Several levers have been tugged in order to twist the 2017 Volkswagen Golf GTI Performance Edition 1 into place within its hot hatchback range.
Volkswagen firstly pulled back the door count of this limited edition model, with the GTI Performance Edition 1 becoming the first (and still the only) Golf available in this generation.
Timed with the introduction of the facelifted Mark 7.5 line-up, this particular model grade costs $4000 more than a five-door GTI. However Volkswagen has, in lieu of fewer doors, piled in equipment that is optional in its sibling.
Power and torque have also been raised, and a cornering-enhancing limited-slip differential (LSD) added. The only lever that is missing is the manual gearshift in the centre of the car – this is a DSG auto-only proposition.
Vehicle Style: Hot hatch
Price: $47,990 (plus on-road costs)
Engine/trans: 180kW/370Nm 2.0 four-cylinder turbo petrol | six-speed manual
Fuel Economy Claimed: 6.5 l/100km | Tested: 11.8 l/100km
Priced at $47,990 plus on-road costs, the GTI Performance Edition 1 looks like good value for GTI buyers who like optional equipment.
Compared with a $43,990 (plus orc) GTI, 19-inch alloy wheels replace 18s, LED sequential rear indicators have been added, plus a driver’s 12.3-inch Active Info Display, part-leather, active cruise control, blind-spot monitor, lane-keep assistance, and auto-park assist – the latter four features usually forming a $1600 option pack.
Curiously, the three-door deletes the five-door’s keyless auto-entry with push button start, however, while it also lacks the Dynaudio sound system and larger 9.2-inch centre screen bundled in with the Active Info Display as a $2300 package on GTI.
Above the 169kW/350Nm Golf GTI, the Performance Edition 1 gets 180kW of power and 370Nm of torque, and its 6.2-second 0-100km/h claim is two-tenths faster.
- Standard Equipment: Multi-function trip computer, dual-zone climate control, power windows and mirrors, active cruise control, leather steering wheel and trim, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, and auto on/off headlights and wipers.
- Infotainment: 12.3-inch colour driver display and 9.2in touchscreen with Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, single USB and twin-SD card inputs, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone mirroring, gesture control, voice control, 10Gb music storage, satellite navigation and eight speakers.
- Options Fitted: None. Cargo Volume: 380 litres.
A three-door hatchback seems less practical than a five-door, and for ease of rear passenger entry, it is. But there are also benefits for the driver only. With longer front doors, it’s a cinch to slip shopping or a laptop back into the rear quarters through the larger gap between driver’s seat and back floor.
Moreover, body measurements for the three-door are the same as the five-door, so rear legroom and seat support are identical, and the 380-litre boot is very sizeable.
Above a standard GTI, the leather side bolsters of the supportive driver’s seat are also nicely matched with Alcantara-look honeycomb-textured inserts that complement the sort of tastefully furnished cabin expected of a sporty Volkswagen.
Having tested a ($5000 pricier) Golf R following this test, its electrically adjustable driver’s seat, heated front seats and leather trim were hardly missed here.
Surprisingly, too, the R’s 9.2-inch touchscreen proved inferior to this 8.0-inch screen.
Where the R trades physical volume and track-change knobs for touch-sensitive buttons that require drivers to press-then-hold a single tab to lower volume, for example, this GTI Performance Edition 1 has dials that can be quickly rotated. It’s a little thing, but ergonomics matter for owners over time.
Standard on both, however, is an all-colour driver display that also has three issues: in terms of graphics quality, the screen is of a lower resolution than the centre touchscreen, making them appear mismatched; it isn’t possible to zoom in and out on a map like you can with Audi’s Virtual Cockpit equivalent; and it isn’t possible to have a map both on the centre and driver displays, for reasons unknown to us.
Meanwhile, a digital radio is nowhere to be seen, although Apple CarPlay/Android Auto is, thankfully, standard.
Previous Mark 5 and 6 generations of Golf GTI didn’t need glitz and glamour to shine, and to a certain degree Volkswagen’s attempts with infotainment systems are not reaching expected class-benchmark standards. The Mark 7.5 ultimately continues to be best without a big touchscreen and the showy Active Info Display.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 180kW/370Nm 2.0 4cyl turbo petrol Transmission: seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, FWD
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front and independent rear
- Brakes: ventilated front and rear disc brakes
- Steering: electrically assisted mechanical steering
Okay, so the 180kW/370Nm front-wheel drive Golf GTI Performance Edition 1 can’t match a 213kW/380Nm all-wheel drive Golf R, but the devil is in the detail.
With a kerb weight of 1352kg, the GTI Performance Edition 1 is 98kg lighter than R. Respective power- and torque-to-weight ratios of 133kW per tonne, and 274Nm/tonne, challenges the R’s 147kW/tonne while eclipsing its 255Nm/tonne.
On paper the three-door Golf’s 6.2-second 0-100km/h is 1.4sec slower, but that’s because the front tyres will shred themselves off the line if too much throttle is used.
Use maximum throttle at speed, where traction is not an issue, and the Golf GTI Performance Edition 1 is almost rabid in its response. With the tachometer needle hovering around its middle section (peak torque ends at 4300rpm and maximum power starts at 5000rpm), performance is superb.
A new seven-speed dual-clutch automatic – dubbed DSG – doesn’t help, though, because the ‘new’ DSG is no more intuitive than the old one. Its regular ‘D’ mode still slinks into tall gears too early, while ‘Sport’ holds onto gears for too long.
At 70km/h, for example, the DSG in ‘D’ is in seventh gear at 1150rpm; but switch to ‘S’ and it’s seemingly over-revving at 2250rpm. What you really want is fifth, or sixth.
For driveability’s sake, we left it in ‘S’ and economy suffered, with a disappointing 11.8 litres per 100 kilometres recorded overall (well up on its 6.5L/100km claim and higher than the 9.6L/100km recorded by a Golf R manual).
Use the paddleshifters on a twisty road, however, and this three-door Golf swings with its driver. The quick and medium-weighted steering isn’t full of feedback, but this front-driver feels lighter on its feet than the R, and the LSD helps maximise traction.
It isn’t possible to plant the throttle early in a corner, as per the all-paw R, but rather the driver must hold some brake into a corner to transfer weight off the front axle. Then, the steering can be straightened and max-throttle used. It won’t suit a scruff-of-the-neck driving style, but ample rewards await more delicate drivers.
Whichever the Golf, though, the standard adaptive suspension can quickly resume being Golf-like – supple in Comfort, controlled in Normal, and tight in Sport, though surprisingly the latter actually lessened the jarring effects of the 19-inch rims.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars – the Volkswagen Golf scored 35.92 out of 37 possible points when tested by ANCAP in 2013.
Safety Features: Dual front, front-side, full-length curtain and driver’s knee airbags, ABS and ESC, front and rear parking sensors, rear-view camera, forward collision alert with autonomous emergency braking (AEB), blind-spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning and lane-keep assistance.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/unlimited kilometres.
Servicing: Annual or 15,000km servicing comes at an above-average capped-price cost of $369/$559/$633/$770/$369 for the first five scheduled checks respectively.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
A Focus ST is cheap and fun, the WRX likewise, but both lack the all-round class and pedigree of the Volkswagen.
Its closest rival is the 308 GTi, which has just been cut to $45,990 (plus orc) and is a manual-only proposition – but while the Peugeot has the marginally better chassis, its light steering and long-throw manual disappoint.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The question is this: three-door Golf GTI Performance Edition 1 or five-door Golf R? Ultimately the dynamic depth of the latter gives it the win, but there’s charm in this lighter option.
Yet this model grade already seems challenged by other limited edition Golfs.
The three-door bodystyle will soon return with the Golf GTI Original for $37,490 (plus orc), offering a manual transmission, but minus the LSD and Active Info Display. And a de-specified Golf R Grid will soon arrive for $47,490 (plus orc). In the latter case that’s $500 less than the model grade tested here, with the bonus of five doors.
In isolation the GTI Performance Edition 1 remains an excellent hot hatchback, mixing classic Golf virtues with real driver enjoyment, but there certainly are no shortage of other (read better) Volkswagen hot hatches to choose from.
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