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Volkswagen Golf hatchback 2013 review

In a good year, the Golf GTI accounts for every fifth Golf sold due to Australia's outsized appetite for performance variants.

In a good year, the Golf GTI accounts for every fifth Golf sold due to Australia's outsized appetite for performance variants. Last time around, Volkswagen Australia couldn't get enough of them.

On the basis of the car alone, there should be a repetition of that. The new GTI inherits everything that makes the Golf VII a category-killer: lightweight architecture, improved electronics, better performance and economy, and more equipment.

However to regain full competitiveness, the brand will need to restore the faith of the Australian buying public after the high-profile recall in June that affected almost 26,000 local models.

Speaking at the launch of the Golf GTI earlier this month, VW Australia managing director John White explained: "We need quicker resolution to product issues and we've established some new processes to do that."

"I also have instructed our team to be more flexible in terms of customer treatment where there have been fairly important issues."


The Golf GTI’s starting price rises to $41,490 to reflect the better equipment level -- or perhaps the runaway demand for the previous model. You can option up to leather for $3150 or add a sunroof for $1850, but the “unavoidable options” list is short: effectively, only metallic paint.

Certainly the DSG gearbox, at $2500, is avoidable and that's nothing to do with reservations about the technology; the manual better suits the character of the car.


The GTI also comes with its own nuanced design variations on the regular car, including an appealing red character line through the grille, red brake calipers and chrome exhausts. Inside, the seats are upholstered in a tartan reminiscent of the 1970s original.

As a badge, the GTI has been the halo Golf since it first appeared and the latest version successfully evolves the formula. A slightly more powerful GTI Performance Edition arrives in the second quarter next year, along with the range-topping (but not necessarily more appealing) Golf R.


In particular, developments of the turbocharged 2.0-litre engine bring 7kW more power and substantially more torque -- another 70Nm, for 350Nm. It's marginally faster, at 6.5 seconds to 100km/h, yet with a full suite of fuel-saving tricks (such as idle-stop) it's at least 13 per cent more economical.


Safety features include seven airbags and a fatigue alert system, while standard equipment runs to parking sensors, satnav, a reverse camera, colour control screen and ambient lighting. It's an impressive list.


The extra torque makes the car exceptionally driveable from low revs and flexible in-gear. It gets the power down without problem thanks to a development of the electronic front differential, which can selectively brake the front wheels to prevent slip or for more effective cornering. The GTI avoids “torque steer” -- the unwanted tugging at the steering wheel -- characteristic of powerful front-drive cars and must be provoked to understeer, or run wide, in a corner. It turns and tracks through tight bends more aggressively than you expect.

Steering effort has been reduced thanks to a quicker ratio and there's pleasing weight to the wheel. The speed it turns into corners needs some familiarity -- you just don't expect it in a hatchback, and I wondered whether it was too sports car-like for a relatively tall hatchback. But other control weights -- the pedals and manual shifter -- are first rate.

The suspension is adaptive, with three settings from comfort to sport, and despite larger 18-inch wheels, ride quality has not suffered.


Like other Golfs, the GTI drives and handles better than before, has greater levels of comfort, space, convenience and refinement, and should be cheaper to run. For these reasons, the Golf GTI is worthy of a four star rating, but for the time being at least, this rating is withheld as we await proof it will act differently when the next problem arises.

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