The Volkswagen Golf GTI is considered as one of the original "hot hatches", tracing its existence dating back four decades. While there may have been other similar models that have preceded it, the Golf GTI is perhaps the only one that has stood the test of time for seven generations.
The arrival of the Golf GTI to the Philippine market has been a long anticipated one since rumors of the re-entry of the Volkswagen brand circled around 2010. GTI fans were initially disappointed that the performance model wasn’t included in the original batch of launch models in 2013. Their excitement was reignited when VW Philippines previewed the Golf GTI at the 2014 Philippine International Motor Show, a year later.
VW Philippines decided to bring in only one variant for the Golf GTI - the 5-door. From the outside alone, every detail of the car hints at the performance befitting its pedigree. Up front, the red signature line, smoked headlamps along with the aggressive fins than accentuate the LED driving lamps alone make it stand out even without the GTI badge. On the rear are the GTI exclusive LED tail lamps with a center-mounted VW badge that also functions as tail gate lever and rear view camera mount. This is finished off by 18-inch Austin alloy wheels shod with Bridgestone Potenza S001 225/40 R18 UHP (ultra high performance) tires.
Open the door and you are welcomed by Clark Plaid fabric with Alcantara bolstered seats for a nostalgic yet assuring feel when you drive it like you stole it. The red accents on the contrast stitching and ambient door trim accent lighting further remind you of the car’s exciting nature. Sit on the driver’s seat and hold the meaty flat bottom steering wheel and you’d find yourself wanting to awaken the monster inside. It comes with paddle shifters if you prefer to take shifting duties to your own.
In terms of equipment, it does offer a "German sounding" touch-screen audio system sans navigation. Standard kit include automatic climate control, smart key with push start system, and LED interior lighting. HID headlights, LED DRLs, driving lamps and tail lamps offer all the exterior illumination you’ll ever need to see and be seen.
Under the hood is a very potent and able 2.0-liter TSI (turbo stratified injection) engine rated at 220 PS with 350 Nm of torque at 1500-4400 rpm. This is mated to a six-speed (DSG) dual clutch automatic transmission which shift gears nearly as quick as you would on Gran Turismo.
The car comes with a drive mode selector allowing you to choose between Normal, Eco and Sport modes. The driving modes tweak engine maps, transmission shift points and throttle response, since it’s a GTI, I kept it on "Sport" mode most of the time. Sport suspension comes standard as well as uprated brakes with red colored calipers to match the engine and complement the tires.
As you sit on the bolstered retro plaid fabric clad seats, each red contrast interior detail teases you of the fun that you’re about to have. A gentle push of the start button evokes a light rumble that awakens the two-liter turbocharged engine. Buckle up and off you go when you step on the throttle; give it a little more and it’ll push you into your seat as the boost kicks in. Overall, throttle response is very good with the turbo spooling up quite early giving a relatively long maximum torque range. The transmission feels very precise with gearing matched very well with the engine.
The suspension was set up to handle while not totally forgetting about comfort, though the 18-inch wheels with low profile tires and its rather high tire pressure recommendation do have their fair share of harshness. Cornering felt very confident as you pick up speed through the curves. The combined power and handling brought out a very agile car with a rigid Euro car feel to it. The brakes are very strong with a precise pedal feel.
For the fuel economy conscious (look elsewhere if you’re really asking for this in the GTI), I was only able to achieve 7 kilometers to a liter in the city thanks to a ("surprisingly") heavy right foot. It could do better if you switch on "Eco" mode and used more economical driving methods, but why buy a GTI in the first place? Having gotten the car during a typhoon week meant no trips out of the city, so no highway figures were derived.
For this test, the condition of the tires was well beyond encouraging, we didn’t push the car to its limits. This is not to say that we didn’t enjoy driving it. It was still a fun drive albeit an experience that was a little limited.
For Php 2,290,000, the Golf GTI might be a stretch to justify if you consider its packaging. But if you’re really looking for pocket sized German fun, look no further.