2020 VW Golf GTI: Hatchback heaven


2020 VW Golf GTI: Hatchback heaven

Observer writer

Friday, January 24, 2020

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There may be those who question whether the Volkswagen Golf GTI was the first hot hatchback. What can't be questioned is since that iconic original, it has defined and refined the formula of injecting fun-to-drive characteristics into a practical everyday automotive package.

Since then, many rivals have been on either side of that spectrum, performance that compromises liveability or not enough to overcome the dullness of the daily grind.

In 2020, on its seventh generation, the GTI holds steadfastly to that middle sweet spot.

Form follows function on the exterior, especially in five-door configuration. That doesn't mean there's no flair, the thin lights, honeycomb front grill, red accents and subtle GTI badging adds style. Out back, the dual exhausts hint that the GTI isn't just a regular Golf.

The buttoned down presence continues inside. The cabin presents itself well, bearing quality materials and soft-touch ones, where most of the passenger interaction takes place. Switchgear is the expected Germanic precision.

However, it's the small touches that lift the GTI above the norm like the felt-lined door pockets that help keep objects from possible scratches and making rattling noises. Night ambient lighting is from red strips on the front doors, once again reminding occupants they're not in a standard Golf.

The driver-focused interior angles the old-school analogue gauges that blend effortlessly with the large advanced infotainment to the driver. How advanced? It senses when fingers are near to bring up menus and even offers a reminder when exiting that connected phones are still in the vehicle; all while operating with the fluidity of a modern smart device.

In the heated leather driver's seat, there's plenty of adjustment to get that low eyeline and give lateral support. There are no driving modes, and there shouldn't be. The sublime chassis dynamics are baked from the factory.

The only mode is the driver's current attitude. As a family car, there's plenty of space, and niceties like dual-climate controls with rear vents. Restraint will see the Golf easily complete daily driving routines with ease. The car is soft enough over rough surfaces to keep everyone comfortable, while returning up to 33mpg from the flexible two-litre turbocharged motor.

At low speeds, it works well with the six-speed dual-clutch transmission.

Take the Golf from the wife and kids, find a favourite road and the GTI comes alive.

That soft suspension gives plenty of driver feedback on grip, and keeps the chassis from being disturbed by irregularities when being pushed. The sure-footedness makes the GTI attack corners with verve. Step deep into the accelerator to unleash the 220bhp.

The gearbox is fast enough to be left on its own, knock it over into S for even faster shifts to dispatch 60mph in 6.5 seconds. Further excitement can be had by using manual mode via the shifter, or the paddles mounted on the flat-bottomed leather steering wheel.

258lb-ft of torque endows the Golf with a near endless sense of forward motion. On the way to the 153mph top speed, the balance switches to stable high-speed cruising. Braking is just as confident.

That dual nature is the DNA of the Golf GTI, an imperious engine matched with driver-friendly dynamics, and practicality to produce something that has a wide operating range for buyers.

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