The Volkswagen Golf GTI Performance Performance is probably the first car that comes to mind every time the word hot hatch is uttered for all these years it been the perfect blend of sports car performance in a small package that is incredibly fun to drive and practical at the same time. It pretty much stood the test of time as many cars entered this segment and disappeared just as quickly. To think about it, apart from the Ford Focus ST and the more recent Renault Megane 265 and Honda Civic Type R there really hasn’t been a car that has actually stuck and even the Focus struggles against the might of the VW. So with a commitment to the electric cars for the future and the sham of DieselGate shadowing the regular cars that come with diesel powertrains from VW, can the Volkswagen Golf GTI Performance still reign supreme?
The undisputed king of hot hatches…
For 2020, safety gets a bump on the Golf GTI Performance as many optional driver aids come as standard on the car, however warranty is reduced but gets 2 years of extended free service. And since the 2020 Golf GTI Performance is round the corner, the updates on the last of the MKVII Golf GTI Performance are incremental.
The design of the Golf has remained largely unchanged for a long time now and this one is no different apart from a few hints of updates to keep it in line with the times, the overall silhouette of the car is the same and instantly recognizable and while some might call it out for having lazy designers, its hard to imagine the Golf in any other way. On the front, the headlamps get red accents that line the DRL’s and are carried forward onto the front grille which adds to the sporty character of the car and is signature of the Golf GTI Performance. The front bumper is also different to the standard car and gets faux intakes on either side to add to the aggressiveness of the car. On the rear, the car is the same as before and there are no apparent changes as such.
The interiors on any VW are as simple as they get and the GTI Performance follows suit however it pays tribute to its heritage while maintaining suit. The thing to remember the GTI Performance is the driver focused car of the Golf family and it is exceptionally good at that but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t offer features. It gets 12 way adjustable seats with leather upholstery and automatic dual zone climate control and offers decent space for the passengers. Now its not a very big car so the space isn’t going to be a lot, but its good enough and will do enough if you take it out touring with friends. The boot comes with great storage so its a great choice of car if you like going out on picnics often but want driving pleasure too.
The placement of the switches and handles and the steering and in general the ergonomics of the car are blast from the past, because they’re all exactly like they’ve always been on all the previous iterations of the Golf GTI Performance. The seats get this new trim that pays homage to the Mk1 Golf GTI Performance and is pretty good looking and a nice touch that is well appreciated as the future of the Golf gets uncertain with the preview of the iDR.3 that is supposed to lead Volkswagen into an all-electric future. The seats are sporty and snug but aren’t overtly hugging to make them too committed than one would like them to be. As you move up the ladder on the 3 trims that are on offer with the Golf GTI Performance — S, SE, Autobahn, and the price rises, VW gives the car good features for the premium they charge. The car gets LED lighting on the front and rear, fog lamps, a more aggressive bodykit, parking sensors on the front and rear, adaptive cruise control and heated front seats along with ambient lighting and a massive 12.3 inch digital instrument cluster with 8 inches of it dedicated for infotainment duties along with built in satellite navigation, Bluetooth and USB connectivity and Volkswagen’s online service suite. The display is also Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compliant.
The Volkswagen Golf GTI Performance is powered by a 2.0L turbocharged in-line 4 cylinder petrol engine that produces about 228 horses and 258lb-ft of peak torque, which are not mind boggling numbers but with the new approach that Volkswagen has taken, it appears that they’re not very concerned with the hot hatch status of the Golf GTI Performance anymore as they go for the greener route which is evident by the fact that competitors like the Focus ST and Megane 265 are punching more power than the once upon a time class leading GTI Performance. While even in the full performance mode, the engine pushes 242 brake horses but and while it closes the gap to the rivals then comes in the transmission. It gets a 7 speed DSG dual clutch gearbox option and a 6 speed manual as standard, while the manual is a better choice clearly if you’re an enthusiast, most people will opt for the DSG gearbox which is great if not the sharpest gearbox out there. The car lacks a decent Launch control though and the electronic aids also seem to be quite intrusive when pushing the car. The gearbox is smooth not to forget but the manual is simply the recommended choice for enthusiasts.
The Golf GTI Performance gets a GTI tuned suspension which is stiffer and lower than the standard car and it also gets a new stainless steel twin exhaust setup and something called an electronic locking front diff which add to the driving experience of the car. The Golf GTI Performance has always been a pleasurable car to drive and this one is pretty good too, but just not good enough, it simply lacks the front end bite that hot hatches are known for and even with that fancy e-diff at work, its not going to do any wonders if the car is simply not designed that way, the grip is good and the car grips harder and harder till it doesn’t, but its not that fun slip as it drifts away, but a progressive fade which simply diminishes the character of the car The VW Golf GTI used to be a great car but that time is long gone and the fancy new Golf GTI Performance simply lacks the character and prowess that its predecessors possessed. If you still really want one, the 3 door manual performance is the car to get, however you’ll be much better served for your driving pleasure in the Renault and even the Ford.