dr 4motion dsg

  • Doors 5
  • Fuel petrol
  • Economy 39.2mpg
  • Gears automatic

Starting at: £30,226

You could save up to: £6119

Volkswagen Golf R-Line Edition

1.5 tsi evo 150 r-line edition 5dr

  • Doors 5
  • Fuel petrol
  • Economy
  • Gears manual

Starting at: £22,131

You could save up to: £5064

1.5 tsi evo 150 r-line edition 5dr dsg

  • Doors 5
  • Fuel petrol
  • Economy
  • Gears automatic

Starting at: £23,376

You could save up to: £5234

1.6 tdi r-line edition 5dr

  • Doors 5
  • Fuel diesel
  • Economy
  • Gears manual

Starting at: £21,806

You could save up to: £5014

2.0 tdi r-line edition 5dr

  • Doors 5
  • Fuel diesel
  • Economy
  • Gears manual

Starting at: £23,046

You could save up to: £5184

2.0 tdi r-line edition 5dr dsg

  • Doors 5
  • Fuel diesel
  • Economy
  • Gears automatic

Starting at: £24,292

You could save up to: £5353

Volkswagen Golf S

1.6 tdi s 5dr

  • Doors 5
  • Fuel diesel
  • Economy 68.9mpg
  • Gears manual

Starting at: £17,995

You could save up to: £4500

Volkswagen Golf e-Golf

99kw e-golf 35kwh 5dr auto

  • Doors 5
  • Fuel electric
  • Economy
  • Gears automatic

Starting at: £23,848

You could save up to: £7227

Other Editions