The Golf GTI’s a different and more versatile animal: it’s set up to be bearable on an everyday basis, more user-friendly for commuting and comfortable for long-distance travelling. It’s also stable, confidence-inspiring and predictable to drive, with no nasty surprises or sudden reminders of your own incompetence.
But don’t make the mistake of thinking that this thing is soft: it’ll still do 0-62mph in 6.9 seconds and 149mph, for a start. And while there have been more powerful Golfs in the past, this new 2.0-litre TSI engine (207bhp) deploys its force more convincingly – the 206lb-ft of maximum torque is available right across a wide rev range from 1,700rpm and 5,200rpm, ensuring near-endless reserves and no sudden peaks or running out of puff.
The DSG gearbox – here, a six-speed unit – is as impressive as usual. In normal ‘D’ mode it cruises along happily like a conventional auto, but in ‘S’ mode it sharpens up to allow a much higher rev limit before upshifts and super-quick, intuitive downshifts, and is almost never caught out hunting for the right ratio.
The optional Adaptive Chassis Control (ACC) system allows further customisation, giving the driver the chance to select normal, comfort and sport modes for the suspension damping and power steering assistance, and to top it all off, there’s an optional ‘sound module’ that modulates and amplifies the exhaust sound at certain rev- and shift-points to create an exceedingly pleasing roar and pop-pop on speedy downshifts. This GTI is nothing if not adaptable.