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Volkswagen Golf GTI 2014 Review

Swing around the course in VW's hyper front-driver and you're hooked.
Stuart Martin road tests and reviews the Volkswagen Golf GTI Performance, with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.

There's always a concern when a title states the bleeding obvious - "Quality Home Improvements" or "Reliable Used Cars" for example. So putting a "Performance" badge on a car already renowned for just that might well be asking for trouble.

As if the Volkswagen Golf GTI wasn't already known as a hot hatch hero, VW saw the need to ram the point home.

The GTI starts from $41,990 with a six-speed manual and rises to $44,490 if the clutch pedal is removed.

The $48,490 Performance edition doesn't give you a choice - it comes only with VW's six-speed dual-clutch automated manual, which is about the only disappointing aspect to the car.

  • VW Golf GTI Performance VW Golf GTI Performance
  • VW Golf GTI Performance VW Golf GTI Performance
  • VW Golf GTI Performance VW Golf GTI Performance
  • VW Golf GTI Performance VW Golf GTI Performance
  • VW Golf GTI Performance VW Golf GTI Performance
  • VW Golf GTI Performance VW Golf GTI Performance
  • VW Golf GTI Performance VW Golf GTI Performance
  • VW Golf GTI Performance VW Golf GTI Performance
  • VW Golf GTI Performance VW Golf GTI Performance
  • VW Golf GTI Performance VW Golf GTI Performance
  • VW Golf GTI Performance VW Golf GTI Performance

CarsGuide has previously waxed lyrical about the GTI - everyday practicality with a corner-carving habit - so just what else do you get for that extra chunk of change?

If you're looking for a dumped ride height, wild wings and a stupid stance, glance elsewhere - the upgraded abilities aren't immediately apparent from the outside.

The GTI variants share the adaptive and adjustable suspension, as well as one of the best parking sensors and reversing camera setups going - the camera stays clean beneath the rear badge/hatch release and pops out as needed.

Intuitive touchscreen 3D satnav and eight-speaker sound system (now thankfully with a USB input) are also common, as are the electric park brake, auto door locking, rain-sensing wipers, tyre-pressure warning, dual-zone climate control (with rear vents) and cruise control.

It gets the same passive safety features - seven airbags - and the now-mandatory stability control (which can be backed off to good effect). The variants share the extended electronic front differential lock (XDL in VW-speak) to quell front-wheel temper tantrums. This is where things really get better for Performance buyers.

Working with the stability control, the XDL can apply braking to the inside wheel to prevent wheel spin - not uncommon but the VW setup is among the more effective.

Previous time in the GTI showed its effectiveness on bumpy and twisty back roads, but the Performance's electronically controlled mechanical front differential lock adds to that arsenal.

It is able to send drive from the wheel with the low grip to the wheel with more bite, up to 100 per cent, which has a torque-vectoring effect - the result is better cornering ability, particularly when it comes to firing out of the bend.

Several prestige marques - Audi and BMW in particular - do it with rear-wheel drive and AWD vehicles to good effect but VW's front-drive effort is ground-breaking.

From behind the wheel the impact is impressive - previously, in front-drivers with such outputs, the temptation to stomp on the throttle without regard for traction would result in the inside wheel spinning up a storm.

Not in this little beastie - if anything you need to adjust steering inputs to accommodate the extra turning prowess and recalibrate your brain to get on the gas earlier to take full advantage.

It's laugh-out-loud driving, made even more enjoyable by an extra 7kW over the GTI, while the 350Nm of torque is unchanged but spread a little further - despite a 40kg weight gain, the Performance model scoots to the freeway limit in 6.4 seconds (0.1 sec quicker than the GTI) and its top speed climbs by 10km/h to 248km/h.

The chuckles continue when the upgraded brakes bite hard to wipe off speed (behind 19-inch alloys sit larger ventilated front and rear discs with GTI stamp on red-painted calipers).

Further amusement is derived from the dampers. Adaptive and adjustable, they iron out the bumps for a remarkably good ride, even in the sportiest modes and despite the 35-profile licorice strap rubber around the alloys.

The top GTI's lights have been upgraded to adaptive and auto-levelling bi-xenon jobs. The cabin gets the sports seats as per the GTI but with cloth-Alcantara trim, flat-bottomed sports steering wheel and the heavier tint on the rear windows. There's no option for a sunroof - hardly a deal-breaker.

Pricing guides

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Range and Specs

118 TSI 1.4L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $14,700 – 20,680 2014 Volkswagen Golf 2014 118 TSI Pricing and Specs
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90 TSI 1.4L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $8,000 – 12,430 2014 Volkswagen Golf 2014 90 TSI Pricing and Specs
Stuart Martin
Contributing Journalist