VOLKSWAGEN AUSTRALIA has at last unleashed the latest in a long line of performance hatches, the 2010 Volkswagen Golf 6 GTI.
If it has an Achilles heel, it might be that the new GTI’s styling is perhaps a little tame. It has lost the deep distinguishing grille of its predecessor, and now, though sublimely styled, shares more in common with its Golf-badged stablemates.
The grille, rimmed by red highlights top and bottom, is a nod to tradition and a return to the discrete styling of the original GTI’s red-framed blacked-out grille.
Unique to the new GTI is a deep, wide and aggressive lower air intake framed by neat vertical fog lights. This accentuates the width of the nose and the ‘low to the ground’ stance of the new car.
Lower by 22mm at the front and 15mm at the rear, sitting on fat guards-filling 17-inch alloys (or the optional 18-inch sports wheels), with side skirts, rear diffuser, neat integrated rear spoiler and wide-mounted twin pipes, there is no mistaking its performance intent.
Whatever the views about the styling (some will prefer its understatement, some won’t), Volkswagen’s new road warrior has an athletic and purposeful presence on the road.
Inside, besides deeply contoured sports buckets and their trademark GTI-tartan inserts, the new model GTI has the same appealing style and super fit and finish of the Golf range.
It is still mostly black on black, with few visual highlights, but there are no complaints with this work bench. As a colleague on the drive commented, “What is there not to like?”
The ergonomics are improved in the new car over the old ‘series 5’ GTI. It is now easier to ‘get set’ at the wheel. Fully adjustable for reach and rake, the steering wheel can now be set lower than in the previous model and the gear-shift falls a little better to hand.
It’s incremental, we’re talking minor adjustments here, but it’s the little things that make the difference when hard at work at the wheel.
Large twin dials – speedo and tacho - under a neat binnacle, multi-function flat-bottomed sports steering wheel and with all controls neatly centred, the studied understatement of the GTI’s exterior lines carry over to the styling of the interior. It works well, it’s a testament to Teutonic attention to detail and to function guiding form, and is simply a nice place to be.
Those deep buckets, whether trimmed in the optional black leather or with the standard dark tartan, proved comfortable and supportive, even when throwing the GTI over one of Victoria’s most challenging alpine roads.
The five-door offers good seating and legroom for four adults, and there is good access to the rear seats in the three door through the wide-opening doors.
Equipment and Features
There are also few complaints about the standard features list of the new GTI.
With dual-zone climate control, air-conditioning, six-disc CD changer with touchscreen, MP3 compatible SD card slot (Bluetooth optional), eight speaker sound system and with Aux-in jack, the GTI comes with ample creature comforts.
It also comes with seven airbags: driver and passenger front and side airbags, driver’s knee airbag and curtain airbags front and rear. Below, there is ABS braking, stability control, brake assist and electronic brake pressure distribution.
There are other premium touches like heat-insulating tinted glass, low-tyre-pressure indicator, dust and pollen filters, halogen headlamps, footwell illumination and height-adjustable front and rear head-restraints.
Pedals – brake, clutch and accelerator - are aluminium finished. Don’t go looking for a full-size spare; instead, in the interest of weight saving (and in saving scarce resources) the GTI comes with a space-saver spare.
Both power and torque are up in the new model: maximum power of 155kW is available from 5300–6200rpm. Maximum torque of 280Nm is available across an astonishingly wide 1700–5200rpm.
What those wide power and torque bands do, in practical terms, is give the GTI enormous tractability.
The lusty torque figure is a result of the long stroke (undersquare) configuration of the 2.0 litre DOHC turbo-charged four-pot up front. With an 82.5mm bore and 92.8mm stroke, and linear turbo delivery, the GTI has torque numbers approaching diesel territory.
At the wheel you can feel it. The GTI will pull readily even from taller gears, and when being rowed along through either of the six-speed boxes, spears effortlessly from apex to apex.
Interestingly, the new car achieves the higher power and torque figures from a diet of 95RON (whereas the old needed the more expensive 98RON).
Transmission choice is either the six-speed manual or six-speed twin-clutch DSG. The manual is a delight to use, the DSG equally so. They are separated by $2500 – that’s the price for the techno-wizardry bound into Volkswagen’s now proven twin-clutch system.
With seamless rapid-fire sequential shifts via the paddles at the wheel or the lever at the centre console, the DSG may be the quicker car on a mountain pass, but the feel of the manual and the nicely spaced ratios takes some tossing for enjoyment.
Volkswagen claims fuel consumption figures of 10.4 l/100km and 10.2 l/100km for city driving, 6.2 l/100km and 6.1 l/100km for the highway cycle. In a long performance run, we had no chance to sensibly check either claimed figure.
While the original 1976 Golf GTI managed the 0–100km/h sprint in 9.2seconds, the claimed sprint for the 2010 GTI is 6.9 seconds. This isn’t at the top of the class, after all, the GTI is giving away kilowatts to others in the segment, but its nimble handling and overall balance is.
And the way it gets the power to the road, and can hold it there, means that every kilowatt and Newton metre can be used to its fullest value. In anyone’s language, the GTI is a very, very quick car.
The secret to the new GTI’s quite astonishing balance and grip is in its XDL differential, or Extended Electronic Differential Lock. It is extraordinary technology that simply works.
The XDL system reacts to ‘load’ rather than loss of traction, instantaneously feeding power to the wheel where load forces are increasing. From the wheel, from the first moment you get in ‘hot’ to a corner, the improved traction and feel is immediately apparent.
With the XDL, the GTI shows no tendency to want to run wide; understeer (and torque steer for that matter) is all-but banished. Instead, turn-in is razor sharp, and you can hold power – and road speed – through the apex without the car pulling wide on exit.
Also assisting things is the Adaptive Chassis Control, which, via a button on the centre console allows selection between three damper settings: Sport, Normal or Comfort modes. I sometimes struggle to pick the handling difference with similar systems. Not so with the new GTI. In Sport mode, things are palpably sharpened at the wheel, the ride firmer and cornering flatter.
Down below, things are conventional enough with MacPherson struts with lower A-arms and anti-roll bar up front, and an independent four-link set-up with coil springs and anti-roll bar at the rear. Steering is electro-mechanical power assisted rack and pinion.
The brake system comes with ABS, EBD and Brake Assist, and with ventilated discs front and rear. (Despite something approaching a hammering – certainly beyond what the brakes would be subjected to in normal duties - they performed flawlessly in both cars we drove.)
Lastly, tipping the scales at 1360kg for the manual and 1380kg for the DSG, the GTI, while no shrinking lightweight, is not overburdened by excess ballast taking the edge off things.
- 2010 Volkswagen Golf 6 GTI 2.0 Litre TSI 155kW 3 door 6-speed manual $38,990
- 2010 Volkswagen Golf 6 GTI 2.0 Litre TSI 155kW 3 door 6-speed DSG $41,490
- 2010 Volkswagen Golf 6 GTI 2.0 Litre TSI 155kW 5 door 6-speed manual $40,490
- 2010 Volkswagen Golf 6 GTI 2.0 Litre TSI 155kW 5 door 6-speed DSG $42,990