Volkswagen Golf GTD Launch Review Photo:
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Tony O'Kane | Jun, 12 2010 | 9 Comments

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Volkswagen Golf GTD Review

If it looks like a duck and it quacks like a duck, then surely it must be a duck. Right?

Volkswagen’s diesel-powered Golf GTD – ostensibly the replacement for the Golf GT Sport TDI – looks like a GTI and handles like a GTI, so it must be diesel GTI.

Yes? Well no.

“GTD is not a diesel GTI,” Vladan Dimic, VW Australia’s Product Marketing Manager for passenger vehicles, told TMR.

“(But) It is a sporty diesel.”

Of course, it remains to be seen whether Australian motorists are ready to embrace a diesel hot hatch, but VW is optimistic that the GTD has broad appeal.

It's expected to find favour with buyers looking to upgrade from the Golf 103 TDI to something a bit sportier, as well as those who would normally be deterred by the higher ownership costs associated with a 'hot hatch'.

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Volkswagen invited TMR to Tasmania to sample the GTD, and our initial taste of VW’s diesel sports hatchback demonstrated that despite VW’s protestations, there’s a lot of GTI in the GTD.

Over a winding route stretching from Hobart to Launceston, we got a chance to put the GTD through its paces. We were unsurprised with what we found.

With a kerb weight identical to the GTI (1360kg in manual form) and a suspension setup that’s also virtually the same, the GTD handled like – you guessed it – the GTI.

The GTI’s nose sits 7mm lower than the GTD’s, but that’s the only major difference in suspension hardware. Even the Adaptive Chassis Control (ACC) that’s available on the GTI is an option for the GTD.

The handling, in fact, is so similar between the two that anyone familiar with the current-gen Golf GTI will feel right at home in the GTD.

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The GTD has the same firm damping as the GTI, the same unshakeable mid-corner grip and the same direct steering.

VW’s XDL system (standard on the GTD and also pinched from the GTI) enhances traction under power by braking the inside wheel to reduce wheelspin, and works a treat.

Although it’s no rollerskate, the stiff ride can get bit tiring on long stints; there is also plenty of tyre roar on coarse-chip surfaces. The optional ACC suspension irons out a lot of ride harshness when in ‘comfort’ mode, and is highly recommended.

Of course, the biggest difference between GTI and GTD is within the engine bay.

At 125kW, the GTD’s 2.0 litre common-rail injected turbodiesel develops 30kW less than the GTI. However the GTD’s peak torque figure of 350Nm eclipses that of its petrol-drinking stablemate by a large margin.

The only qualification to this figure is the GTD's quite narrow powerband - peak torque is only available between 1750-2500rpm.

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The diesel is at its happiest between 3000-4000rpm, but loses steam beyond 4300rpm. Acceleration isn’t overwhelmingly quick, but with a claimed 8.1 second 0-100km/h sprint for both manual and DSG, it is reasonably respectable for a diesel.

We drove both the DSG and manual-equipped models at the launch, and noted a surprising difference between both.

Although power and torque outputs are identical, the GTD manual felt punchier and more willing to rev than the DSG. It also seemed to have a markedly louder exhaust note.

Our seat-of-the-pants experience had us believing the manual was the faster of the two, although VW claims an 8.1 second 0-100km/h time for both transmissions.

Average fuel economy is claimed to be 5.5 l/100km for the manual and 5.8 l/100km for the DSG. We achieved an average figure of 6.6 l/100km over a launch route that involved a lot of hills and not a lot of gentle driving.

At 100km/h the engine was spinning at just over 1900rpm, and economy during highway cruising was around 4.7 l/100km.

Fuel economy is central to the GTD’s appeal, but it’s not the only aspect of the car that buyers will find enticing.


Our first drive verdict

On the first drive, it is near impossible not to be impressed with the GTD.

It handles just like a hot hatch should and, while the exterior bodywork isn’t exactly unique and the interior is essentially a monochrome version of the GTI, it has a sporting character of its own.

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Will the GTD take away sales from the GTI? Probably not.

Its straight-line performance isn’t quite as crisp, and the diesel doesn't have the character and down-right urge of the GTI’s petrol turbo. However, cheaper at $39,290, the GTD will attract its own kind of buyer.

At its heart it is a competent sports hatchback that barely sips fuel on the highway and, even when driven hard, isn't especially thirsty.

It can’t compete with its petrol-powered peers, but as one of the few diesel hot hatches on the market, it’s a solid offering.

TMR will be putting the GTD through the wringer soon, so stay tuned for our full review.

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