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Volkswagen Golf 2008 review

The VS Golf GT Sport TSI is impressive to drive.

For example, the elusive hope of having a car with small thirst but big performance.

Trust Volkswagen — after all, the name means “people's car” — to come up with something that manages this conjuring trick.

It has done it by fitting a Golf hatchback with a small petrol engine which, by itself, would be pretty feeble, but at least wouldn't drink much.

Then it added a supercharger to boost its off-the-mark pulling power to a decent level. And, on top of that, added a turbocharger for even more muscle in places the supercharger can't reach.

This “twincharger” set-up is, of course, devilishly complicated. It's twice the price of a regular car with such a small engine, but then feels twice as good.

VW these days seems to love technical challenges, and it has built in enough electronic brainpower to make sure all the gizmos work happily together. Once into its stride, the result is a seamless delivery of power, along with the painless habit of driving past petrol stations. You don't need to fill up very often.

According to VW's sums, this 1.4-litre-engined Golf has the torque of a 2.3 litre car, but with 20 per cent less thirst. Trouble is, when you do visit the pumps, its hi-tech powerplant requires premium-priced, high-octane petrol. Here we have a small car approaching $40,000, that demands the most expensive fuel.

The “twincharger” machinery first appeared early last year in the TSi Golf.

When it proved popular, VW announced it had been a limited-edition offering, and was being replaced by the GT Sport TSi.

It has also added a GT Sport TDi, which uses a more conventional turbo-diesel set-up. It's fantastic to drive, but $2500 dearer.

Back to the petrol side of the family: the GT Sport TSI (1.4 litre engine with its two 'chargers, adding up to 125kW of power) is not as zesty as the GTI (147kW from a 2.0 litre engine with a single turbocharger), not as sports-focused, not as costly. Rather, the GT is a handy stepping stone between “normal” Golf hatchbacks and the GTI.

Think of it as a junior hottie: though not a slowcoach, it doesn't have anything like the athleticism of its bigger-engined GTi brother.

The TSI is a clever technical achievement and is impressive to drive.

If it cost less and was less expensive to run, it would be a five-star proposition.

Pricing guides

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Range and Specs

1.6 Comfortline 1.6L, PULP, 5 SP MAN $2,700 – 4,620 2008 Volkswagen Golf 2008 1.6 Comfortline Pricing and Specs
1.6 Edition 1.6L, PULP, 5 SP MAN $2,500 – 4,290 2008 Volkswagen Golf 2008 1.6 Edition Pricing and Specs
1.6 Trendline 1.6L, PULP, 5 SP MAN $2,500 – 4,290 2008 Volkswagen Golf 2008 1.6 Trendline Pricing and Specs
1.9 TDI Comfortline 1.9L, Diesel, 6 SP $3,100 – 5,390 2008 Volkswagen Golf 2008 1.9 TDI Comfortline Pricing and Specs