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The seventh-generation Golf GTI - VW's long-standing hot hatchback flagship - is based on an all-new platform and is both faster and more efficient than its predecessor.
There's even an optional performance pack, which adds another 10hp (you get 220hp as standard), cuts the 0-62mph time from 6.5 to 6.4 seconds and adds a further 3mph to the usual 152mph top speed. Bigger brakes and trick upgrades to the drivetrain are also included in the £900 pack, which is delineated only by a GTI emblem on the front brake calipers.
As exciting as all that sounds, the Golf remains the safe option as hot hatchbacks go. In either guise it's nowhere near as outlandish as the likes of the Ford Focus ST or the Renault Sport Megane. The handling lacks the overall flair of the aforementioned rivals, but the VW is still great fun to drive - the throaty exhaust note and surges of acceleration being particular highlights. It also makes up for its slightly more bland character with a comfortable ride and the fact that it's neither intimidating nor difficult to drive hard.
Being a performance special, it won't figure highly on fleet sales charts but VW is expecting take up from some user choosers. In fact, the firm is predicting slightly more business sales with the new model because of its significantly lower emissions - 139g/km from the six-speed manual and 148g/km from the DSG auto versus the previous car's low of 170g/km.
Although unavailable at VW's test-drive event, the standard manual variant is cheaper, cleaner and more economical than the six-speed automatic tested here, with a P11D of £26,325 for the bigger-selling five-door, an official 47.1mpg and the aforementioned 139g/km.
RVs are, predictably, strong enough to blitz the competition too. The five-door DSG model posts a strong 37.1%, while the closest competitor on that front is the Ford Focus ST 3 at 34.7%.
Volkswagen Golf GTI DSG 5dr
Model price range
Cost per mile
BIK 20/40% per month
3yrs 60,000 mls
Well-rounded, very easy to live with and still able to excite.