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Car reviews - Volkswagen - Golf - GTI hatch range

Launch Story

Volkswagen logo27 Oct 2009

By LUCIANO PAOLINO

VOLKSWAGEN’S much-anticipated sixth-generation (A6-series in company-speak) Golf GTI has finally touched down in Australia in both three and five-door hatchback styles.

Prices stay put, with the three-door variant – the only Mk6 Golf in Australia to be offered with this body configuration for now – teeing off from $38,990.

This is despite a boost in power, a drop in fuel consumption, improved safety, fewer emissions and more standard features.

The latter includes the addition of an electronic transverse differential lock – dubbed XDL – that significantly improves traction and handling by working with the stability and traction controls to help counteract understeer.

Also new as an option on the GTI is a variation of the ACC Adaptive Chassis Control system as found on other Mk6 Golfs, bringing electronically controlled dampers.

As before, the popular DSG dual-clutch transmission remains a $2500 option in lieu of the standard six-speed manual gearbox, while choosing two extra doors still adds $1500 to the total.

In contrast to the South African-built outgoing model, the GTI is made in Germany, like the rest of the Mk6 range.

Volkswagen’s value strategy should see the latest iteration build upon the instant cult status of the previous-generation GTI, which seduced critics and hot-hatch buyers alike big time back in early 2005 to create waiting lists that at times approached 12 months.

All told, the old car accounted for around one-in-four sales of the 2004-2009 Golf V, which still lives on in flagship R32 guise until the high-performance 2.0-litre all-wheel drive Golf R arrives next year to finally bury the old car in Australia.

Like all Mk6 Golfs, the GTI is essentially a reskinned Mk5 model, with a body boasting a fresh nose treatment that is meant to recall the first Mk1 Golf GTI (1976 to 1983) that was never sold in Australia.

This is most evident in the red grille surround, but the general horizontal front-end treatment also aims to mimic the Giorgio Giugiaro-penned original. It is the most radical departure from the GTI’s immediate predecessor’s distinctive ‘goatee’ single-frame grille design.

Everywhere else, however, the story is one of evolution rather than revolution.

Driving the front wheels, the engine is a revised, EA888-series, turbocharged, Euro V-emissions compliant, 1984cc 2.0-litre twin-cam 16-valve four-cylinder petrol TSI unit featuring modifications to the pistons and piston rings, oil pump, induction system and fuel pump.

Power rises slightly, from the old GTI’s 147kW to 155kW between 5300 and 6200rpm, while torque remains the same at 280Nm (between 1700 and 5200rpm) for a 0-100km/h sprint-time of 6.9 seconds – identical to the Mk5 GTI DSG but a 0.6s improvement compared to the old manual.

Volkswagen says in-gear acceleration times have been cut significantly, partly due to a more efficient exhaust system that results in less back pressure. Top speed is 238km/h (DSG: 240km/h).

The DSG is a development of the wet clutch unit, with one clutch controlling the odd gears and reverse while the other looks after the even gears. These are controlled via either a floor or a paddle shifter.

Fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions are now rated at 7.7 litres per 100km (DSG: 7.6) and 180 grams per kilometre (DSG: 178) respectively, with the former being about 0.5L/100km better than before while the latter is an improvement of around 14g/km.

Kerb weight remains the same at about 1360kg.

The aforementioned ACC Adaptive Chassis Control has three settings – normal, comfort and sport, and is activated via a console-mounted button.

Compared to regular Golfs, the GTI’s chassis includes front strut suspension that is lowered by 22mm, while the multi-link independent rear suspension’s ride height is 15mm lower.

Unique springs, dampers and anti-roll bars are employed, along with different sized wheel tracks compared to more garden variety Mk6 Golfs. At 1533mm, the GTI’s front track is actually 7mm narrower but the 1514mm rear track is just 1mm wider.

Wheels are Denver alloys shod with 225/45 R17 tyres, while the spare is a space-saver.

The XDL Extended Electronic Differential Lock was honed by two-time Le Mans winner Hans-Joachim Stuck for improved stability, control and feel.

ESC electronic stability control is standard, along with ASR Anti-Slip Regulation, EDL Electronic Differential Lock, ABS anti-lock brakes with EBD Electronic Brake-force Distribution and BA Brake Assist. Red painted brake callipers are also featured.

Brakes are ventilated discs up-front measuring 312mm while the sold rear discs come in at 282mm. DSG-equipped models include a Hill-Holder for easier starts on inclines.

An EPS Electro-mechanical power steering system is fitted, allowing for a 10.9-metre turning circle.

All GTIs come standard with sports seats trimmed with a tartan fabric pattern named “Jacky” and featuring “WOKS” whiplash-optimised head restraints. “Vienna” leather trim will also be available.

Unique GTI interior features include brushed stainless steel pedal caps, an aluminium-look GTI gear shifter, a GTI-badged leather steering wheel with grip recesses and red stitching, a leather gearshift surround and parking brake grip and black roof lining and pillar trim.

Cruise control, dual zone climate control air-conditioning, remote central locking, power windows, electric mirrors, front and rear fog lights, an immobiliser and alarm system, radio/6CD/MP3 compatible audio with USB connectivity, and auto-on headlights are included in the price.

Seven airbags (including a new driver’s knee device) with improved crash detection sensors are also fitted, aiding the GTI’s five-star ENCAP and ANCAP safety ratings.

Volkswagen is taking aim at the Ford Focus XR5 Turbo, Honda Civic Type R, Subaru’s Impreza WRX, the Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart, Renault’s Megane RS and Clio RS 197, and the Mazda3 MPS.

It has been almost 14 months since the Mk6 GTI made its 2008 Paris motor show debut

Some 1.7 million Golf GTIs have been sold since the series commenced in 1976 as a Europe-only limited run of 5000 cars.

Volkswagen expects the GTI to continue to snare 25 per cent of all Golf sales, with the monthly tally in the region of 200 to 250.

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