Volkswagen Golf GTI MK8 review – the quintessential hot hatchback, but is it the best?
The eighth VW Golf GTI is a potent and engaging hatchback, but isn’t the indomitable package it once was
There have been great Volkswagen Golf GTIs and lacklustre ones; some indifferent generations and others that have upheld the dynasty to become icons in their own right. One thing’s for certain, everybody has a favourite.
A healthy GTI is emphatically a positive thing for performance cars as a genre, and off the back of the previous-gen Mk7.5 – a very strong generation – hopes are high for the tech-forward Mk8. New for the 8 is a consistent GTI and GTI Clubsport hierarchy, the latter pairing a more potent version of the same EA888 engine to a bespoke chassis tune and styling.
Yet despite the new look, much is shared underneath with the 7.5 – apparently sharpened, stiffened, and with more attention paid to the details. But there’s a caveat. The Mk8 Golf, so far, has been riddled with software issues, and while the lack of development beyond the 7.5 is advantageous when it comes to the bits we liked, it’s not so great in other ways.
Volkswagen Golf GTI: in detail
- > Engine and gearbox and technical highlights – A 242bhp figure is merely warm in 2022, but a slick DSG and eLSD make the most of those horses
- > Performance and 0-60 time – A strong, broad torque curve helps, with good performance on paper and on the road
- > Ride and handling – Agile and balanced; adaptive dampers have an impressive range
- > MPG and running costs – On-paper MPG figures are good, and you’ll easily match them on longer runs
- > Interior and tech – This is where things start to go wrong; at least the driving position’s good
- > Design – a familiar silhouette with slick lighting and complex detailing
Prices, specs and rivals
The basic Mk8 Golf GTI starts from £36,185, a reassuringly expensive price point in comparison to most rivals, despite having a distinctly lower power figure. That’s for the six-speed manual, the seven-speed dual-clutch being an extra £1520, bringing the base total to £37,705.
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Don’t be mistaken for thinking that it comes fully loaded with kit, though, as standard equipment is average at best. Metallic paints cost anywhere from £685 to £1140, the less expensive of the two 19-inch wheel options are an extra £785, while adaptive dampers will set you back an extra £840. The standard seats are a decent set of buckets finished in a modern take on the classic GTI tartan, but leather will cost a whopping £2380 extra, while heated seats can only be specified as bundled into one of two winter packs at a minimum of £300.
The GTI Clubsport is even more expensive, with its basic price starting at £40,005 with a standard DSG ’box. None of the options mentioned above are thrown in, though, not even the larger 19-inch wheels. Specific to the Clubsport is an optional £3675 Performance Pack, which bundles a different set of 19-inch wheels (those as previously found on the 45 Edition), 166mph top speed upgrade and Akrapovic exhaust system.
Rivals significantly undercut the GTI on price, with the Focus ST available from £34,385 (although factory orders have been halted due to supply chain constraints). Cupra’s 296bhp Leon (equivalent to the Clubsport, rather than the base GTI) is pricier, starting at £37,130, with the top-spec VZ3 slightly more expensive than the Clubsport at £40,485.
Of course, until the new Honda Civic Type R arrives, the best hot hatchback in this size bracket is the staggeringly good Hyundai i30 N. It’s fully loaded with kit, so there are few options to consider aside from a tasty set of bucket seats and metallic paint, but even so it massively undercuts the Golf with a £34,095 base price for the manual, with the bespoke dual-clutch coming in at £36,070 – £1635 less than a base GTI DSG.
Now GTIs have always been reassuringly priced just above most rivals, but in this case it is more than a bit – and as we’ll get into later, the new GTI doesn’t feel worth the money it generally always has.