Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: January 4, 2018
Whenever someone is in the market for a $30,000 vehicle, I typically refer them to test drive the Volkswagen Golf GTI, to set the standard of what they should expect in the heated hot hatch segment. Sure there are many other excellent vehicles you can choose from with that budget, like the Honda Civic Si, Ford Focus ST, or Hyundai Elantra Sport, but for 2018, the GTI just set the bar a little higher.
The GTI gets a modest 10-horsepower bump this year, squeezed out if its 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine via 91-octane premium fuel, as well as new brakes borrowed from the Golf R, and an electronically controlled limited-slip differential which used to come as part of the Performance Package. The six-speed DSG transmission also receives a new start/stop system, and a larger glass covered 8.0-inch infotainment display graces the center stack.
The minor revisions may not seem like much, but they subtly transform the GTI into a more cohesive package. The ten-horse bump is not very noticeable without a back to back comparison, but the GTI does putter along with enough force and torque to satisfy most customers looking for an agile city hatchback. The engine still sounds gnarly and aggressive at wide open throttle, mostly thanks to the piped-in speaker noise. You can turn off this brainwashing through the sub menus, and it does get noticeably quieter.
As we mentioned, the bigger brakes have been borrowed from the more expensive Golf R and they are good, just not very linear past the one-quarter mark of the pedal. It goes from feather smooth to organ-rearranging without much of a buffer, making it difficult to modulate a slow stop without heavily articulating your right foot.
The GTI is front-wheel drive only and even with winter tires on, traction is limited in the snow. It is still playful but just struggles to get the power down when driving spiritedly. Entry understeer is habitual but you can add some throttle mid-corner to induce some oversteer courtesy of its short wheelbase. Just make sure you turn traction control off. Of course, you do not feel as confident behind the wheel of the GTI than you do in the R, but that is only in inclement weather conditions, that and at higher speeds where the GTI experiences a bit of tug and pull from the wheel.
When the six-speed DSG transmission is left in automatic, the GTI does not predict downshifts very well, especially when extra juice is swiftly needed for overtaking. Shifts are quick though, but it will be even quicker if you manage them yourself via the paddles. I would still tick the box for the manual transmission if given the choice with the GTI, which also saves me $1,400. With the R, I’d stick with the new and superior 7-speed DSG instead.
The new 8.0-inch display is probably the best infotainment unit in its segment. I enjoy using it better than the examples used in Mazdas, Hondas, and Chevrolets, and is the only system I enjoy nearly as much as Ford’s SYNC 3. Just take a look at that enormous display, and note the actual volume and tuning knobs located right where they should be. Please take note, OEMs. You cannot utilize the touchscreen using gloves like a Subaru’s, but the display is still colourful, vibrant, and lag free. Menus are effortless to navigate through with large button prompts, and there is even a sensor that will detect when your hand is approaching the screen, and will auto populate with on-screen shortcuts.
A few noteworthy quirks I enjoyed with the GTI include the rear view camera that cleverly hides underneath the VW badge in the rear, and will pop out only when summoned. That means it stays nice and clean even after barreling through heaps of mud and snow. The tradeoff is that it will fog up if you ever enter a heated underground parking garage, leaving you with a blurry view out back. The adaptive front lights, which come standard on the top Autobahn trim, are very useful at night, with a beam of light following the rotation of your steering wheel, and they look aesthetically pleasing as well with red and black accents in the headlight cover. The Clark-style plaid seats are also a nostalgic nod to the past, and the cloth surfaces mean they do not get as cold in the winter as the leather options. You do lose the power height adjustment for the front seats, though.
The GTI is worth the upgrade over the base Golf 1.8 TSI, for sure. The interior alone with its beautifully crafted steering wheel and plaid seats justify every penny of its $30,595 MSRP, mind you the peppier engine and reworked chassis upgrades positively add to that explosive sundae. I am not so sure about the $11,000 premium for the R, though. That 292-hp 2.0-litre engine is definitely where the party is at, but all-wheel drive is not necessary with this balanced and nimble platform. And with the subtle but meaningful upgrades for 2018, the GTI just keeps getting better and better, making it harder and harder to rationalize buying the R. The GTI really is the Goldilocks of the Golf lineup.
型号 Model: 2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI Autobahn
顏色 Paint Type: Reflex Silver
廠方建議售價 Base Price: $35,895
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 2,631
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,628 / 1,799 / 1,442
車重 Curb weight (kg): 1,400
引擎 Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder
最大馬力 Horsepower: 220 hp @ 4,700 rpm
最高扭力 Torque: 258 lb-ft @ 1,500 - 4,500 rpm
波箱 Transmission: 6-speed DSG
擺佈 Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, FWD
油耗 Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 10.5
輪胎尺碼 Tires: Continental Winter Contact SI