August 27, 2006

Hands on with the Golf GTI

Yesterday I continued my quest for a new car by checking out the VW Golf. I walked into the local dealership and asked about the GTI, which is towards the top of my budget. The dealer responded by offering to let me try the GTI, and also recommended the lesser GT TSI 170 and GT TDI models, which are usefully cheaper than the GTI. I had never considered these other models, since I'd like something with a bit of sparkle, but the dealer's recommendations were surprisingly wise…and full of Q–car appeal.

First car I took for a run out was the GT TSI 170. The ‘TSI’ signifies that the car has a clever 'twin–charged' 1.4ltr petrol engine. Sounds weedy, but the 'twin–charged' bit means that the engine has a turbo– and super–charger, which work in conjunction to supposedly give the performance of a normal, naturally–aspirated 2.3ltr engine. And, I was pleased to find that it most certainly did have that sort of performance. The TSI 170 pulled like a train throughout the rev range, overtaking traffic was easy peasy, and it was super–smooth along the motorway. I think it cruised at 70mph at some ridiculously low rpm, something like 2,200rpm, so it was very quiet indeed. Considering the red line is a touch over 6,000rpm, and it was hushed throughout the rev range, it's fair to say that long–distance high–speed cruising in this car would be a very pleasant experience.

It was extremely impressive, and to be honest, had the GTI been as fast as the surprisingly rapid GT 170 was, then I would have been far from disappointed. However, the GTI was much faster. Indeed, it was so capable, that driving at legal speeds on the motorway demanded more attention than hitting the sorts of speeds that have Daily Mail readers wetting themselves. The GTI isn’t just about straight–line speeds, though; it can most certainly handle the twisty stuff.

The dealer gave me a good demo of this when we left the forecourt, with him driving. He started telling me about the ESP system, which applies the brakes on each wheel individually to alter the attitude of the car; and how good it was for safety, performance, and the like. He then asked if I was a nervous passenger, to which I replied no. He then launched into a series of single–handed four–wheel drifts around one of the large roundabouts on the edge of town, whilst telling me about how the in–car computer takes care of the handling and all that gumpf. It was easy. And fast. I didn’t try anything quite that extreme when I got behind the wheel, but I could certainly see what he was on about. Amazing stuff.

However, the GTI was just too amazing for me; it was just too easy to travel at really rapid speeds. This is good, but as I like to enjoy the process of driving – I want to have to work to make a good pace. In a GTI, to feel like you're going fast, you actually have to be going seriously fast. You will have lots of fun whilst doing it, though. But since I'm stepping up from the family 306, which may as well be a wind–up toy car compared to the GTI, I can get just as much of a kick, at much more legal speeds, in a less capable car. I could always turn off the ESP to liven things up, but when there’s the technology at your disposal, it strikes me as being careless to not take advantage of it ;)

Finally we finished by trying the GT TDI. Since the 306 is a diesel, I have developed a love of low–down torque, so I had to try it to see whether it suited my driving style better. To be honest, it didn't really. It did perform extremely well, pretty much the same as the TSI 170, and the top end of the engine was amazing. However, I don't think I've ever heard such an unpleasant–sounding diesel. When you consider it's also more expensive than the TSI 170, I decided not to add it to the shortlist.

All three Golfs were fantastic. They were spacious, practical, and nicely equipped. They look ok, and in a stereotypically German manner, were full of clever little touches. I suspect that I would also find it too easy in the TSI 170 to make a rapid pace, as with the GTI. I might go back later to try the lesser TSI 140, which might be weedy enough to make driving, in a legal fashion, a worthwhile experience.

However, I did try a car today that did a much better job of satisfying that particular quality, with quite some style, and I may record my thoughts on it later in the week. I'll give you a clue though…it's French, it's small, and it’s probably on Fernando Alonso’s company car list :D

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  1. Did you try the TDI 140 or the 170? We've generally found that the 170 is a bit quieter than the 140 (my A3 is the 140) but suffers from much more turbo lag. The VW 2.0TDI is perhaps the most variable engine for noise levels that there is. In the A4 (inline installation) it's very smooth and quiet, just as it is in the A6. In the A3 it can be smooth and quiet but only once it has a few thousand miles on the clock.

    I agree the 2.0T FSI is a fantastic engine – really is very very fast, and perhaps the best value engine in the A3, A4 and A6 if you want a petrol, I've yet to try the TSI in anything but it looks and from your views sounds impressive, and its pulling 'diesel' style gearing as well which is good.

    28 Aug 2006, 11:23

  2. Hello,

    I would have NO idea which one to choose. Try the one that sounds the best. Goodluck

    P.S. Don't go for Clio 197, the quality must be at the other end of the spectrum.

    28 Aug 2006, 11:51

  3. Sorry, I forgot to mention that it was the 170, which doesn't bode well. However, in its defense, it was only a couple of hundred miles old, so maybe it would have been nicer had it been run in.

    As for the Clio, the quality is fantastic! It feels like a proper grown–ups car!

    29 Aug 2006, 19:32

  4. The new Clio is definitely a step forward in quality, but as a drive it’s reported to be worse off than the old 182. Apart from that, what else non-german stuff are you considering?

    02 Sep 2006, 08:18

  5. Yeah, it seems widely agreed that the 197 lacks the intimacy of the 182s, and most likely will not be as entertaining to drive. Considering the 197 is heavier, that makes sense. However, you trade that intimacy off for more comfort – the 197 is a bit more of a GT than the 182. The 197 is still much more entertaining that other cars in that sector by a long way though. I await for evo to compare the two, it probably won’t make pleasant reading for people with 197s on order.

    As for other non-German considerations, it’s mostly downmarket options. I need to get a house some time in the near future, so going downmarket is not a bad thing. So that means the top spec diesel (!) 207 GT and Grande Punto…lacks the sparkle of the 197 though, methinks :D.

    02 Sep 2006, 13:57

  6. Jen

    Just wanted to say that I got my Golf GT TSI 170 last week, and so far I have no complaints at all.
    When you need some speed it just GOES, no questions. It’s smooth, comfortable, easy on the fuel and sticks to the road like glue!
    I would highly recommend getting a test drive if you are thinking about this or the GTi. Also consider the cheaper tax and insurance of the GT, with a similar drive and power to th GTi. Its not a compromise.

    02 Sep 2006, 17:49

  7. rastafarian

    Get a new honda civic type-r.

    Or if you have the bollocks, go and get an integra dc5 type-r on import.

    You’d be a muppet not to.

    Golf GTI’s are for 25 year old estate agents done good and the renault clio is a car that is driven by chi chi men.

    Also Ford ST’s are for chavs who buy them on stupid “options” finance schemes.

    02 Oct 2006, 00:38

  8. Nowt wrong with ST’s. Honda type-r’s are for people who have no qualms about killing their engine if they actually want to move anywhere, it not actually developing any form of motive force at all until it’s beyond 6,000 rpm…

    02 Oct 2006, 21:38

  9. Richard Roberts

    Check out some great savings on new Gti from I purchased an import from them saved over ££££££3K it was perfect

    01 May 2007, 16:15

  10. andrew

    hi, what an interesting load of bollicks ive read so far, office boys talking like jermery clarksons hideious love children, do you really think that the vw golf will be out classed by a fiat/ford/reno?, chavs? muppets? honda type “r”s? all a bit weird to me as ive just entered my 40s and im only impressed by cars which will pull accountants/solicitors etc, the living dead like HR consultants for “blue chip” companies are my area target for relationships( oh shoot me in the ass pipe if i get “corparate” ie the apprentice on bbc) Audi A3 drvers ? oh come on, wet nappies and baby sick etc spring to mind along with a nice taste in m&s jumpers that your mums mates like, what about buying a brand new evo 10 mitsubishi on a whim, not a fe-ing chance, it would have to be run past the WIFe/golf club commette, get real chaps , your in suburbia with lock block drive way and mondeo man as your next door neighbour, as for non german cosidertaions, lose the wet behind the ears mummy talk and speak with your balls and not like a guildford plumy arsepipe that you most likely are. Golf gt tdi 140 6 speed( rah rah pony club) would any one like me to roger their wife? or better still jizz on the bitches tonsils :]

    05 May 2007, 03:05

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