It's always an appealing prospect when a manufacturer gives a five-star car more fizz, and that's exactly what's happened with the new VW Golf GTD.
It uses a 2.0-litre diesel engine producing 181bhp and 280lb ft of torque, which gives it a 0-62mph time of 7.5 seconds. However, it also emits just 109g/km of CO2 in three-door manual guise; emissions jump to 119g/km if you go for the twin-clutch automatic gearbox (a £1415 option), and 122g/km for the five-door auto.
Sports suspension is standard, with a 15mm drop in ride height and retuned shock absorbers, although the setup is softer than that of the petrol-powered Golf GTI.
Other standard features include a raft of GTI-like styling cues, such as grey tartan cloth interior trim, a sports steering wheel and GTD-specific dials. Climate control, a DAB radio, adaptive cruise control, Bluetooth and iPod connectivity are also included.
For all its initial promise, though, the Golf GTD still has much to prove. At £25,285 it's far from cheap; the mechanically similar Seat Leon 2.0 TDI 184 FR is priced from £22,075.
What's it like to drive?
The engine is the real star, here. There's a hefty rush of power as the turbo kicks in, followed by a broad mid-range that's potent enough to give the GTD exhilarating pace. It also sounds quite appealing by diesel standards, with a sporty rasp as the revs rise beyond 3500rpm.
Despite its strong torque, the GTD suffers from little of the wheel-scrabbling under heavy acceleration that's common in high-powered front-wheel-drive cars.
The steering also impresses. It's the same setup that’s used in the latest GTI, and the initial response is suitably sharp. True, it can feel
a little too sensitive at motorway speeds, but it's otherwise nicely weighted and a pleasure to use in any sort of driving.
The GTD doesn’t handle as precisely as the petrol-powered GTI, though. There’s more body away through corners, although there’s
still loads of grip and an appropriate sense of chuckability when the moment calls for it.
An electronic traction control system helps here, because it works like a limited-slip differential to improve traction on the exit of corners, and can also brake the inside wheels mid-way through bends to improve agility.
Crucially, apart from more road noise at motorway speeds, the GTD compromises little of the standard Golf's usability in the name of fruitier performance; it remains a relaxing daily driver, with a relatively comfortable ride.
Adaptive dampers are available as an £800 option, but since standard suspension balances comfort and fun well enough, you’re better off saving your money.
What's it like inside?
The cabin is almost identical to the GTI's, only finished in various hues of grey rather than the petrol car's red highlights, so it's no surprise that the GTD feels special inside.
The leather-trimmed multi-function sports steering wheel is a joy to use and looks great, as does the golf ball-effect gearknob (on manual versions).
You'll be perfectly comfortable, too, because the Golf has a spacious cabin and the GTD's supportive sports seats offer enough adjustment to accommodate the vast majority of body shapes.
The standard 5.8-inch colour touch-screen is easy to use and makes a good focal point for the dashboard, although it's disappointing that sat-nav costs extra, when it's standard on lesser GT versions.
Shouid I buy one?
If you want hot hatch looks and performance with angelic running costs, then yes; the VW Golf GTD is a tempting package. Business users are expected to account for 60% of sales, which is understandable given that the GTD will cost 40% taxpayers as little as £1615 per year.
However, no matter whether you’re a company car user or a private buyer, be sure that you really value the Golf's badge because you are paying a lot for it. The Seat Leon 2.0 TDI 184 FR offers identical performance and is almost as good to drive, yet costs more than £3000 less to buy and emits exactly the same amount of CO2.
Or, if you can sacrifice the sporting looks and more focused handling, the 2.0 TDI 148bhp Golf GT is no slouch and will also cost you more than £2000 less, despite being similarly well-equipped.
What Car? says...
Volkswagen Golf GTD 3dr
Engine size 2.0-litre diesel
Price from £25,285
0-62mph 7.5 seconds
Top speed 143mph
Fuel Economy 64.2mpg