2013 VW Golf GTI review

* New VW Golf GTI driven in the UK * Optional Performance Pack gives more power * On sale now, priced from £25,845...

2013 VW Golf GTI review
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Rory White
14 Jul 2013 23:01

The Volkswagen Golf GTI has always brilliantly blended out-and-out pace with everyday useability. However, with such disparate rivals as the quick and bargain-priced Ford Focus ST and incredibly rapid and focused Renault Megane Renaultsport, this latest version needs to be even more GTI-like to succeed.

It is powered by VW's 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine but, for the first time, you can have it in two states of tune: 217bhp or 227bhp.

The standard car costs £25,845, while the optional Performance Pack will set you back an extra £980 and gets you the power upgrade, bigger brakes and a traction-boosting limited-slip differential.

Both versions have identical fuel economy and CO2 figures.

What's the 2013 VW Golf GTI like to drive?

Both versions produce 258lb ft of torque from as little as 1500rpm, meaning you're rarely caught in the wrong gear. However, we'd suggest avoiding the six-speed DSG automatic gearbox unless you must have an auto; it's a £1450 option that works well in normal driving, but can feel reluctant to change gear precisely when you want in more spirited use, and ultimately takes away something of the raw involvement that many will look for in a hot hatch.

Of course, the real joy comes from letting the engine rev through to the wailing post-6000rpm redline, at which point the real potency of the GTI becomes evident. The standard car is seriously quick, but the Performance Pack model has just a fraction more anger at higher revs. Either will deliver frenetic point-to-point pace, though.

The GTI is just as fun when you need to slow down, with pops and bangs crackling from the exhaust when you lift off the accelerator, and serious power from the brakes. The Performance Pack car's uprated brakes feel slightly more able to cope with sustained hard use than the standard model's.

Cornering is also impressive, partly thanks to what VW calls 'progressive steering'. Essentially, the GTI's steering rack is 20% quicker than the standard Golf's, and while it doesn't offer as much feedback as the set-up in a Ford Focus or Renault Megane, it is consistently weighted. The steering wheel doesn't twist and writhe in your hands when you accelerate hard, either.

The Performance Pack GTI comes with a clever limited-slip differential, maximising traction and keeping everything pointing the way you intend. Enter a corner and the GTI's front end is hooked around, with the tyres putting their power down consistently and without drama. It's a remarkable effect.

The uprated suspension also keeps the body flat and stable through a series of bends.

We tested the GTI Performance Pack, complete with adaptive chassis control (a £795 option), on UK roads. Each mode lives up to its title of Comfort, Normal and Sport, but most drivers will leave it in default Normal mode, where the GTI slicky deals with poor surfaces.

The ride can feel a little sharp over bigger bumps, but regardless of setting, the Golf GTI is supremely easy to live with, with wind- and road noise kept firmly in the background.

What's the 2013 VW Golf GTI like inside?

The GTI keeps all that's good about the Golf's interior, adding classic sporty touches, including a red-stitched steering wheel, comfortable tartan sports seats and GTI badging.

Climate control, a DAB radio, touch-screen infotainment system and Bluetooth are also included.

The Golf's practicality and interior quality remain intact. You'll find it extremely easy to get comfortable behind the wheel, thanks to the huge range of adjustment and the way the clear, easy-to-use dashboard is angled towards the driver.

Compared with the Focus ST or Renault Megane Renaultsport, the VW's interior is far classier, and is lavished with quality, soft-touch materials.

Two adults can sit comfortably in the back, while the boot is an impressive 380 litres.

The boot floor is adjustable, and gives a totally flat load space in its higher position.

Should I buy one?

The Golf GTI is far from cheap. In non-Performance Pack five-door form, it costs £4500 more than a Ford Focus ST, which isn't as well equipped but has an extra 30bhp.

Performance Pack installed, a three-door version of the GTI costs £1500 more than a Renault Megane Renaultsport 265 Cup, which trumps the VW by 35bhp, although won't hold its value as well. Go for the top-spec five-door automatic GTI and prices edge perilously close to the dramatically faster and more powerful BMW M135i.

However, in either form the GTI is far more efficient than its two main rivals; with a manual gearbox, it emits just 139g/km of CO2 and does average economy of 47.1 mpg. To top it off, the Golf sits at least five insurance groups lower than the Ford or Renault.

The Megane is still the hardcore choice, and the Focus the best for outright value. However, the Golf has a far classier cabin than both of these rivals and is much cheaper to run. It's quite possibly the best all-rounder out there.

By Rory White and Vicky Parrot

What Car? says...


Ford Focus ST

Renault Megane 265 Cup

Read the full Volkswagen Golf review >>

Read the VW Golf review for parents at Mumsnet Cars >>

Volkswagen Golf GTI
Engine size 2.0-litre turbo petrol
Price from £25,845
Power 217bhp
Torque 258lb ft
0-62mph 6.5 seconds
Top speed 152mph
Fuel economy 47.1mpg
CO2 139g/km

Volkswagen Golf GTI Performance Pack
Engine size 2.0-litre turbo petrol
Price from £26,825
Power 227bhp
Torque 258lb ft
0-62mph 6.4 seconds
Top speed 155mph
Fuel economy 47.1mpg
CO2 139g/km