THE VOLKSWAGEN GOLF GTI CLAIMS CREDIT FOR STARTING THE HOT HATCH 'THING'. And, 40 years after its introduction, it is still the benchmark by which other hot hatches are measured.
To commemorate the occasion, Volkswagen has launched the limited edition Golf GTI 40 Years, based on the European Clubsport model, but given a few Australian-specific touches.
More than just a ‘wheels and decals’ special, the GTI 40 Years is the most powerful factory GTI yet.
Vehicle Style: Small hot hatch
Price: $ 46,990 manual, $48,990 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 195kW/350Nm (213kW/380Nm overboost) 2.0 4cyl turbo petrol | 6sp manual, 6sp automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 7.1 l/100km | Tested: 8,5 l/100km
The Golf GTI 40 Years is one for the fans. It's there in the unique front bumper design, the stacked rear spoiler and the ‘Ruby’ alloy wheels named by Aussie GTI devotees (ruby is the traditional 40th anniversary gemstone and the birthstone of July in case you were wondering).
It also offers the chance for 500 lucky buyers to pilot the most powerful factory Golf GTI yet. It comes in fact with an engine design based on the potent Golf R, but in a lighter package thanks to the deletion of the R’s all-wheel-drive system.
No question, the GTI 40 Years is a proper little rocket.
And, as you’d expect, it maintains the crisp handling and fun-to-drive demeanour of the hallowed GTI badge.
- Standard equipment: Cloth and Alcantara trim, dual zone climate control, GTI sports steering wheel, keyless entry and start, adaptive cruise control with speed limiter, rain-sensing wipers, dusk-sensing bi-Xenon headlights, LED taillights, 19-inch Ruby alloy wheels
- Infotainment: 6.5-inch colour touchscreen with sat-nav, AM/FM tuner, CD player, SD/USB/Bluetooth audio inputs, Bluetooth phone and audio
- Options available: Panoramic electric glass sunroof $1850
- Cargo volume: 380 litres minimum, 1270 maximum
Based as it is off a solid starting point, the GTI 40 Years simply adds a few small touches to an already impressive interior. The Golf is certainly nice inside, although a little on the conservative side.
The new bits for the 40 Years edition include a grippy Alcantara-clad steering wheel with a 12-o’clock marker, unique honeycomb seat fabric with Alcantara (bolsters), and honeycomb inserts on the dash and doors.
Otherwise the GTI 40 Years feels like a Golf: roomy, with a logical interior layout, and more than enough mod cons like touchscreen satellite navigation, keyless entry and start, and a comprehensive trip computer.
The driving position isn’t uncompromisingly sporty; the seats offer decent rib-support, but without a vice-like grip that can make them too hard to get in and out of.
Setting up behind the wheel, with plenty of adjustment, is a breeze.
Unlike Europe, where the Clubsport is available in three-door form, the Aussie-specific 40 Years also scores five-door practicality, giving rear seat occupants a more than sporting chance of getting in and out gracefully.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 195kW/350Nm 2.0 four-cyilnder turbo petrol with 213kW/380Nm boost mode
- Transmission: Six-speed manual, six-speed dual clutch automatic, front-wheel-drive with electronically actuated locking differential
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear with sports-tuned adaptive dampers
- Brakes: Ventilated 340mm front and ventilated 310mm rear disc brakes
- Steering: Electro-mechanical rack & pinion with progressive steering
The Golf GTI 40 years runs the same EA888 family engine as the rest of the performance Golf range, however it’s a little closer in its final specification to the engine in the Golf R than the standard GTI engine.
Power is rated at 195kW and torque at 350Nm, but in third gear and above a ten-second boost function lifts figures to 213kW and 380Nm for even more urgent press-on response.
Better still, unlike the Golf R, which has its peak power backed off slightly for Australia’s “hot climate”, the GTI 40 Years produces the same figures as its European counterpart, badged the Golf GTI Clubsport.
The 40 Years edition also scores the trick electronically-actuated locking differential from the GTI Performance, which allows the front axles to vary from fully open to fully locked, diverting traction to the front wheel which has the most of it, eliminating understeer and improving front end grip.
Brake hardware also comes from the GTI Performance with larger 340mm front and 310mm rear brake discs taking the place of the ‘regular’ GTI’s 312mm and 272mm units.
So, what’s Volkswagen’s hottest production GTI like to drive? To find out we hit both road and track, asking the GTI 40 Years to deliver its very best work.
And boy, does it deliver.
Even without any enhancements, the Volkswagen GTI is a fantastically balanced front-wheel-drive hot hatch. Yes, there are more powerful alternatives as well as all-wheel-drive next-level hatches, but, at its core, the GTI range is thoroughly entertaining.
As is the GTI 40 Years. The extra power is welcomed; not only does the added urge restore some hot hatch bragging points, but the extra thrust, particularly when tapping into the high-speed overboost reserves, will put an even bigger grin on your face.
Being a front driver means that if you mash the throttle in low grip situations from a standstill, the car can still be coaxed into axle tramp. But, put it through a cycle of rolling bends and proper flowing driving and the GTI 40 Years rewards over and over again.
Progressive steering, as quick as 2.0 turns lock-to-lock, means directional changes are instant, while remaining free of nervousness. Turn-in is crisp, the front end faithfully matches what you might be doing at the wheel, and the whole chassis is incredibly well-balanced.
To allow enthusiastic drivers a longer leash, the stability control offers an intermediate sport setting. This 'loosens' intervention while still keeping a watchful eye over things.
Or, if you’re game, the system can be switched off.
Around Queensland’s Lakeside Raceway, the GTI 40 Years was really able to strut its stuff. On this fast-paced circuit, with some demanding tight bends, the 40 Years barely faltered (with the exception of operator error).
Stability that makes it feel glued to the road, stupendous front-end grip, and the lightning fast reactions from the six-speed dual-clutch auto, cement the Golf’s position as the hot hatch king.
Not only that, but the excellent tricky diff from the GTI Performance with the added urge of the Golf R, minus the weight, represents the perfect fast-Golf compromise.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars - the Golf scored 35.92 out of 37 possible points when tested in 2013
Safety features: Two-stage stability control, traction control, ABS, EBD, brake assist, seven airbags (dual front, side, full-length curtain and driver’s knee) and driver fatigue detection.
The GTI 40 Years also comes standard with adaptive cruise control, front assist with city emergency brake, blind spot monitor and rear traffic alert.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
In case you happen to miss out on one of the 500 GTI 40 Years edition cars coming to Australia, you may also like to consider the Golf R - it scores all wheel drive and a permanent 206kW/380Nm.
The Peugeot 308 GTi 270 also is also worth a close look for its sublime performance and handling, while the Ford Focus ST is budget friendly, fast, and can be 'wicked up' thanks to the Mountune package.
Three-door rivals also loom large, with the superb handling Renault Megane RS and potent Holden Astra VXR keen to flex their muscle. (But, if you're looking for an auto, the Volkswagen product is your only option.)
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
At just $500 more than the Golf GTI Performance (when equipped with a manual transmission, an option the Performance doesn’t offer) the GTI 40 Years is a hot hatch bargain.
Enthusiasts are sure to see the appeal of a more aggressively styled Golf, that offers improved handling and backed up by a hefty whack of added power and torque.
For manual shoppers though, the news is grim, with the entire 100-car manual allotment already spoken for. Those chasing a DSG variant will have better luck, but time is of the essence, with a large proportion of the 400 automatic cars already sold.
For its engaging handling and supreme agility, both on-road and in the heat of racetrack battle, the Golf GTI 40 Years proves yet again that the Golf is the champion of hot hatches.
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