There are plenty of reasons for wanting a VW Golf, and they’re the same reasons that generally applied to all five previous generations. It’s a car that distils everything VW knows about providing do-everything motoring in a reasonably compact, affordable-ish package.
If you buy into the Golf idea, and you want it badged VW rather than Skoda, Audi, Seat or any of the non-German rivals, you’re spoilt for choice. On sale since the start of 2009, the Mk6 Golf range includes the usual dizzying variety of body styles, engines, transmission and specification levels.
So why go for this GTD over any other VW Golf?
The badging and the styling say that this is the diesel GTI, which isn’t a lie but it’s not the whole truth. Look at the figures and you’ll see that this should be significantly cheaper to run than the GTI, in terms of fuel consumption, insurance and CO2-based tax. It’s also a few hundred quid cheaper to buy.
VW anticipates that the GDI will far outsell the GTI in the UK – and that most of those GDI sales will be to fleets. So – among other things – it’s a way of companies getting their image-conscious sales reps into credible looking cars, without the financial penalty of putting them in serious hot hatches.
Does it drive like the GTI?
Broadly, yes. More precisely, no.
All Golfs have a great deal of shared componentry and shared DNA. Anyone who’s driven any Golf-based VW product in the last decade will recognise the driving position, the indicator stalk action, the air vents and, more importantly, the overall poise and balance of the GDI.
What distinguishes the GTI is that it’s significantly nimbler, sharper and more responsive than the average Golf, with a firmer ride, keener controls and more feedback for the driver. The GDI goes some way along that road, but you wouldn’t mistake it for a car built to compete with the Focus ST, let alone the RS. And for most people, that’s fine. It’s quick enough to overtake most other cars in most circumstances, it enjoys going around corners, it stops quickly and securely, and it looks the part, inside and out.
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How does it rate as a family hatch?
OK, but there are compromises involved. Unless you pay for the optional adjustable suspension, you have a harsher-than-average ride that some passengers will dislike. And there are other diesels in the range that are far more economical than the 53.3mpg official combined figure for the GDI (or 50.4 if you go for the DSG sequential auto). On a 600-mile weekend of mostly rather sedate driving, we averaged around 45mpg, which is reasonable but not sensational.
That said, it’s comfortable, roomy and well equipped, with very effective climate control, a fine sound system and a good amount of safety equipment provided as standard with the single spec level. It doesn’t have the red brake calipers of the GTI, the bodywork is slightly different around the nose, it doesn’t sit quite so low, and in five-door form actually looks rather more like the MkV Golf Plus than the current Scirocco. But that’s all superficial quibbling about a fine car.
The GDI drives very well: great gearchange, gutsy engine, decent refinement and entirely predictable cornering behaviour. If you’re carrying passengers, you’ll probably want the softer setting available with the optional adjustable suspension.
But before you run out and buy the GDI, do get yourself test drives in some of the considerably cheaper alternatives – petrol and diesel – in the Golf range. They may not have the warm hatch trimmings, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
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