Modern hot hatches seem to be about one thing and one thing only. That is POWER! The aim of the game is to squeeze as much of it as possible out of a two litre turbocharged engine. I thought 300hp from a little turbo unit was a lot but then Mercedes came to the party and blew everyone out of the water with their ridiculous 400+ horsepower 2 litre single turbo engine! As a car nerd, I find this very interesting and can willingly bore people at a party on this subject. However, this power makes modern hot hatches seem like they are overcompensating for something. Modern hot hatches have lost sight of what the term truly means.
I have spent plenty of time with hot hatches. The list includes stuff like the mind boggling Mercedes A45 S AMG, the exciting but cheap feeling Hyundai i30 N and even the little piece of dynamite that is the Abarth 595 among other things. At the end of the day, I would still have my 2012 Volkswagen Golf GTI over all these cars!
Something must be wrong either with me or these new hot hatches. Because I have a massive ego, I will blame the hot hatches but before you call me crazy, listen to my reasoning.
The Mercedes A45 AMG is too costly and more complicated than any piece of tech you have ever used before! The Hyundai i30 N is a good car but it feels cheap and boring. The Abarth 595 is fun but the driving position and ride will hurt your back, I can go on and on about the other hot hatches as well. The GTI is none of these things and I mean that in the best possible way!
I am not going to harp on about the history of the GTI but I will instead briefly tell you why it is the car that I would have over the countless other hot hatches out there and why you should consider it as well!
The GTI is one of those controversial cars in the enthusiast world because those who have not owned one will tell you that is slow and only owned by soccer moms or the children of rich folks. They are partially right but the GTI enthusiasts among them will tell you that there is no substitute and after 9 months with one, I cannot dispute their claim.
Firstly, being the original hot hatch means that the GTI badge has some serious heritage behind it. That recipe of taking the bog standard family hatch and changing the vital parts to make it sporty is what Volkswagen still do with the GTI and it still works! Some of the cool gimmicks that come with the heritage include red striping on the grille and of course, the tartan pattern seats. The car shares the body and some parts of the interior with the regular Mark 6 Golf but apart from that, you can see where the money has been spent.
The GTI gets different bumpers, a lip spoiler, new lights, new wheels and twin exhaust pipes to make it visually different to the regular car. The GTI also gets a different engine, sports suspension, better brakes and a smart traction control system to give you all the performance you will need from your hot hatch and the ability to use it as well.
In terms of comfort, the classic tartan pattern seats are firm but comfortable enough for a long road trip. They keep you in place and you won’t need to book an appointment with a chiropractor afterwards, there’s a perfect balance to it. The suspension is firm but not jarringly hard and it is tolerable on rougher roads as well. Additionally, you can have the ‘Dynamic Chassis Control’ or ‘DCC’ package if you want to switch between comfort, normal and sport. It doesn’t really make much of a difference but at least your mind is tricked into thinking it does, that’s got to count for something, right?! There is plenty of room at the rear for 2 adults to sit comfortably and plenty of storage for them, the boot is roomy as well! Visibility all round is excellent, you can see out the back and the mirrors are practical. Everything is easy to reach and well labelled, it isn’t needlessly complicated.
I know I sound like an old man but good hot hatches can still come without all the electronically adjustable bits. The Mark 6 GTI feels like an old-school hot hatch despite only being 8 years old, modern tech makes it seem ancient. It even has analogue dials and the ‘infotainment’ system is just for the radio and Bluetooth. Ah simplicity, where did you go..
That’s the boring stuff dealt with, how about that hot hatch heritage? The GTI sits slightly lower than a standard Golf and that certainly shows when you are cornering at speed because this thing is just a hoot to drive. The engine makes a bit of noise and some of that is piped directly into the cabin to make it seem authentic, none of that fake exhaust noise here. If you want more noise then you can either put your foot down hard or put the transmission into sport mode because that makes everything louder. You can hear the turbo spooling up and all that good stuff. It is just excellent and you will get up to law breaking speeds quickly but fear not because the brakes are strong enough to get you out of trouble just as quickly.
I do regret my decision to buy a Golf GTI because it is still the best hot hatch you can have. It is relatively affordable, uncomplicated, well built and quick despite what the naysayers claim. Additionally, you can step out of it wearing a suit and you won’t look like an idiot. Volkswagen have once again nailed that balance of sophisticated and sporty.
Above all, the Volkswagen Golf GTI makes everything else seem like a compromise.
Thanks for reading!
All opinions in this piece are my own.