The Golf GTI's oil burning alter ego is back, and in Mk7 guise, the latest GTD is faster and more frugal than ever. But is this a case of always fun til someone loses an i?
What a difference a D makes. Not much of a difference at all, judging by the pictures.
Visually, besides the badges, only different wheels and a chrome, rather than red strip, underscoring the grille, differentiate the GTD from the GTiI. Inside, again, they’re almost identical, but the GTD’s sports seats are trimmed in a plainer tartan that does without the GTI’s Yuppie red infusion.
How do they compare for power and performance?
The petrol GTI’s 2.0-litre turbo four kicks out 217bhp and 258lb ft of torque, sufficient for 0-62mph in 6.5sec and a 152mph top end. Go for the optional performance pack (10bhp extra, torque stays the same) and you shave off 0.1 sec and add 3mph to the top speed.
The diesel produces 184bhp (with no upgrade pack available, at least officially), but compensates with 280lb ft, so while its 142mph top speed and 7.5sec 62mph best won’t win any awards, it feels mightily rapid in the mid-range. It’s incredibly refined compared with earlier high power diesel Golfs, and even sounds like a proper hot hatch if you select the Sport button to engage some fake engine warblings. Predictably though, that typically narrow diesel powerband, where push runs out not long after 4000rpm, means the GTI impression isn’t entirely convincing. The GTD’s performance is useful, but never as invigorating as a GTI’s.
The diesel engine adds 27kg to the kerbweight, almost all of it over the nose, but the handling remains excellent, provided you’re not expecting Megane Renaultsport tactility. The quick two-turns rack makes the GTD feel much more alert than its predecessor and you get the XDS+ system from the GTI, which pinches the inside front wheel to prevent wheelspin, and the inside rear to swivel the car into corners. Unfortunately, because you can’t get a Performance Pack upgrade, you can’t get the GTI’s optional mechanical limited slip differential, which actually pulls the car into the apex, the harder you plant your right foot. You won’t miss it if you spend your days shuttling between services on the M1, but you will if you also dabble in the odd trackday.
So which does VW expect to be more popular, the GTD or the GTi?
It’s no contest. This sector is massively dependent on fleet sales, and the CO2 and economy advantage of the diesel means it will outsell the petrol by two to one. Cleanest of the lot is the six-speed manual GTD at a staggering 67mpg and 109g/km, figures VW happily points out, match those of the 2007 104bhp Bluemotion Golf. A stick-shift GTI – no eco disaster itself - lags behind on 139g/km and 47mpg. Both cars are fractionally dirtier if you go for the optional DSG dual-clutch ‘box. We drove the GTD in both forms and preferred the light-shifting, more involving manual. In terms of list price, there’s almost nothing in it. A basic three-door GTD costs £25,285, and the equivalent GTi, £25,845.
You'll have more fun in a GTI, thanks to the petrol engine’s character, and especially if you order the optional performance pack sadly not available on the GTD. But in 90% of driving situations the GTD is just as accomplished, looks just as good and will guzzle half as much fuel. And if you’re a company driver, it’s GTD all the way. Criticise the Golf for its predictability if you will, but the GTD is a fine car, and no hot hatch on the market is better in tune with the times