Volkswagen Golfs are not known for their extravagant styling – evolution, not revolution is the German manufacturer’s watchword when it comes to their big-selling hatch – and the ‘hot’ GTD is no exception. This is a car which doesn’t shout about its extra performance, like the Renaultsport Megane or Ford Focus ST, more it exudes a slight sense of menace. The lowered suspension, beefier valances and sideskirts all point toward this car’s potency, while the twin exhausts and subtle boot spoiler also hint at the GTD’s potential. While some may find these additions a little too subtle, we rather like them, especially the silvery grey line which runs across the black honeycomb grille and into the bi-xenon headlamp clusters. Overall, this is a handsome and subtly stylish machine.
This latest generation of Volkswagen Golf has benefitted from a much-improved interior and the GTD takes this and improves it even further. It just oozes class and sophistication in there. The little details like the white LED ‘mood’ lighting make it feel fresh and modern, while the dash is clearly laid out and the touchscreen infotainment system works brilliantly. Any sporting Golf would not be complete without some sort of nod to the car’s heritage, though, and the GTD does not disappoint. The tartan cloth seat coverings and Golf-ball gearknob, which hark back to the original Golf GTI, provide the perfect contrast to the clean modernism found elsewhere in the cabin.
In this area, the GTD is just as good as the standard Golf. If you go for the five-door model then there’s almost no penalty to be paid. The only mild hindrance would be the slightly chunkier front sports seats which impinge (very) slightly on rear legroom. Visibility remains clear, while the boot is unchanged at 380 litres with the rear seats up and 1,270 with the back seats folded flat. Both of these make for a bigger boot than either of its two main rivals, the Renaultsport Megane and the Ford Focus ST. The biggest rival the GTD has in terms of practicality is from its cousin, the diesel version of the Skoda Octavia vRS, which obliterates the Golf in terms of space available.
Ride and handling
This could be the GTD’s biggest strength and greatest weakness all rolled into one. It’s all just so… composed. It has immense amounts of grip and the steering is direct and sharp, if lacking a little in feel. Body control is taught as well, and yet it rides with complete tranquillity – never feeling ruffled no matter what state the surface is in. The six-speed manual gearbox is an utter joy to use, too. The trouble is that none of this translates into the level of fun you get from other hot hatches. Overcook it slightly into a corner and it just understeers a bit to tell you to stop taking the Mickey. All-in-all, the GTD exudes an air of maturity that perhaps its rivals from Ford and Renault don’t have – the Focus ST and Megane 265 Renaultsport are both far more suited to back-road hooning or track use than the Golf. However, if you want a sensible family hatch that’s also fast and economical, then you can’t go wrong with the GTD.
There’s no denying that the GTD is quick. The 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel feels every bit as strong as its quoted 181bhp and 258lb/ft of torque suggests. Fitted with either the six-speed manual transmission, or the six-speed twin-clutch ‘box, it’ll get from 0-62mph in 7.5 seconds and on to a top speed of 143mph, which is plenty quick enough for most tastes. It’s the surge of torque from 2,500rpm all the way up to the red-line that really gets you, though, the delivery feeling both muscle-bound and surprisingly free-revving at the same time. This engine really is a gem – it doesn’t even sound like a diesel – the noise it makes through the twin-exhausts is a discreetly menacing burble, while there’s a faint hint of a turbocharged whoosh in there as well.
Despite the GTD’s performance bias, the car’s running costs are fairly similar to what you’d expect from a standard diesel-powered family hatch. Fitted with the manual ’box, it’ll return 67.3mpg on the combined cycle and its CO2 emissions are just 109g/km, putting it in impressively low bandings for VED and company car tax. Insurance will cost a little bit more but it’s nothing catastrophic and, being a Golf, depreciation is likely to be less dramatic than most of its main rivals, too.
This car is still far too new for any relevant reliability data to exist but Volkswagen has a good reputation for reliability and, Warranty Direct’s Reliabilityindex.com rates the marque as ‘good’ and is in and around the top half of manufacturers tested.
There’s no specific safety information for the GTD but Euro NCAP rates the standard Golf as a five-star car. It scores 94% for adult occupant protection and an impressive 89% for child occupant protection. The crash-testing authority said that the car provides good protection for front, side and rear-impact tests but also pointed out that the more sever side pole test, that it only provided marginal protection for the chest. The Golf also scored maximum points for its protection of a three year-old child. It also comes with loads of airbags and active head restraints to help with whiplash.
The Golf GTD comes pretty well equipped – but then you’d expect as much, given what it costs to buy. This is not a cheap car. You get active cruise control, air-con, Bluetooth connectivity, bi-xenon headlights and LED rear lights. The Composition Media system, which features CD/MP3 playback, eight speakers and DAB radio is standard. The only major disappointment is that the excellent satellite navigation is not standard – you have to tick the Discover Navigation system option box to benefit from that and, with our winters, we’d advise choosing the Winter Pack which gives you heated front seats, heated windscreen washer jets and a washer fluid warning light.
The Volkswagen Golf GTD is a car that makes a great deal of sense in so many ways. It’s handsome, fast, nice to drive and yet somehow manages to be incredibly economical. It truly is the jack-of-all-trades. There’s only one problem, however and that is that it doesn’t inspire or excite like other hot hatches do. That said, everything it does it does with polish, composure and class. If you want something that’s quick but sensible, then this is the car for you.