ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday April 13, 2008
Vol. 42 - No 46

Hot hatchback

Boy Toys by Ding

Last week, we looked at a midsized family hatchback, which was made by the Italians. This week, we're just crossing over to Germany. We're looking at what Hugh Grant is to romantic comedies. We're looking at a descendant of one the best hot hatches there ever was. The Golf GTi.

The Golf GTi first came out in June 1976. Then, it had a 1.6-litre normally aspirated engine, with front wheel drive, and that was kind of it. To date, it is seen as a pioneer in the pocket-rocket movement. It delivered staggering amounts of fun through a combination of brilliant handling dynamics and performance levels which people could only dream of for hatches at the time.

We're looking at the new Golf GTi. Like the first, this is front wheel drive. But the similarities end there. It has a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine delivering 200bhp, has a six-speed transmission, and is packed with driver aids and other electronics. Plus it has five doors.

The turbocharger kicks in at around 3000RPM, and takes it to a redline of 6500RPM. And up until 6000 revs, there is a constant wave of power pushing you forward which results in head-snapping acceleration. It feels much much faster than the sub-8 second 0-100kmh time it has.

Dual-zone climate control, 6-CD in-dash MP3 player, Electronic Stability Programmes, Xenon headlamps, automatic windshield wipers, automatic lights and sport seats are all part of a long spec list. But who buys a GTi for the spec? You buy it to thrash it. You buy it for fun.

And that the GTi delivers. Not in a scary way that an old Lancer Evo does, but in a loving caring way which gently tells you "Faster! Faster!" It's an extremely easy car to drive, and an absolute joy to drive. It doesn't blow up in your face like an Evo, it doesn't catch you off guard like some rear drive maniac, and it doesn't have a deep desire to kill you. It has heaps and heaps of fun, and it wants you to enjoy it till you literally run out of juice.

And all these are wrapped up in a package you can ogle over for ages. The GTI is 15mm lower than the standard Golf. It also rides on massive 17-inch wheels which are wrapped in low profile tyres. There are subtle hints around the car which indicates the sporty nature of it. And for those who miss the hints, there are badges marked with "GTi" everywhere: on the front grill, on the steering wheel even on the door-steps.

It's not a perfect car. The front seats get a bit stiff and uncomfortable, and the sport suspension at times offers a bumpy ride, which is made worse by the excellent quality of Sri Lankan roads. The car is immensely expensive. Due to our ingenious (note the sarcasm) tax system (which is designed to feed the poor. All 225 of them), it comes to a whopping 8.5 million, and then you need to add VAT to that. But that's not the Germans' fault now is it? Remember these numbers next time you vote.

Got the cash to get this? Buy one. Call me if you want a driver. Trivia: In May 2007, Volkswagen fixed a 6.0-litre turbocharged W12 engine from then VW owned luxury automaker Bentley, to a Golf GTI body purely as an experiment. This little baby had 650bhp and 530lb-ft under the skin, and managed to drive (fly?) to a top speed of over 200MPH. it was pretty much a stock GTi body, with heavily worked-on underpinnings. So if you're doubting the sporting intentions of the GTI marque, don't.

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