Golf GTI is perhaps not the fastest or the torquiest hot hatch in town. The Golf R could pitch in for that title. But the GTI is a strong contender for the most popular hot hatch in Dubai – or elsewhere in the region.

2L Direct Injection engine with TSI Turbo charger, 210 bhp, 280 Nm torque, 6-speed dual clutch gearbox DSG, Fuel efficiency: 8.1 km/L, Acceleration: 0-100 in under 8 seconds (including turbo delay)

There should be a reason. Like, at the end of my family drive, my wife asked me, “how much does your new weekend toy cost?” A question that clearly signaled that the GTI had not-so-quietly slipped into her “cars-to-check-out-when-I-change-mine” list. A rare privilege, I assure you.

So there ought to be something about the Golf GTI that prompted my temperamental car freak friend stick with it for a couple of years and my wife wanting to keep one in the family. In cracking that code lies the secret of this car’s cult status, despite the negative line that got this review off the ground.

UPSIDE: Useful features and pleasing legroom for a hot hatch, Sleek and black sporty character, Sounds like a sports car, Delights throughout the drive FLIPSIDE: Start turbo delay, 2013 model has a minor power hike

The Drive

The squatty stance and the relatively low roofline of the GTI gives the driver a great deal of stability while the very willing steering is game for even last millisecond change of plans. Push it around as much as you wish but give it the leeway to drop a point while handling sharp corners. The driver assist features are also some of the best in the category, from a full drive report on screen to automatic parallel parking assistance.

While the high-rev 210hp engine can give you a fast car feeling all the way during overtaking, the delay at the start is pronounced. But you will soon overlook it as the 280 Nm torque (available through 1700 – 5200 rpm) pushes you back to the seat once the car abandons its lazy crouch and slips into take off mode. As with the Golf R, the car would have lived up to its superior claim of 0 – 100 if not for that delayed take-off. It still does 0-100 comfortably in just over 8 seconds. The S mode is obviously the preferred shift language and the sport suspension compliments the adrenaline rich package. You can choose how stiff or smooth the ride is from comfort, normal and sport modes as the Adaptive Chassis Control (DCC) adjusting each damper separately to the road conditions. Actually, even the GTI’s comfort drive itself is too stiff for a normal hatch.

Sporty and safe: Electronic Stabilization Programme, Electronic differential lock XDS for more accurate corners with minimal understeer

The Design

The 2012 Golf GTI makes itself distinct from the previous model with subtle changes. The headlamps and tail lamps with their wider, sleeker styling are the telltale signs. The Detroit 18” alloys with the five spokes remain the same as in earlier models and so do the red calipers that give you a sneak view through the spokes. The red strips add identity and aggression to the narrow grille while the new air intake lower grilles are downright sporty. The three-letter cult symbol is proudly etched all over the cabin, from the seat backs to the door sills.

18” Detroit alloy wheels with black-edged spokes showing off the red brake callipers and the new sleeker head and rear lamps are sharp design touches of the GTI

Cabin and controls

The GTI has Vienna leather seats that are comfortably supportive with automatic controls on the driver’s side. The window and mirror controls are conveniently placed high upon the ascending door hand rest. For such a refined cabin, the door closure during the drive could’ve been automatic.

The multifunction display screen on the dash fed me with route guidance, phone status and other drive info. While the armrest is a comfortable feature, the space under the armrest is zilch. However, the side storage offers the silver lining.

Hugely supportive cockpit: Park Assist auto steering assistance, ParkPilot acoustic and visual signals, Rear Assist Reversing camera with guidelines.

Below the touch screen are a neat array of discreetly chosen buttons. The navigation as well as the rear camera with guidelines have evolved to be some of the exceptionally useful features in any Volkswagen cabin these days. But I found the rear cabin lights in the GTI a very thoughtful addition considering the general negligence to this need across the segment.

A vibrating noise in the wide console occasionally irritated me as I listened to the pleasurable engine sound. But then, with that snarling sweetness, you just can’t be bothered with any other sound in the GTI for too long!

The GTI cabin is just as comfortable as its ride is stiff - the ultimate combo indeed! Leather-clad steering comes with convenient paddles while the touch screen leaves the GTI console clutter-free.

Family Drive

The elegant décor inside the GTI suggest all the comfort you would expect of a family car. Neither the boot space nor the legroom leaves any space for complaint. So, if you can coax less adventurous partners about the throaty vroom that can nag their tympani till doomsday, and convince them that it is indeed the sound of reassurance, you could sneak the Golf GTI into your garage without further ado.

Now, how many other hot hatches can make space for our "mother of all prams"?

You can further win their trust with the comprehensive parking assistance that VW offers – from Park Pilot that guides with sound and visuals and Rear Assist that is nothing but a super-efficient camera with guidelines, to the ultimate Park Assist, that does the job by itself.

The ISOFIX baby seat can be quickly and easily slipped-on, and yes, for those who think it sheds more light on a comfortable drive, there is a sunroof.

The MK-6 GTI just couldn’t pass without a place on DriveME, with just a few months to spare before the new MK-7 generation of Golf takes over with its new look and an additional 7 brake horse power to show off.

The Essential GTI

The Golf GTI is perhaps the only sports car that can take the twists and turns of a sporty mind and the sober mandates of a family of five with equal ease. Well, if it isn’t the only one, it is definitely the most popular one on our roads. This Golf doesn’t bear anything more than the three letters GTI – a cult code etched for those who instantly recognize it as the car to carry out their familial tasks with the possibility of shedding that cloak at will, to shamelessly bare its taste for adventure on a track day!

Drive Courtesy: Audi Volkswagen Middle East
Pictures: Sudeep

Golf GTI 2012 Review: Cult is a three letter word! was last modified: December 27th, 2016 by Sudeep Koshy

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