Coming from a car that required premium petrol (having a couple of prior issues, I was sticking to 98 to keep the engine happy) and the prices going up and up, only to get average range from a tank, I wanted something zippy and different that was cheap and efficient to run.
Considering a range of cars, ultimately a low kilometre, well-looked-after GTD Golf caught my eye. With thorough mechanical checks coming back positive and bargaining for a stellar price, I couldn't refuse the purchase.
I'd read a number of old reviews about the GTD and it seemed like it was a bit of a hoot to drive. Perhaps not as peppy as a full-fat GTI or R, but certainly pipping the latter in terms of torque thanks to the 2.0-litre TDI (which, coming from a heavy-vehicle background, always pleases me). Being a diesel, of course, fun and exciting are usually antonyms, but getting in and driving the thing for myself really impressed.
The low-down and mid-range power are absolutely fantastic, and it really does seem quicker than its official 0–100km/h time would make you think. Even producing a meaty sound from inside the cabin (yes, most of that is channelled through the speaker system unfortunately, but it's welcomed nonetheless).
The DSG is fabulous on the go, becoming even better when shifted into the 'S' position. The area it does give me a bit of trouble, though, is reversing uphill. If in a hurry, it does take a while to think about getting into gear, so it's always needing a second or two before the brake is released, which can catch me off-guard, but apart from that I cannot fault it. I only wish I had at least tried out a manual GTD, as I do miss the fun and engagement offered by some old-fashioned DIY, and may have bought one instead had the price been right.
Having a Polo GTI in the family, I often make comparisons to see how my 'imposter' diesel stacks up to the fair-dinkum GTI genes, and it stacks up very well. Missing out on the red stitching and being optioned with leather seats instead of the tartan cloth (I know, it's an atrocity), the interior does leave room for a bit more excitement, with the steering wheel, pedals, black roof lining and instrument cluster being the only main tell-tale signs of sporty DNA – otherwise looking pretty well the same as a Highline might.
That is, however, where the disappointment stops in the cabin. The fit and finish are superb, with little to no wear whatsoever, and comfort and space being sublime (the boot is huge for my needs). Lumbar support, dual-zone air-con (air vents for the rear too), heated seats and a crystal-clear audio system with great radio reception all make the drives effortless and comfortable.
Plus, handy features like the air-conditioned glovebox, opening and closing windows from the key, and most importantly the bottle opener between the cupholders – why is there a bottle opener? Your guess is as good as mine, but it's one of the best conversation starters and has been pretty useful a couple of times now.
The RCD510 touchscreen is obviously getting a little older now, but Bluetooth pairing works well and the sensitivity is equally as good. However, having the RNS510 system would have been a nice addition, if only for sat-nav and different themes.
Road noise is minimal and bumps are filtered out really well (the suspension isn't quite as stiff as a GTI), but being a low car, steep driveways can be a bit of a pain. As I'm sure we all know the familiar cringe that comes with the dreaded scrape of the front bumper.
As I mentioned earlier, the economy and range were big parts of the purchase for me, and this car has exceeded my expectations, particularly considering the performance capabilities. Even with a little bit of spirited driving, much of which isn't even freeway driving, economy almost always finds its way to around 4.5–4.8L/100km (even going as low as 3.8 on two occasions), which helps massively in achieving 900–1100km to a tank. I've saved plenty on my monthly fuel bill and couldn't be happier.
Looking forward to spending a few more years with this not-so-common Golf, I'm not sure how easy it'll be when the time comes to let her go. For now, though, I wouldn't dream of it and hopefully I won't have to think about that any time soon!
Love Volkswagens or hate them, based on the capabilities of this car and the experience I have had with it, it's a little ripper.