The Golf has been a staple of VW for many years. It’s in its 8th generation, and from what we know from some of our passionate followers, they love their Golf. The most noticeable model is the GTI, which sits nicely in the middle with a nice balance of trim, spec, power, and cost. The GTI is one of those cars that you know will be fun to drive, and it can do that without breaking the bank. 

I have always enjoyed driving the GTI’s, so it was great for DriveLife to get this opportunity. So just as Wellington was coming out of the latest level 4 lockdown, I spent a week in the 2021 Volkswagen Golf GTi.

What’s In The 2021 Volkswagen Golf GTi Range?

There are two variants of the Golf, and one variant of the Golf GTI available in New Zealand. The entry-level model is the TSI Life, which starts at $38,990. The next variant is the TSi R-Line which starts at $47,990. From here the next step up is the GTI, which starts from $61,990 

The GTI is powered by the 2.0L inline 4-cylinder turbo petrol engine that creates 180kW of power and 370Nm of torque. This enables the Golf to get to 100km/h in 5.6 seconds. Paired with the 7-speed DSG gearbox, VW advertise that the Golf will get 6.9 l/100km in combined fuel consumption.

The GTI comes standard with a large array of features which include: electronic stability programme (ESP), electromechanical differential lock (e-LSD), anti-slip regulation (ASR)

trailer stabilisation, driver and front passenger front airbags, side and curtain airbags (front and rear), anti-theft ‘Plus’ alarm system, proactive occupant protection system, front assist incl. city emergency braking and forward-collision warning, pedestrian & cyclist monitoring, adaptive cruise control (ACC) with travel assist and emergency assist, ‘Lane Assist’ (lane-keeping system), rear cross-traffic alert, tyre pressure loss indicator, electromechanical parking brake with auto-hold function, rearview camera, park distance control (front and rear parking sensors), progressive steering, LED plus headlights, exterior ambient lighting, LED tail lamps, GTI exclusive exterior, privacy glass, smart key – push-button start and keyless entry, climatronic 3-zone automatic air conditioning system, leather-covered multifunction sports GTI steering wheel with gearshift paddles, black metal chrome decorative inserts (dashboard & front door trims), black headliner, variable boot floor with bag hooks in luggage compartment, ‘Jacara Red’ fabric sports front seats and discover media navigation infotainment system:

There are very few additional options to choose from, these include matrix LED headlights, panoramic sliding/tilting sunroof, GTI ‘Vienna’ leather package, 19” Adelaide alloy wheels and a Harman/Kardon premium sound system. Our review car was not spec’d with any of these options.

For a full list of specs and options available for the Volkswagen Golf GTI, jump on over to the VW New Zealand website

First Impressions Of The 2021 Volkswagen Golf GTi 

First impressions of the new Golf GTI are good; it’s clean, sharp and sporty. It instantly feels like one of those cars that look like they are sporty while standing still. I loved the style of the 18” Richmond alloy wheels, which really complement the sporty nature of the GTI. The colour looked great too, Dolphin Grey Metallic, which is not my favourite colour but it really looked great. The grille’s redline GTI flourish had a nice punch to it, thanks to the grey.

The Golf has come a long way over the years, where it was once an iconic shape and symbol of the entry-level European vehicles, now it looks like it’s pushing up to the lofty heights of the major European brands, and doing a great job of it too.

But that’s enough dribbling, its time to jump in and get this show on the road.

What’s The Interior Like In The 2021 Volkswagen Golf GTi ?

Inside the Golf, it feels more like an Audi than a VW, nice materials and minimalist styling makes the cabin feel ultra-modern. Twin digital screens also help remove a lot of buttons from the dash. The screens are fully customisable, in layout and colour, letting you really make this GTI your own.

The biggest change is the centre console and driver’s display; much like Mercedes-Benz they have opted for two large LCD displays, that really lift the modern feel of the cabin and vehicle. The display is clearly separate from the centre console focusing on general vehicle features and settings, while the driver’s display is the business end of things, more like a computer game than a driver gauge display, which looks great. Across both of these, you are able to configure the colour and tone of the display, picking from multiple colours to be displayed. 

The driver’s display has a range of views, from single dials, normal dials, sporty futuristic dials and a nearly all-black minimalist display. The sporty one was the one for me, with a power and g-force gauge on either side of a larger RPM gauge. I know the g-force and power are somewhat pointless gauges, but they are cool, and the child within me liked them. 

The centre console was a bit like a sideways phone or tablet with a large selection of apps and a home button on the side. From here you can access the phone, media, navigation, vehicle settings, sound and help. Under the screen, there is a selection of touch/slide sensitive buttons. I found these hard to use, as you tend to try to use them when driving. Unlike a volume dial that you don’t need to look at to use, these touch/slides do need to be looked at and focused on to see how much they move or if you have the right button. After a few attempts I stopped using them and reverted to the steering wheel. But the aircon temp is there so I had to use those when required.

You can also access the Apple CarPlay or Android Auto from here too. Being an Android user it was Android Auto for me, that connected wirelessly, which I really liked. I found this GUI to be a bit nicer than the stock VW one, so I let the car jump over to it every time I got in. 

The steering wheel is just like the 2021 Volkswagen Tiguan TSI R-Line we tested recently, a modern, clean vibe. The controls on the steering wheel and surround stalks have the same options. The only thing, and I think it’s the only change that I did not like, is the change to haptic buttons on the steering wheel. Very aggressive haptic buttons too, they do not feel nice to use at all. I found it very distracting and avoided using them. My wife did not like them either. We looked to see if they could be disabled, but we were not able to find the options. I do hope it’s there somewhere, as this could be a deal-breaker for me.

I generally prefer leather seats in most cars, not really sure why, maybe they feel more sturdy over some fabric ones. But I really liked the fabric seats in the new Golf GTI. I also like how they did the throwback to the historical tartan GTI pattern. It still felt modern while having that old-school heritage. Both front seats had great support all around, no electric seats, all manual. That was a bit of a surprise, but it didnt not make my list of cons. 

The seats in the back are good too, less sculpted when compared to the front seats, but still as supportive. Great room for my daughter’s car seat, allowing her good visibility out and around the car too. Anyone with kids will know that’s an important thing. Legroom in the rear was good too, a bit tight behind my own driving position but I was still able to get in and be comfortable.

The Golf has always had a good boot space, and the MK8 GTI is no exception, a nice deep boot with two small deeper side pockets to stop smaller items rolling around in an empty boot. With the seats down and flat the boot space goes from 381 litres to 1237, not bad at all.

What’s The 2021Volkswagen Golf GTi Like To Drive?

The GTI is known to have a bit of a fun side, not as plain as the normal Golf while not being as hardcore or expensive as the Golf R. It’s somewhat the goldilocks zone of just the right balance with the right amount of everything. The day-to-day use of the Golf GTI is a dream, it’s such an easy car to drive. Light but precise steering, the car doesn’t feel too big and visibility is great. Travelling In and out of car parks and busy areas like shopping centres is done with confidence. Plus you have the added bonus of the car park sensors for those tight spots. 

When you want to have a bit of fun, the GTI does come alive and with a quick downshift of the gearstick toggle, it’s instantly into Sport mode. The engine sharpens up and the gears hold longer. Powered by the 2.0L inline 4-cylinder turbo petrol engine that creates 180kW of power and 370Nm of torque. This enables the Golf to get to 100km/h in 5.6 seconds. With a foot to the floor, the GTI might give you a cheeky wheel chirp as it grips and goes. The GTI is a little rocket, and with that nimble sharp steering and great brakes, you can have a lot of fun on your favourite road.

The biggest change I have noticed to driving the latest Golf is that it’s now a lot quieter than previous models. Left in Normal drive mode the car just happily gets up and goes, no real drama or anything. This was much like the previous generations, however, the change is when it’s in sport mode. The previous generations are somewhat infamous for the exhaust noise on gear changes. The best way to describe this is like a childish fart. I know that every man just giggled and almost every woman just eye-rolled me. But if you have driven or have your own Golf, that’s what it is. And more importantly, it’s a sound that was loved. The latest model doesn’t have this as much as older generations. The main reason for this is the long gears, holding it for long so there are fewer changes below 100km/h. 

For those who just want an A to B car, this will either make no sense or be of no interest to you at all. But for those who love to drive, the Golf GTI is one of those cars where the everyday drive can be a fun one – without breaking the rules – which is a great thing. 

How Does The 2021Volkswagen Golf GTi Compare To Its Competition

The hot hatch market is not what it used to be. In its prime it was not too dissimilar to a late-night bar brawl. Everyone was fighting to be the king of the ring, now the focus has moved to SUV’s and efficiency. But hatchbacks are not forgotten, and we hope there will always be room for these sporty, fun vehicles.

Brand / ModelEnginePower kW/NmSeatsFuel L/100kmBoot Capacity LitresPrice Highest to Lowest
Mercedes-Benz A2502.0-litre, 4-cylinder turbocharged118/25056.8350/1200$72,955
Audi A3 40 TFSI2.0-litre, 4-cylinder turbocharged140/32055.7325/1220$69,900
VW Golf GTI2.0-litre, 4-cylinder turbocharged180/37056.9381/1237$61,900
Ford Focus ST2.3-litre, 4-cylinder turbocharged206/42058.6360/1200$59,990
BMW 118i M sport1.8-litre, 3-cylinder turbocharged103/22055.9360/1200$56,200
Honda Civic Hatch RS1.5-litre, 4-cylinder turbocharged127/22056.4420/1308$41,990

Pros And Cons Of The 2021Volkswagen Golf GTi

Pros

  • Strong modern styling
  • Sporty and nimble
  • Smooth and comfy ride
  • Great build quality
  • Upmarket interior
  • Tech level and safety features
  • Good boot space
  • Feels like an expensive car
  • No longer as childish

Cons

  • Haptic steering wheel buttons
  • Touch buttons under the central display
  • No longer as childish

2021 Volkswagen Golf GTi Specifictions

Vehicle TypePerformance Hatchback
Starting Price$61,900
Price as Tested$61,900
Engine2.0-litre petrol turbocharged inline 4
Power, Torque
kW/Nm
180/370
Transmission7-Speed DSG
Spare WheelSpace saver
Kerb Weight, Kg1,342
Length x Width x Height, mm4396 x 1789 x 1491
Cargo Capacity, litres381 / 1237
Fuel tank capacity, litres50 
Fuel Economy, L/100kmAdvertised Spec – Combined – 6.9
Real World Test – Combined – 10.1
Low Usage: 0-6 / Medium Usage 6-12 / High Usage 12+
Towing Capacity
Kg, unbraked/braked
750 /1600
Turning circle, metres10.9
Small: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+
 Warranty5 years or 150,000km warranty
ANCAP Safety Ratings5 Star
REVIEW OVERVIEW
Economy
7
Interior
9
Performance
8
Safety
9
Styling
9
Value
8
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It started at a young age with bedroom posters, the Countach of course. This slowly grew into a super car die-cast model collection, fifty five 1:18 models at the last count. At which point it had almost taken full control, the incurable Mad Car Disease ran deep though my veins all the way to the bone. And things for my loved ones just got worse as the cars where now being bought at 1:1 scale, after a BMW, HSV, and couple of Audi's, the disease reached my brain, pushing me over the edge and down the rabbits hole into the world of the bedroom poster.

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