The Car Story.
The Golf GTi. Despite the criticisms that come with this particular VW brand; “boring”, “bland”, or “driven by accountants”, people around the world have overwhelmingly come to the conclusion that there are not many cars out there that can meet the demands of daily driving while still putting a smile on your face.
I first fell in love with the Mk5 GTi in high school and made it my goal to own one. This journey led me to a dealership where a blue Mk6 R32 caught my eye. As soon as I turned the car on, I was hooked. The luxury of leather seats and sunroof, along with the sound of the exhaust meant the next few hours were a blur and I walked out of the dealership grinning from ear to ear. To date, I have yet to find a hot hatch with a standard exhaust that sounded as good at that VR6.
That car was my pride and joy, but the MK6 R32 was a heavy car, and you could feel it every time you took a corner too fast. Coupled with a reasonably rudimentary Haldex system, the R32 was prone to understeer despite being an all-wheel drive. That didn’t bother me at 23 as I found myself deliberately slowing down in tunnels so that I could hear that exhaust note. I soon, however, wanted a more capable backroad bomber and sold my R32 for a 2012 Mini Cooper S.
I will skip the Mini’s story, aside to say that it was an incredibly fun and quirky car that loved the back roads but was painfully unreliable. That was sold reasonably quickly, and I was back looking for my next car.
This time, I wanted to learn more about the world of car modifications aside from the usual cosmetic changes. This drew me back into the world of VW, which had (and still has) a very active community in Australia (and around the world) that could show you everything from changing interior bulbs to engine swaps.
After a few months of searching, I stumbled upon a 2010 Mk6 GTi for sale. With 80-odd thousand kilometres on the clock I was hesitant, however this car had its own 16-page forum thread detailing every modification and issue since purchase. After speaking to the owner, a passionate VW enthusiast, I made the trip from Sydney to Newcastle to check it out.
The car was immaculate and had been extensively modified. Putting out 161kW and 330Nm of torque, it was an addictive drive. After a very brief negotiation, the deal was done.
A week later, I picked up the car and began the drive to Brisbane to visit family. From this, I recommend that everybody goes for a 500km+ drive immediately after picking up your new car, as there is no better way to learn and appreciate it! When I finally reached Brisbane, all I wanted to do was turn around and drive back to Sydney!
The beauty of modifying VWs are the sheer volume of homogenous parts available. Need a new stereo with CarPlay? The headunit from a 2015 Polo fits. Changing control arm bushes? Audi TTRS OEM solid rubber fit perfectly. Ignition Coils? Audi R8 red coils for that dash of colour. Need more R8 parts? OEM oil filler cap! This car had it all including upgraded Mk7 air conditioning controls and Golf R tail lights.
Spending hours and hours online and working on the car has made it one of the most rewarding experiences in my life. Adding Koni shocks and a rear brace stiffened the ride and made it feel more planted around corners. Billet aluminium dog bone mounts reduced transmission movement, which made shifts much crisper. The levels of grip and torque make it utterly addictive as I attempt to heel-toe into a corner before burying my foot as I exit. Peak torque arriving at 4200rpm before tailing off very quickly (due to the small turbo) means I have to be brave and quick with the shifts to keep it in the sweet spot. Every corner becomes a challenge: brake late, shift down, turn in, hold the line, straighten the wheel, bury the throttle and shift up. Deep breath and repeat.
What about the interior? The updated parts make it feel very modern and a wonderful place to be, a true testament to VW design work. The tartan seats add a dash of colour to a very German (read: bland) interior. I have done the Sydney to Brisbane drive over ten times in the last two years and can attest to its comfort (for a hot hatch) and reliability. The benefits of living between two cities means that this car has covered most back roads from Macquarie’s Pass in NSW to Mount Mee in QLD.
It is not without its faults. There are some creaks, given it is a 9 year old car. The ride can be particularly harsh around some of Sydney’s finest inner city roads, and the fuel economy is horrendous in the city. Get on the throttle too hard and it will simply spin its wheels and torque steer. The random codes it occasionally throws up can be solved with a quick scan and a check by my trusty mechanic. The known VW failure points such as water pumps, timing chain tensioner and the like have been fixed preemptively (a quick Google search will tell you every fault in detail), and it has not let me down aside from a pesky error code from my LED licence plate lights.
What next? I don’t know where this journey will take me, but I do know one thing. I finally got that Golf GTi and I could not be happier.