Let me preface this by stating that I’m not a die-hard, Wolfsburg-loving Volkswagen fanatic – like most of the other users on here I just love cars. I’d be just as happy to have an E82 BMW 135i coupe, Mercedes-Benz A250, Mazda 3 MPS, or Audi S3 parked in my driveway – something more than just a ‘point A to B’ car.
I’ll also reveal that prior to owning my Mark VI Golf GTI I didn’t believe all the hype – I was sceptical that it could be such a good all-round hot hatch, and I couldn’t see how so many reviews were stacked in its favour.
Yes, it’s not the quickest hot hatch. Yes, it can look a bit too conservatively styled from some angles. Yes, they’re a dime a dozen. But, I can see now why it’s been such a popular car and why it’s received such rave reviews.
I really do love my GTI. The exterior sportiness is subtle, but in many ways I think the hints of red on the grille and calipers and the fact that it’s not too overdone suit the character of the GTI. The interior, too, is understated – even the tartan trim on the seats is less brash than I first thought it might be. The contoured leather steering wheel is a delight to hold and the extensive use of soft-touch plastics and quality switchgear makes for a lovely interior. It’s not necessarily better than its competitors – everything just works well together.
The engine is brilliant. It’s got such a smooth delivery of torque and there’s no noticeable turbo lag. When coupled with the 6-speed DSG transmission, it really is impressive. Yes, I’ve heard the horror stories about the DSG transmission, but after 80,000km I’ve had no issues at all with it. I think it’s certainly a matter of taste, and each individual will have an opinion about DSG, S-tronic, etc.
Personally, I love it – I grew up driving manual cars and love the fact that the DSG drives like a manual, but is so much easier in everyday traffic. I still love manual cars, but the sheer speed at which the GTI can hustle through the gears, the raucous ‘blat’ on upshifts and the rev-matching on downshifts just makes the car so much fun to drive. Yes, it’s unlike a conventional torque-converter automatic, but it’s an entirely different gearbox so inevitably it will have its own character – some people mightn’t like elements of that character, but personally I like it and appreciate the fact that it is what it says on the box: an automated manual.
For all the fun, the GTI only averages about 8-9 litres per 100km in spirited driving – on the highway it will only sip around 6-6.5 litres, which is great for a car that can cater to such diverse driving styles. And it really is practical – it can easily cater for four adults, a pet, and luggage.
Of course, with pros there are always cons – but I must admit, I struggled to find many. I don’t usually use the ‘S’ mode in the DSG as I find it lacks intuition – it holds the revs a little too long and I much prefer the manual mode and paddle shifters. There is some tyre and road noise intrusion, even on the standard 17-inch alloys. There are also a few minor rattles, but after 80,000km I’d probably expect it.
In terms of reliability and servicing, again, I’ve had no issues. I’ve been very happy with VW’s customer service – I’ve previously owned a Mazda and Honda, and while their customer service was also faultless, you’re certainly treated differently by VW, as if you own a more premium car.
I can’t fault the GTI’s reliability – there have never been any problems with the car, mechanically or aesthetically, and I’ve only ever had to top up the engine oil once between services. My only gripe would be the cost of the tyres, but, again, it’s a cost to be expected with a hot hatch. That’s not to say that the car goes through tyres quickly, but just that when it does need a new set it’s not exactly cheap.
I know I haven’t dealt with how the car handles, but I think from the many reviews you know it’s a very capable performer – I thought I’d instead focus on some of its more divisive aspects.
I recognise that I might have just had a really great experience with my GTI, and appreciate that others may not, but I really can’t fault it. I love driving it, and it loves to be driven. I’ve also really enjoyed driving similar cars such as the Toyota 86 GTS, but I just love my GTI and have been very happy with it since day one. It always puts a smile on my face – and after all, isn’t that why we love driving?