There are numerous versions of the Volkswagen Golf GTI. Some are on sale in South Africa already, while others are due soon. Which one should you buy?
The Volkswagen Golf GTI is no longer the stripped-down hot hatch it once was. There are now many options and derivatives, and buyers are spoilt for choice. The Volkswagen Golf GTI is a perennial bestseller and there are several reasons for that: it’s practical, luxurious and can put an instant smile on your face thanks to its great performance/handling balance. With so many versions of the Volkswagen Golf GTI in the mix, which one makes the most sense?
Volkswagen Golf GTI
Price: R433 600 (Manual) and R449 600 (DSG)
It's the favourite of hot hatch aficionados and yuppies alike. Did you know that the vast majority of Volkswagen Golf GTIs are sold with the fast-changing DSG transmission? While a manual would arguably provide more hands-on involvement and driver enjoyment, you simply cannot fault how efficient and brutally fast the automatic version's twin-clutch setup is. Can it change gears faster than a human? Of course it can and this is a good reason why you should spec a DSG-equipped Golf GTI. In terms of outputs, this Volkswagen Golf GTI produces 162 kW and 350 Nm, which is a little less than its rivals, but as sales statistics show, outright performance is not the be all and end all. It won Best Premium Hatchback in the inaugural Cars.co.za Consumer Awards.
Volkswagen Golf GTI Performance Pack (DSG only)
Price: R469 600 (DSG)
With a little more grunt (this version's peak power output is 169 kW), the Volkswagen Golf GTI Performance Pack is a bit more driver-focused than the standard Golf GTI DSG. The additional specification in this model includes Adaptive Chassis Control (normally an R11k option), an electronic front differential that aids the vehicle’s handling in a performance environment and, to distinguish it from lesser models, subtle red GTI badging. The vehicle pictured here had 19-inch Santiago wheels fitted as an option. For R7 900, they’re a bargain.
Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport
Price: To be confirmed, launches in SA June/July 2016
To bridge the gap between the Golf GTI and the range-topping Golf R (as well as to celebrate 40 years of the GTI), Volkswagen has created the Golf GTI Clubsport. From the outside it looks very sporty and there’ll be no mistaking the Clubsport for anything else. It is also powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder motor, but in this state of tune it delivers 195 kW and 350 Nm. It has an overboost function too, which will push the engine outputs to 213 kW and 380 Nm in 10-second bursts. You can choose either a manual gearbox or a DSG transmission, and the Clubsport will hit 100 kph from zero in 6 seconds dead, which is half a second faster than the Performance Pack can. Given where it sits in the hierarchy, we’d estimate that it will cost around R500 000.
UPDATE: We're receiving info on pricing and while it's not 100% set in stone, it gives an idea of where the Golf GTI ClubSport sits in the family. Dealers have been told that R499 000 before options is an indicative pricing for this model, and at this stage, the South African market will be getting the five-door version only.
Volkswagen Golf R (Manual and DSG)
Price: R537 400 (Manual) and R553 400 (DSG)
For those who want some bang-for-buck performance, look no further than the Volkswagen Golf R. While it may be the most expensive performance variant of the Golf GTI, its bang-for-buck performance factor can be attributed to how well it keeps pace with more powerful and more expensive machinery. The secret to its success? Thanks to a highly-tuned version of the 2.0-litre turbo engine, it pushes out 206 kW and 380 Nm. Thanks to our fuel quality and South Africa conditions, this engine has had to be detuned (in Europe, it produces 221 kW). A combination of DSG and 4Motion all-wheel drive gives the Volkswagen Golf R a 0-100 kph time of 4.9 sec. The manual is fractionally slower (5.1 sec) and both models have a limited top speed of 250kph.
How fast is the Volkswagen Golf R? Watch it take on the iconic Subaru WRX STI in a drag race:
Can't afford a new Volkswagen Golf GTI? How about a Volkswagen Polo GTI then? See how it stacks up against an older Golf GTI:
Summary and conclusion
For between R430 000 and R550 000 there are many Volkswagen Golf GTIs to choose from and for those who want all-wheel drive ability, there is the Golf R. Power outputs range from 162 kW and goes all the way up to 206 kW. When the Golf R400 arrives, it's going to pose a real challenge to the rampant Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG. Suffice to say there's a performance Volkswagen Golf to suit all tastes and most budgets. However, at this stage, it's really hard to not recommend the Golf GTI Performance Pack as it really does the performance/luxury balance so well and, crucially, for less than R500 000. Depending on its asking price when it arrives in South Africa, the Golf GTI Clubsport should be worth the wait, but stock availability might be a problem.
Any views or opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not represent those of Cars.co.za or its editorial content team.