The hot hatchbacks are often noted as the real killer of the British sports car. When they first emerged on the scene, they offered the same performance and driving thrills as a lightweight, finely-tuned British sportscar, but they mixed it with practicality, usability, and reliability. And the car that best represented all that hot hatchy goodness was the original Golf GTI. Over the years, however, the GTI became bigger, uglier and put on more and more eight. And although with every new generation VW said they have gone back to the basics, that has never been the case. With that in mind, let’s have a closer look at the new 2021 VW Golf GTI and see how this one measures up to that original.
It would be unfair to expect the latest GTI to be very similar to the original, what with all the safety and emission regulations new cars these days have to contend with. But a true successor to a legend can always capture the essence of what made the original great through clever engineering and packaging. There have been numerous examples of such cars, like Mazda MX-5. In terms of outright performance and day-to-day usability, there is no doubt that the new kid eats the oldtimer for breakfast. But greatness is about more than just power and luxury.
The 2021 Golf GTI is, by any standard, a remarkable performance machine. It does not go overboard with power like most others performance cars today – a positive point as far as being loyal to the original recipe is concerned – but it does not want for power, either. With a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine that churns out 245 PS and 370 Nm, the car sprints from 0 to 62 mph in just over six seconds; not lightning quick, but certainly quick enough to be plenty of fun. As for the top speed, it is irrelevant even to those who track this car, but it can reach its 155 mph limit without breaking a sweat.
What makes the Golf GTI more fun that its more powerful rivals, though, is how that power is put to use in combination with a lightning fast 7-speed DSG transmission, a trick differential, and a chassis sorted out by some of the best engineers in the business. Again, one cannot doubt the efficacy of these systems working in tandem. But bear in mind, the original GTI had none of these fancy tech, and yet it was a hoot and half to throw around, even on the trip to the supermarket. This is where the new GTI loses the spirit of its ancestor. We’re talking about the electromechanically adjustable running systems such as the XDS electronic differential, the new locking differential and optional adaptive dampers. While they are no doubt great inventions, they don’t necessarily contribute to the car’s fun factor. A simpler set up with a well-tuned regular suspension would have resulted in more play in the chassis, would have kept the weight down, and would have overall made the GTI closer in terms of driving feel to that brilliant first effort.
Then again, the new Golf GTI has to have those unnecessary and unnecessarily complicated features if it wants to remain competitive in today’s market. And for what it’s worth, the car hides its tech in terms of raw driving dynamics a lot better than most other rivals. We just wish VW would offer a striped-down version with all the tech and luxury features taken away for the purists – a sort of Golf GTI RS, if you will…
In conclusion, the GTI is still your best bet for a true hot hatchback that does everything, and does everything really, really well. If you’re in the UK and you’re thinking of a new Golf GTI as your next car then check out Orangewheels Leasing here: latest Golf GTI lease deals from Orangewheels