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VW Golf GTI by Mark Walton Month 1 HELLO J Ups Fabulous build quality, lovely interior, serious speed Downs Will all that composure get boring after a while? RICHARD PARDON OURNALISTS LOVE anniversaries. They provide a reason for a story, giving it backbone, making it look credible, making it look like the journalist really knew what he was doing when he embarked on it, and the whole thing wasn’t just some tenuous idea, flung together at the last minute. Which is why I’m pleased to announce this year is the very significant 39th anniversary of the launch of the MkI Golf GTI, at the 1975 Frankfurt Motor Show. What better year to take on the new Mk7 Golf GTI, than this… the 39th? Hey, I’m not complaining. Though I liked and admired our outgoing Ford Kuga, I’m feeling rather smug about my new daily drive: jumping out of an SUV, the new Golf immediately feels low, compact, sharp and fast. I feel like I’m driving a racing car every day. The spec of our new arrival is the unofficial ‘Enthusiast’s Choice’: it’s the got the £995 Performance Pack (which means bigger brakes, an electro-mechanical limited slip diff, and 10bhp over the standard GTI); it has the £815 Adaptive Chassis Control (giving it three suspension settings, Comfort, Normal and Sport); the sensational-looking Santiago 19-inch alloys (a £985 option); the sat-nav upgrade with an eight-inch touchscreen (£1765); a hi-fi upgrade (£530); and the keyless entry and starter button (£355). Add all that to the standard-fit sports suspension (15mm lower than bog standard spec); the six-speed manual gearbox (rather than the optional DSG); and the ‘Jacara Red’ tartan seats (classic touch), and you’ve got the absolute state-of-the-art Golf GTI for the year 2014. Add in a couple of other options (bi-xenon headlights, heated front seats and heated washers all come as part of the £355 winter pack) and the standard on-the-road price of £26,780 is swelled to £32,580. That makes it significantly more than the (more powerful) Focus ST we ran last year, but you don’t have to drive the Golf GTI far to realise its appeal is about much more than its 227bhp. It’s not news that the Golf is beautifully put together, but still, all I can say is it hits you forcefully when you first get acquainted – everything your hand touches, from the fat-rimmed steering wheel to the heater controls to the door handles, everything feels microscopically engineered and perfectly detailed. Regular readers will know I got pretty fed-up with the Ford’s in-car entertainment and sat-nav system – stepping into the GTI felt like I’d fast-forwarded through time. It’s slick, modern, with a big screen, nice graphics, and great usability. On the road the Golf certainly isn’t a rip-roaring drive like a hot Renault Megane or (if you like torque steer) the Focus ST: the Golf, by comparison, is permanently and unshakeably ‘composed’ – steady, dependable, fast certainly, but not lairy. I’m still exploring the limits of that clever electro-mechanical front diff, but I have a feeling there is no ‘inner demon’ waiting to be unleashed: it just grips and goes, with very little drama and lots of speed. Will I find it a little too composed over time? Will I yearn for a more playful chassis? More worryingly, will the Golf prove big enough for my baby-buggy-and-car-seat family needs? I’ll be making the most of this special anniversary year to find out. LOGBOOK VW GOLF GTI Price £27,775 (inc Performance Pack) As tested £32,580 Miles this month 1051 Total miles 1415 Our mpg 28.0 Official mpg 47.1 Costs None Fuel this month £222.04 You get sick of hearing how well built Golfs are, and then you get inside one and, darn it, it’s all true Follow me on Twitter @markwalton_ MAY 2014 I CARMAGAZINE.CO.UK 131

622 CAR May 2014

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