A facelifted version of Europe鈥檚 favourite family hatchback, the Volkswagen Golf, has now arrived. It鈥檚 the usual stuff: new lights, bumpers, engines and equipment. But there鈥檚 also a revised version of the Golf we care most about ?the GTI. Do the revisions make an already marvellous hot hatch even better?
If power is all, perhaps look elsewhere. It鈥檚 up by just 10bhp, to 227bhp, which cuts 0-62mph by a mere tenth of a second. Good job there鈥檚 again a Performance Pack version arriving later, which will now have 242bhp as well as the fancy electronic limited-slip differential of before.
It doesn鈥檛 matter that the Golf isn鈥檛 the brawniest car in this class, though. Because the way it delivers its power remains delectable. Effortless, responsive and free-revving, the GTI鈥檚 2.0-litre turbo engine is a peach, which proves more than fast enough for swift cross-country driving. It oozes quality, as does the six-speed paddleshift DSG auto that you can have alongside a normal six-speed manual.
Same goes for the suspension. Others are stiffer and sharper. The GTI remains dynamically sweet and cultured, with depth and ability by the bucketload. It feels like it鈥檒l take everything even the worst British roads can throw at it in its stride. It filters out the bad stuff but still lets you feel the nice stuff, so you can enjoy yourself.
There鈥檚 nothing contrived about this car. The feedback and coherence remains as good today as it always has in four decades of there being a Golf GTI. And it鈥檚 all enjoyed from an interior that is also as high-quality, spacious and well-detailed as we鈥檝e come to expect from Volkswagen鈥檚 original hot hatch.
Our test car had a set of lovely leather sports seats, and was also equipped with the new range-topping 9.2in Discover Pro infotainment system. Coupled with a 12.3in digital instrument pack, it was an impressive-looking setup, if not as intuitive as in an Audi. At times, it was a bit fiddly, which isn鈥檛 something you expect from a Golf GTI. This is perhaps an area we鈥檙e not sure is a quantifiable improvement on before.
Otherwise, the Golf GTI remains a hot hatch at the top of its game. You can get more thrilling machines in this sector, cars with more power, more on-the-limit edge, more scruff-of-the-neck excitement. But none quite manages to blend the Golf鈥檚 perfect overall balance of ride, handling, refinement and all-round completeness.
It remains the perfect example of a hot hatch ?a car that鈥檚 fast, desirable, good-value and accessible. Volkswagen has been perfecting this formula for four decades now, and the latest Golf GTI shows it knows exactly what it takes to make a spot-on hot hatch. This isn鈥檛 a radical revolution, thank goodness. It鈥檚 another evolution of something pretty-much spot on already. Job done, Volkswagen.
2017 Volkswagen Golf GTI
Location Majorca, Spain
On sale now
Engine 4cyls in line, 1984cc, turbocharged petrol
Power 227bhp at 4700-6200rpm
Torque 258lb ft at 1500-4600rpm
Gearbox 6-spd DSG
Top speed 155mph
CO2/tax band 145g/km, 28%