Volkswagen Golf GTI review

Category: Hot hatch

Section: Costs & verdict

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Volkswagen Golf GTI 2021 Infotainment screen
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  • Volkswagen Golf GTI 2021 Front 3/4 tracking
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  • Volkswagen Golf GTI 2021 Infotainment screen
  • Volkswagen Golf GTI 2021 Front tracking
  • Volkswagen Golf GTI 2021 Left panning
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  • Volkswagen Golf GTI 2021 Rear 3/4 static
  • Volkswagen Golf GTI 2021 Front seats
  • Volkswagen Golf GTI 2021 Driver's diplay
  • Volkswagen Golf GTI 2021 Centre console
  • Volkswagen Golf GTI 2021 Steering wheel detail
  • Volkswagen Golf GTI 2021 Boot
  • Volkswagen Golf GTI 2021 Front 3/4 tracking
  • Volkswagen Golf GTI 2021 Rear 3/4 tracking
  • Volkswagen Golf GTI 2021 Dashboard
  • Volkswagen Golf GTI 2021 Rear seats
  • Volkswagen Golf GTI 2021 Infotainment screen
  • Volkswagen Golf GTI 2021 Front tracking
  • Volkswagen Golf GTI 2021 Left panning
  • Volkswagen Golf GTI 2021 Front cornering
  • Volkswagen Golf GTI 2021 Rear 3/4 static
  • Volkswagen Golf GTI 2021 Front seats
  • Volkswagen Golf GTI 2021 Driver's diplay
  • Volkswagen Golf GTI 2021 Centre console
  • Volkswagen Golf GTI 2021 Steering wheel detail
  • Volkswagen Golf GTI 2021 Boot
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Costs & verdict

Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is

The previous-generation Volkswagen Golf GTI was very much positioned as an attainable hot hatch with a premium image; Volkswagen gave the more powerful, range-topping Golf R instead the responsibility of doing battle with more expensive 300bhp plus hot hatches, and these included the Honda Civic Type R

Well, times have changed. This latest GTI now occupies the same price bracket as the big boys, including the Ford Focus ST and Civic Type R – and remember, the Type R is way quicker. If you want what we’d consider to be a ‘reasonably’ priced hot hatch, you’re better off looking at the Hyundai i30N Performance and entry-level Renault Mégane RS

Official PCP finance rates certainly look competitive, with healthy deposit contributions meaning that a Golf GTI  won’t cost a great deal more than a Ford Focus ST, is cheaper than a Type R and seriously undercuts the Mégane RS. The GTI will be slightly cheaper to run, however, than the Honda; in our recent twin test, the GTI proved to be seriously frugal on our mixed test route, averaging an impressive 36.8mpg, compared with 32.9mpg for the Type R. The Type R is also likely to cost fractionally more to service and insure, but it’s predicted to hold onto its value just as well.

Equipment levels are high. The Golf GTI comes with 18in alloy wheels, twin exhausts, adaptive cruise control, three-zone climate control, sports front seats, a heated steering wheel, power-folding door mirrors, privacy glass and keyless entry and start. That's not bad, but the Focus ST and Civic Type R offer a similar chest of toys. 

The GTI comes with a three-year warranty, but Volkswagen didn’t perform brilliantly in the 2020 What Car? Reliability Survey, finishing 20th out of 31 brands overall. That put it below Ford, Honda and Hyundai but above Renault.

The GTI also comes with automatic emergency braking (AEB), lane-keeping assistance, a driver fatigue monitor, traffic sign recognition and something called Car-to-X. That allows all cars fitted with the same feature – not just Volkswagens – to share information on the traffic conditions and any hazards within a radius of 800m, so you get an early warning of the dangers that lie ahead. 

The Golf also achieved a full five-star (out of five) Euro NCAP safety rating, with excellent category scores that all but matched the best cars in the class. In fact, it's a lot better than the Civic at protecting adults in the front and children in the back.

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Volkswagen Golf GTI 2021 Infotainment screen

Overview

Few fast hatchbacks are as easy to live with as the Volkswagen Golf GTI, and that is why it remains a very desirable hot-hatchback. It's easily a better all-rounder than the Ford Focus ST and the Renault Megane RS, but the brilliant Honda Civic Type R massively outguns it for thrills and speed, yet it costs roughly the same.

  • Relatively strong performance
  • Precise steering and tidy cornering
  • Quiet and comfy for a hot hatch
  • There are rivals that offer more thrills
  • Digital engine note
  • Quite pricey for the performance offered

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