Can you believe it's been six months since we bought our little, white 2016 Volkswagen Golf GTI? Hasn’t time flown!
Since taking delivery, with a mere 13 kilometres on the odometer, the GTI has racked up well over 10,000km of CarAdvice use. Considering the average Australian car will run about 15,000km per year, and that the Golf is likely driven more than average, this feels about right.
So how has time, and distance, sat both with the team and with the car?
When we bought it, many readers questioned our choice of the DSG transmission, suggesting it would fault, fail or spontaneously combust within mere hours of initial purchase. I admit, part of me was looking forward to burning an effigy of something in protest, because… well, fire!
But sadly for the pyro fans out there, there has been nothing of the sort. For the most part, and this may come as a bit of a shock, our first six months of Golf-club membership, has been pretty dull. Fun, sure… but dull.
We’ve tried to trick it up too.
No fewer than 15 people have driven it. James Wong used it on a driver training course. Mike Stevens had it covered with stickers. It’s been to the shops, to school, to the beach, to the snow, driven by every high and medium risk demographic there is – and there really haven’t been too many issues.
So far just the keyfob battery has drained much faster than expected and the driver’s side sun visor is rattling a bit. More on both of these points shortly.
Oh, and someone scratched the 18-inch ‘Austin’ alloy wheels. We’re only human.
The GTI is the first Golf that I’ve really spent a lot of time with, and even now, six months on, it is still a fun little guy to punt around.
It’s zippy off the line, the 162kW/350Nm 2.0-litre turbo offering great response with peak torque available from a low 1500rpm through to 4400rpm. This is mostly great, although I’m not a fan of the traction control software that cuts in with an aggressive ‘thump, thump’ every time the wheels slip, which they are prone to on wet white lines, tram tracks, or just more enthusiastic corner exits.
Volkswagen could probably dial this back a bit, to provide a little bit more leniency in the system so that the GTI’s more traditional ‘hot hatch’ traits can be enjoyed on a more day-to-day basis. Past this initial ‘get the power down’ point though, the GTI has plenty of grip and feels confident on all urban road surfaces.
It makes a great noise, both under load and on shift change, and that much-maligned DSG works really well… most of the time. I say most, as I think that the gearbox gets unfairly blamed for the traction control program issues, and that once you start to drive ‘with’ it, does provide fast and smooth shifts when on the move. The paddles on the wheels are perfectly placed too.
My only real issue has been low-speed reverse parking, but I’m willing to concede that perhaps in these circumstances I drive ‘against’ the DSG and want it to behave faster from the transition from drive to reverse than it does. I will say that when I relax my driving, there’s no lag or rolling effect, but that’s only when I’m consciously doing so.
There is a bit of vibration as you slow to a stop and the car comes back down through the gears too.
The other culprit behind much ill-feeling toward the DSG is the idle-stop system. If you are moving from a start on an incline, with the start/stop system activated, there can be a delay as long as two-seconds before the car moves off. Most of the team has opted to turn the idle-stop system off, which does help response, albeit at the expense of fuel economy.
In general, our usage will sit in the mid-to-high 9L/100km range, which is higher than the 6.6L/100km combined fuel consumption claimed by VW. It isn’t surprising given the number of people driving it as well as the short-hop nature of most driving.
Should we have bought the manual? It would have been fun, but we don’t regret the DSG option one bit. Spending extended periods of time in the Golf helps you learn to drive with it, and it doesn’t take too long to get used to how all the systems perform together. Plus those up-shift 'farts' are fun.
The trim around the cabin is holding up well, and the tartan, despite initial detractors, is still a real highlight for me. Although, there are some marks – potentially food related – that aren’t coming out very easily.
Dust and general grime has gathered around some of the harder-to-clean switchgear (the car is given an inside and out valet wash at least every fortnight), meaning that a full detail is probably in order to keep things looking spick and span.
Some of the lighter, cheaper plastics have some marks that wont buff out easily too, but that’s just part of owning a car. This is the point about the sun visor, some glue seems to have made the lining and vanity lamp drop a few millimetres, so now the visor taps on it as you drive along. Easily fixed with a bit of tape… but it shouldn’t really happen.
Ergonomically, I’m not a fan of the placement of the drive-mode switch as from the driver’s seat it is obscured by the gear shift. Like the Mercedes-Benz COMAND controller, this is a remnant of left-hand drive development.
The infotainment system is still too complex for me to understand where all the sub-menus live and don’t get me started on the traffic button which does absolutely nothing. BMW offers traffic data, Holden offers traffic data, why can’t Volkswagen offer traffic data, especially given the prominent button that says ‘TRAFFIC’?
Do it right, or don’t do it at all. Simple.
So then the service, which in all honesty, was pretty painless too.
We took the GTI back to the purchase dealer, Camberwell Volkswagen, after booking it in with a three-day lead time. The day before the booking, it became apparent that we would need the car so tried via the email and online confirmation system to change the day.
The process itself was reasonably straight forward but the system didn’t confirm our electronic change, so we spoke to Camberwell VW by phone and pushed the booking to the following day, although our email reminder still arrived with the initial date noted.
Our Victorian Sales Manager Marika took the car in and waited for the service to be completed. She was in and out in about 90-minutes.
As per the Volkswagen website, our first service (just shy of the 15,000 interval) was capped at $390 but we also opted for the $44 wheel rotation (all four) and balance. The service team tried to charge us $16 for a replacement battery in the keyfob, but Marika said that wasn’t acceptable as the battery had been failing for some time, and the cost was ‘absorbed’ into the service fee.
We'll get the next service done at around the 30,000km mark, as per the schedule.
The car was hand-washed due to our vinyl signage (a nice touch) and we were back on the road with books stamped for $434.
Marika did say the service lounge was pretty small and the coffee ‘ordinary’ – it’s Melbourne, we care about these things.
Generally, though, given its hard working life, the Golf has performed really well. There’s always a happy face when someone takes or returns it, and that’s despite now having CarAdvice signage all over it which means you have to drive responsibly and courteously ALL the time!
But enough about me, how do the rest of the team feel about the GTI?
Since starting with CarAdvice earlier this year, I've spent a lot of time with our Golf GTI, and I love it. Before getting behind the wheel of this car I had actually never sat in the current-generation Golf before, and it really lived up to my expectations.
Everyone I have spoken to about the Golf raves about the build quality and premium feel of the cabin, and the GTI feels just as good as those claims.
The cabin is trimmed with nice fabrics and plastics, and even though there are harder plastics lower down, they are textured and feel solid. I'm also a big fan of the felt-lined door bins, which again adds to that premium feel.
On the road, the Golf GTI is like a four-wheeled Swiss Army knife, it handles just about every situation with ease. Crawling in city traffic, it is comfortable and quiet, which is made even better in 'Comfort' mode. You can easily fit three passengers (four at a squeeze) and plenty of luggage in the boot, making it an ideal car for families who don't want an SUV.
Venture a little further out of town on to some twisty roads and the GTI is a fantastic sports car. It has plenty of power to get you anywhere quickly, while there is also loads of grip in the bends.
Volkswagen's DSG transmissions are known for being a little clumsy in urban driving, but on the move using the steering-mounted paddle shifters, you can snap through ratios as fast as you can blink.
Adding to the sporty character are the pops of the exhaust on each upshift, and the engine note itself makes you want to put your foot down more and more – to the detriment of fuel consumption.
My only complaints are the infotainment system, while a good unit, at times refuses to turn on, along with the inevitable wheel spin if you try to shoot from the lights quickly.
The Golf GTI is one of my dream cars, and after spending time with this one it's only made me want one even more.
The punchy engine that, as always with the GTI, offers just enough go to be very fun without being insane. The auto is good, although I have the usual complaints of laggy DSG decision-making when taking off.
It is very composed and capable in the corners and the difference between Comfort and Sport modes is noticeable and appreciated.
Fit and finish is the usual 'why bother with an Audi' standard.
On the negative side, it is too easy, but not 308 GTi easy, to get the front wheels thunking from the TCS.
I still reckon the GTI is one of the nicest looking cars on the road, understated but purposeful.
To improve it, I just want DSGs to be faster... but otherwise, I'd lose the hair-clipper plastic around the fog lights, and I'd bring back the slotted 'Denver', 'Detroit' and 'Huff' wheel design of the previous gens.
The Golf has a great engine, and I love the sound. There is just enough punch to be really fun.
It handles really well but it does lag a little off the line and can be very jerky when slowing down and accelerating back up.
The emergency braking (AEB) and other sensors are super sensitive and sometimes unnecessary. It can be very annoying when stuck in traffic and you don’t want to constantly be thinking about turning it off.
The drivetrain is the perfect pairing of engine power, gob-fulls of torque, and crisp fast shifts from the DSG. Still likes to rev out to redline and I like the artificial burps on upshifts.
Distinctly different feel for the car via the adaptive suspension and drive modes really do make the GTI even more of an 'everything' car.
Chassis balance is lovely and is so good the GTI can even be made to rotate through bends, a brilliant trait for a FWD hot hatch.
Adaptive headlights work well and are a surprise inclusion in a car at this price point.
Mrs Beech likes that it is quick and easy to handle and feels safe and sturdy and premium. She also felt it was cheap to run compared to our other cars…
On the negative side, the DSG has classic low speed issues that we know come down to cost/engineering/software issues as the Porsche PDK in my Macan for example, exhibits none of the indecisiveness that the GTI DSG does.
The plastic paddle shifters for such an important tactile control surface feel cheap. Plus ditch the faux carbon weave look in the dash and door trim – brushed aluminium would be better.
And the plastic on plastic rubbing noise when the VW badge concealed rear view camera folds back into the body is cheap and annoying.
Getting all that power down to the road can be a challenge with the open front diff however I sort of like it and let's be honest, power down understeer at least doesn't see anyone end up in the bushes like oversteer does, which makes it fast and fun.
I love the tartan interior, although Mrs Beech isn’t a fan. Plus the red ambient lighting and door sills match the trim.
So there you have it, 15,000 relatively fuss free kilometres in the little GTI and the feedback is nearly unanimous.
It’s fast, fun and sounds great, but the DSG isn’t as smooth as we’d like, particularly at low speeds.
Our next update will look at some long-distance touring as we get closer to the next service at 30,000km.
Are there any features or functions of the 2016 Volkswagen Golf GTI that you would like us to look at in more detail? As always, we’re happy to answer any questions in the comments below.
Click on the Photos tab for more images by Tom Fraser and James Ward.
2016 Volkswagen Golf GTI
Date purchased: February 2016
Odometer reading: 14,266
Travel since previous: 14,253
Costs since previous: Service @ $434
Consumption since previous: 9.6L/100km