The Golf GTI was the one that torched the hot-hatch scene with its small package, sporty good looks, powerful “blown” 2.0-litre engine and heaps of practicality that had it fulfilling multiple roles on a daily basis. From transporter to track-goer, it simply fluttered into the hearts of many.
Thanks to these main reasons, the Volkswagen brand began selling like hotcakes - prompting a plethora of aftermarket parts to quickly flood the market from cabin accents, exterior parts, infotainment systems, wheels and exhausts as well as performance parts.
Even though it’s priced on-the-road without insurance at RM247,662 today, the Golf GTI moniker still remains an attractive one for the same reasons as before and still manages to put people in a “wide-eyed and bushy-tailed” state.
Although it has undergone a few changes from the days since the Mk5, the Mk7 continues to build on its predecessor’s successes and appeal.
The Mk7 GTI is definitive in its styling cues and with each new generation, the body panels have all but slightly changed with a little more curvature or an added crease here and there.
Undoubtedly, the Mk7 GTI’s front end has become a little more “rakish” for that sporty appeal - thanks to the Jetta Mk6’s hood, and a pair of full-LED automatic headlights that have been given a more angular effect to its daytime running lights (DRLs) which also doubles as dynamic turn signals.
The front end’s grille sports a red accent that’s been applied to the breadth of it and even continues into the headlights to add further differentiation from the generic looks of the entry-level 1.4 TSI.
Slats flank the lower portion of the bumper with integrated LED fog lamps and along with the inconspicuous front lip as well as the gaping lower honeycomb grille gets the senses “buzzing” with performance.
The same honeycomb design is also found in the lower portion of the headlights as well as the rear lower valance which are flanked by chromed circular exhaust tips.
While rolling on 18-inch Milton Keynes alloys fitted with 225/40 series tyres, it does try its best to fill out the wheel arches but a little more “poke” outwards would significantly raise the visual appeal - much like the range-topping Golf R and its 19-inch wheels.
Other than the aforementioned, together with the GTI-badge and the full-LED tail lights with dynamic indicators, that’s all there is in terms of differentiation from the standard Golf 1.4 TSi.
Anyone familiar with the brand will know what to expect - a typical Volkswagen interior that assures of comfort and convenience, and with a GTI-badge, it just means that occupants will get to feel their backs pressed into the backrest a little more than usual.
The fit and finish are done well with some use of cheaper plastics in the low-visible areas, but ultimately the cabin shouts premium none-the-less with all its kit and a pair of stainless steel pedals.
There’s also a combination of piano-black plastics on the centre console along with satinated aluminium accents around the cabin which can also be found on the gear knob as well as the GTI-badged flat-bottom sports steering wheel with paddle shifters.
Word to the wise though, do keep a handy microfibre cloth around because those piano-black inserts are simply a fingerprint magnet as is the touchscreen infotainment head unit.
The level of sophistication is very apparent with a large 12.3-inch full-colour digital instrument cluster display staring back at the driver as well as an inconspicuous auto-dimming frameless rearview mirror.
There’s also keyless entry with push-start button, stainless steel pedals and illuminated door scuff plates that level up the “premium” feel.
Not to mention, the eight-speaker 8.0-inch touchscreen adds to the convenience level with the inclusions of Bluetooth connectivity, USB port, MirrorLink, Android Auto and Apple Carplay being made available.
The Vienna perforated leather upholstery has splashes of red in it and does well to let unknowing occupants entering the cabin know that this isn’t just a standard run-off-the-mill Golf.
The driver’s seat with three memory functions has ample bolstering, albeit a little stiff, but that’s just part and parcel of a performance ride and it does well to “hold” its driver in place when attacking tight corners.
Although the Mk7 marked the departure of the organ-type accelerator pedal in the Golf model variants, the adopted suspended pedal was still comfortable and light to use.
But the right foot did miss having something more significant beneath it which did help increase ergonomics and hence comfort levels for long-haul drives.
For something that has quite a considerable amount of performance already, there’s plenty of usable space.
Accessibility to both front and rear is easy with the wide-opening doors, especially so with keyless entry.
Inside, the GTI’s cabin is friendly with plenty of room for the shoulder and head at the front while rear-seated occupants are provided with good amounts of legroom to stretch out a little during long hauls.
The driver is treated to 12-way power-adjustable seat and in a non-sarcastic manner, there’s the highly generous amount of three memory slots.
The 380-litre boot is also adequate for most users and if anything that figure gets boosted to 1,270-litre with the 60:40 split-folding rear backrests folded down.
Clear, simplistic and intuitive would best describe the large 8.0-inch touchscreen ‘Discover Media’ Navigation infotainment system that also comes with a reverse camera that’s clear in both day and night conditions as well as allows for an iPod/iPhone interface, SD card slot, AUX-IN, a Performance Monitor, Driving Mode selection and eight-speakers.
To bring things further into perspective, there’s also a crisp and clear dedicated 12.3-inch Active information display for the driver alone.
Here’s where the fun begins. Really.
The GTI 2.0-litre (1,984cc) turbocharged engine has very usable power available from jamming through traffic to cruising along highways and especially while carving up corners.
Regardless, its performance figures of 230PS (from 4,700 - 6,200rpm) and 350 Nm of torque (from 1,500 to 4,600rpm) is managed by a buttery smooth yet ultra-quick shifting six-speed Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG) - or more commonly known as a dual-clutch transmission. It just feels very much like a well-rounded car to helm.
This is also a very well behaved car that can be driven by the most novice of drivers or even the most experienced purists and still have a heck of a time with it.
In heavy traffic, Eco mode would be the ideal driving mode here, which incorporates start/stop functionality to help save fuel in this instance and engine restarts are smooth with minimal cabin intrusion - just enough to let the driver know.
Out and about along highways, the same can be said and in such a situation, it is highly recommended to activate Comfort mode where almost all semblance of harshness from the large wheel and tyre combination is done away with.
This is where the suspension is allowed for travel which gives it the ability to soak up a wide range of undulations and uneven road surfaces.
Although most comfort modes allow the car to wallow somewhat, the GTI still manages to keep its poise and posture.
In Sport mode, the GTI becomes a willing thoroughbred that’s eager to put the power down.
The suspension stiffens and the speed-sensitive electromechanical progressive power steering gets a little heftier as well as sharper.
At this point, comfort was left at the first corner while the revs climb quickly and the GTI will be eager to stay there - right in the engine’s power-band, ready for its driver to paddle-shift through the lightning-quick DSG dual-clutch transmission.
The engine’s response is far quicker now and eager to stay higher in the rev range where the power resides.
Aside from its eagerness to accelerate, its stopping-power is equally capable of shedding speed quickly with a decent bite with very little notion of fade during road-going abuse.
Surprisingly, throughout a weekend of abuse, we’d dare surmise that the GTI isn’t actually a “heavy drinker”.
Considering we’ve thrown a whole slew of road-going traffic situations at it, but other than that, it’s a very livable car to be with.
Regardless of whether its a novice or a purist who’s behind the wheel, there’s somehow a notion that transpires through in that this car will take good care of you with its combination of very usable practicality, safety and more than enough power to excite the senses.
And for a hot hatch that’s straight out of Germany, the GTI suddenly seems like a bargain even if it carries a price that’s under RM250,000.
VW Golf GTI (MK7)
Engine: 1,984cc, four-cylinder turbocharged
Maximum power: 230PS from 4,700 to 6,200rpm
Maximum torque: 350Nm from 1,500 to 4,600rpm
Transmission: six-speed Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG) - dual-clutch transmission
Features: Seven airbags, Anti-lock Brake System (ABS) with Brake Assist (BA) and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD), Anti-skid Regulator (ASR), Anti-theft alarm system with immobiliser, interior monitoring and towing protection, Automatic Post-Collision Braking System (APCBS), Brake pad wear indicator, Driver Alert System (Rest Assist), Electronic Stability Control (ESC), Engine Drag Torque Control (EDTC), Extended Differential Lock (XDS), Hill Hold Control (HHC), Intelligent Crash Response System (ICRS), ISOFIX child seat anchoring system with top tether, Proactive Occupant Protection System (POPS), Tyre Pressure Loss Indicator (TPLI) Safety-optimised front head restraints, Seatbelt warning and reminder for front passengers, Space and weight saving spare wheel, Speed sensitive electromechanical progressive power steering, Automatic LED headlights with 'Coming Home' and 'Leaving Home' function and LED daytime running lights, LED taillights with dynamic indicators, Automatic wipers with intermittent control, Electrically adjustable foldable and heated exterior mirrors with environment lighting and kerb view, Dynamic Light Assist (DLA) advanced light beam control, Dynamic headlight range control with dynamic cornering light, Front LED fog lights, 18-inch x 7.5J ‘Milton Keynes’ wheels with 225/40 tyres, Park Assist 3.0 (parking steering assistance), Park Distance Control with optical display (4 Front & 4 Rear) and Maneuver Braking, Rear view camera intergrated in the VW tailgate logo (Rear Assist), Rear fog light, App-Connect® smartphone connectivity (MirrorLink, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto), Ambient Lighting, ‘Climatronic’ air conditioning system with dual-zone temperature control, Cruise control with speed limiter, Driver and front passenger illuminated vanity mirror, Driver Settings Personalisation, Electromechanical parking brake with Auto Hold, Frameless auto-dimming rear view mirror, stainless steel pedals, and illuminated door scuff plates, GTI multi-function sports steering wheel with paddle shifters for AID, infotainment, Bluetooth telephony, GTI 'Vienna' perforated leather seat upholstery, Height and reach front driver’s centre armrest with storage, ‘Honeycomb Black’ decorative inserts for dashboard on front passenger, side and door trim panels, ‘KESSY’ keyless access with push-start button, LED front footwell lighting, LED reading lights (Front & Rear), Overhead sunglass compartment, ‘Piano Black’ decorative inserts for dashboard on driver side and for centre console, Rear air conditioning vents, two cupholders, Rear window wiper with intermittent function, 12.3" high definition Active Info Display (AID) 12v socket in front and luggage compartment, 12-ways electric adjustable driver seat with memory feature including electric lumbar support, 380 litres of boot space (1,270 litres with rear seats folded), 60:40 split-folding rear seat backrest with load-through hatch, 8-inch touchscreen ‘Discover Media’ Navigation infotainment system with USB and iPod/iPhone interface, SD card slot, AUX-IN, Bluetooth, Performance Monitor, Driving Mode Selection and eight speakers.
Price (on-the-road without insurance): RM247,662