2020 Volkswagen Golf GTI revealed

Everything you need to know about the all-new version of the Volkswagen Golf GTI hot hatch, which will be available with up to 296bhp...

2020 Volkswagen Golf GTI nose

On sale: Autumn | Price from: £32,000 (est)

Just as you wouldn’t wear trainers to a business meeting or brogues at the gym, cars tend to feel most at home in a particular role. However, the Volkswagen Golf GTI is a better multi-tasker than most – probably because it has traditionally combined its agile handling and considerable performance with looks that are almost as understated as those of any other Golf.

So, is it the same story with this new, Mk8 version? Well, it pushes things a little farther than usual by adding a gaping front bumper vent to the twin exhausts and red front grille piping that we’ve come to expect. But overall its appearance is still more Russell & Bromley than Reebok. In fact, in some areas it actually looks more subtle than ever, with the alloy wheel design reminiscent of one used on Skoda’s Kamiq SUV.

2020 Volkswagen Golf GTI front

As recently as late 2018, Volkswagen planned to use mild hybrid technology to boost the GTI’s acceleration and efficiency, but ultimately it instead decided to update the existing turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine. This now produces an extra 13bhp in standard form, meaning it matches the 241bhp of the outgoing GTI Performance model. Meanwhile, the successor to that car – which is likely to be called the Clubsport – packs 296bhp.

According to Matthias Rabe, Head of Technical Development Operations at Volkswagen, the mild hybrid tech just didn’t feel like the right fit for a GTI because the main advantage it brings is during engine-off coasting, meaning you’re encouraged to drive as economically as possible. “While it was very important to ensure we made a perfect car for everyday use, it still had to be truly sporty,” he said.

As with the Mk7, you’ll be able to specify a six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox (which can be controlled manually via steering wheel-mounted paddles). And while Volkswagen is still to release performance figures, a 0-62mph time of around 5.5sec seems realistic when the latter setup is fitted to the standard GTI.

The decision to continue to offer a manual gearbox, when so many rivals are abandoning them, was apparently to appeal to enthusiasts. And for the same reason a limited-slip differential is now standard to boost traction out of corners. However, for the first time there will be no three-door GTI model, mimicking the decision to drop this slow-selling bodystyle elsewhere in the Golf range.

2020 Volkswagen Golf GTI dashboard

Similarly, the interior closely follows the formula of lesser Mk8 Golfs, meaning you get twin digital screens (one for instrumentation, the other for infotainment) and a voice control system that recognises natural speech instead of requiring you to remember specific commands. But there are bespoke sporty touches, too, including red onscreen graphics, a flat-bottomed steering wheel and the traditional tartan-trimmed seats.

Other standard equipment includes keyless entry and start, lane keeping assist, automatic emergency braking, climate control and ambient interior lighting that lets you choose from 30 colours. Meanwhile, the list of options includes 19in alloy wheels (in place of the standard 18s) and the Akrapovic sports exhaust system which so dramatically improves the sound made by Volkswagen’s sporty T-Roc R SUV.

2020 Volkswagen Golf GTI rear

In addition to the GTI, Volkswagen is readying successors to other hot Mk7 Golfs, with the diesel GTD and plug-in hybrid GTE both due before the end of the year, and packing 197bhp and 241bhp respectively. A new version of the four-wheel-drive Golf R, which hikes power from today’s 296bhp to 329bhp, will follow in 2021. And there are even plans to introduce an R Plus, with around 350bhp.

It seems likely that this flagship model would cost around £45,000, undercutting other mega hot hatches such as the Mercedes-AMG A45, while the price of the standard GTI is likely to go up to around £32,000 to reflect its extra power and equipment compared with the previous version.

For all the latest reviews, advice and new car deals, sign up to the What Car? newsletter here

Read more: used Volkswagen Golf GTI buying guide >>

Best and worst hot hatches

Like the idea of a new hot hatch, but not sure if the new Golf GTI is the car for you? Below we count down our current top 10 – and reveal the models to avoid.

10. Audi RS3

Audi RS3 front

The RS3 isn't the sharpest hot hatch to drive, but it is still incredibly fast, thanks to a 394bhp 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine that's also used in the TT RS sports car. Four-wheel drive ensures it has incredible all-weather pace, and its interior is the most opulent of any hot hatch. 

Read our full Audi RS3 review >>

9. Volkswagen Polo GTI

Save money on a new Volkswagen Polo GTI with What Car? >>

Volkswagen Polo GTI

Few manufacturers have as much hot hatch pedigree as Volkswagen, but the hot Polo might not be the first model to spring to mind. It's worth considering if you're after a compact hot hatch, though, because it's an accomplished all-rounder that's comfortable and has a fine driving position. 

Read our full Volkswagen Polo GTI review >>

8. Mercedes-AMG A35

Save money on a new Mercedes-AMG A35 with What Car? >>

Mercedes A35 AMG front

If the bonkers A45 is too much for you, AMG's entry-level hot hatch, the A35, is a pretty tasty choice that provides a lot of performance for significantly less cash. A grippy chassis and classy interior add to its appeal. 

Read our full Mercedes-AMG A35 review >>

Continue reading about the top 10 hot hatches >>