The improved Volkswagen Golf GTD might well be an even more complete car than the legendary Golf GTI. Jonathan Crouch takes a look.
Ten Second Review
There's something wholly satisfying about a powerful diesel engine in a smallish car and nothing really does that formula a whole lot better than Volkswagen's Golf GTD. It features GTI-type styling, tidy handling and a gutsy 184PS diesel engine under the bonnet. Yet it can still average nearly 65mpg. Here's the lightly restyled improved version.
With the Golf Mk 7, Volkswagen has really upped its game when it comes to sporty diesels. Take this one, the 184PS Golf GTD. Is it really a better buy than the iconic Golf GTI hot hatch? The appeal of that legendary variant is certainly under threat from this black pump derivative. Yes, we know that the GTI has a whole welter of history on its side but let's shelve that for a minute. If asked to choose between a GTI and a GTD to run for a year, we'd be willing to place money on the fact that most people would plump for the diesel car.
It's a vehicle that seems better attuned to the times - even more so now that Volkswagen has given it a slightly sharper look, both inside and out, and added in some extra media connectivity to bring the technology up to date. Think of this as a GTI for those who want more torque and lower fuel bills. It comes as a three or five-door hatch - or as a spacious estate.
The engine's a bit of a star here. Volkswagen diesels haven't always been at the top of the tree when it comes to flexibility and refinement. Yes, they've always made decent power and torque but the 184PS engine fitted to the Golf GTD really lifts it into the top league of diesel engine technology. It's refined at idle and makes a pleasant thrum under load. It doesn't feature the clever Active Cylinder Technology of some of the other diesel engines in Volkswagen's line up but that's about the only complaint you could level at it.
It doesn't want for torque, that's for certain. The MK6 generation GTD's 350Nm of torque wasn't bad, but this model's engine puts out 380Nm at just 1,750rpm, and when deployed it'll get the Golf to 62mph from stationary in just 7.5 seconds. With a top speed of 143mph, it's not about to be found wanting on anything but the most ruthless section of derestricted autobahn either.
Design and Build
The Golf GTD is virtually identical to the GTI from the outside, coming as standard with smoked LED rear lights with LED licence plate illumination, LED daytime running lights, chrome dual tailpipes, 18-inch 'Nogaro' alloy wheels with 225/40 tyres, side skirts, a rear diffuser, sports suspension and a large roof spoiler.
As for the changes made to this revised model, the first thing you'll notice is probably its slightly sleeker front end. There are full-LED headlamps and the air intakes at either corner of the front bumper have been restyled too. The jewel-like LED tail lamps have been revised too, with smart animated flowing indicators. Otherwise, things are much as before - which means that there's a choice between three or five-door hatch bodystyles or an estate, all of which sit on the Volkswagen Group's light, stiff and very sophisticated MQB chassis.
There's no doubt that this is a seriously good looking car these days. Some of the detailing is quite exquisite, especially inside where the flat-bottomed steering wheel is a delight, with a circular hub and a deep dish with audio, telephone and cruise control buttons mounted on two of its three spokes.
The boot measures a hefty 380-litres, is well shaped and features a low loading height. That's the same as you can expect from all Golf hatchbacks, even though this one has the more sophisticated multilink rear suspension that its cheaper stablemates lack. If you need more space, then there's also an estate version with a vast 605-litre boot.
Market and Model
Prices start at just over £27,500 for the three-door, six-speed manual model. There is a premium of around £600 premium for the five-door version or a premium of around £1,700 for the estate bodystyle. If you want DSG auto transmission, it'll be around £1,400 more. Buyers will be offered a more frugal 'Blueline' version of the 2.0 TDI engine at no extra cost.
GTD customers get tartan sports seats, a black roof lining, a gorgeous sports steering wheel and a stainless steel pedal set. There's also a GTD-specific gear lever, trim strips and instrument cluster. Other features include progressive steering, white ambience lighting, 'Climatronic' climate control, front and rear parking sensors and a winter pack.
A key change with this revised model lies with media connectivity. Previously, GTD customers had the choice of 6.5 or 8-inch screens, depending on the options chosen. Now, these have been replaced by more sophisticated 8 and 9.2-inch screens. As you'd expect, the biggest 'Discover Pro' monitor is the more sophisticated of the bunch, this being the first Volkswagen infotainment system to offer both touch and voice-command operation, with gesture control in addition to proximity sensors.
Cost of Ownership
This Golf is one of those cars that makes you scratch your head wondering how Volkswagen achieved that sort of economy with that sort of performance. Go for the 'Blueline' version of the 2.0 TDI 184PS engine and official figures suggest a return of 64.2mpg on the combined cycle and 116g/km of CO2 for the manual model and 61.4mpg and 122g/km for the DSG auto. For the standard engine, the figures are 61.4mpg and 122g/km for a manual model and 57.6mpg and 129g/km for a DSG auto. Those figures are for the three-door bodystyle. Go for the five-door or estate models and those returns will worsen fractionally.
So how has VW gone about achieving these efficiency returns? Well a big contributor is the relatively light weight of this car's MQB platform. Then there are sleek aerodynamics, low levels of internal friction in the engines and optimised gearing on not only the manual gearboxes but also the DSG twin clutch units. All new Golf models - both diesel and petrol - come with a Stop/Start system as standard, along with battery regeneration.
I'll nail my colours to the mast and profess to being a massive Volkswagen Golf GTI fan, but it's becoming increasingly hard to justify buying the petrol car over the diesel, iconic status notwithstanding. The Golf GTD is a different car though, not merely a GTI with lower running costs. The torquier engine gives it a very different feel and you'll drive it in a different way. Plus, unique to the GTD, there's even the more versatile estate bodystyle as an option.
Whatever bodyshape you prefer, it's refreshing to own a fast hatch or estate that can manage 60mpg on a good day yet which still has the chops to see off most other cars and can entertain on a cross country route. Plus the GTD is a car that just makes you feel good about your purchase. Just about the only demerit is its possibly rather anodyne personality, but that's probably a subjective thing. The Golf GTD represents a good heart/head balance. In fact it might be the best car that sensible money buys.