WHEN driving a performance car, do you really want to garner attention?
Most often it's best to be able to slip under the radar (of all persuasions).
That is where the Volkswagen Golf GTI comes to the fore. Apart from some a few extra sporting touches which make it the catwalk leader among its siblings, the GTI remains, in essence, a Golf.
Although pilot it around for a short period and you quickly find there is nothing pedestrian about this hot hatch.
Spend some time in a Golf, and it's simple to see why they have forged an enviable reputation.
It's a pleasure to drive with plaudits for ease of use and functionality.
One of the key operational tests is pairing your phone via Bluetooth. The Golf managed the task in about a minute.
The touch-screen has sensors which detect hands and when your fingers approach, various menu options become available at the bottom of the screen.
At night, slick GTI red ambient lighting features across the doors. Our test machine didn't have the trademark tartan-clad pews, but rather the $3150 leather trim along with the $1850 sunroof. The leather is a particularly worthwhile investment and really raises the interior tone which is somewhat basic. Graphics on the touch-screen look simplistic, and the overall black colour scheme across the dash lacks personality although improved by the sports steering wheel and athletic extras.
On the road
Living with a performance car can be a chore. Rapid acceleration, firm ride…while they might be fun on a winding road the daily experience can cloud ownership.
Not the Volkswagen Golf GTI. It is the perfect accomplice for varying conditions, yet when it's time to unleash the beast, let the fun begin.
All 162 kilowatts from the 2.0-litre turbocharged engine hammer through the front wheels, aided by a limited slip differential that has a flash torque vectoring function. It works outstandingly well and the GTI hammers and finds traction like no front-wheeler should.
There are a selection of driving modes, including Sport which stiffens the ride and delivers rapid gear changes and quicker acceleration response.
Most would find Sport too firm for regularly driving, but it is a whole lot of fun and really enables the driver to attack curves with confidence and speed by flattening the hatch's stance.
There are some lovely little pops from the exhaust when changing cogs under power and the steering feedback is spot-on. It generates a wonderfully controllable feeling.
What do you get?
Standard equipment includes sat nav, 18-inch alloys, sports leather-trimmed steering wheel, the trademark tartan seats, red ambience lighting and a 14.7cm colour multi-function touch-screen display, seven airbags, anti-lock-brakes, traction and stability control, along with a system which monitors steering control and alerts you if you are fatigued.
We tested the optional $1300 safety package which incorporates radar cruise control. For anyone travelling in highway traffic regularly it's a brilliant feature, and there is also a functionality which automatically applies the brakes after an accident and stops the vehicle for being involved in a secondary crash.
There are a bevy of hot hatches now getting around, including the Ford Focus ST ($38,290), Mercedes-Benz A250 Sport ($49,900), Subaru WRX ($39,990) and Renault Megane RS265 Trophy ($47,140).
Despite being a hot hatch and sipping the more expensive premium unleaded, there isn't too much pain at the pump. We achieved about seven litres for every 100km with some spirited driving. Using Eco mode on the highway helps drive your fuel dollar further. Capped price servicing is a boon, although insurance could be hefty depending on your company.
For a small car, the Golf punches above its weight. Four adults can be housed with solid knee and legroom, while head room is also enviable as it doesn't have the steeply tapered roofline featured on many other modern-day offerings.
There is a pair of large cup holders in the centre console and in the back fold-down armrest, along with bottle holders in each door.
With dual pipes out the back and striking 18-inch alloys, the GTI stands proud of its sporting credentials. Although it doesn't have the gorgeous proportions of its Sirocco sibling, and, badges aside, some punters could hardly tell the difference between the GTI and your run-of-the-mill Golf with a nice set of rims.
Model: Volkswagen Golf GTI.
Details: Five-door front-wheel drive performance hatchback.
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder generating maximum power of 162kW @ 4500-6200rpm and peak torque of 350Nm @ 1500-4400rpm.
Transmissions: Six-speed manual or six-speed DSG automatic.
Consumption: 6.2 litres/100km (manual, combine average), 6.6L/100km (a).
CO2: 144g/km; 153g/km.
Performance: 0-100kmh in 6.5 seconds.
Bottom line plus on-roads: $41,490 (manual), $43,990 (auto, as tested).