“What’s new?” the uninitiated might ask when first spotting the latest iteration of the Volkswagen Golf 7. The answer is simple – “More than meets the eye.” This unequivocal statement is made in the aftermath of a two-day press launch starring South Africa’s favourite hot hatch – the GTI – which has accounted for no less than 55% of all Golf 7 sales.
When it comes to all-round competence, the GTI is unrivalled so its makers would be extremely stupid to make wholesale changes to a winning formula. Therefore evolution prevails – thankfully.
In mechanical terms, the new GTI now gets the 2.0 169kW motor previously available in the Performance Pack upgrade but the most significant change is the universal adoption of the acclaimed DSG twin-clutch transmission. To the uninitiated who believe there is no alternative to manual gearboxes in a performance application, this may come as something of a surprise but previous purchasing patterns indicated virtually no off-take so VWSA’s decision is wholly justified.
Anyone who tells you 169kW is not enough in an application such as this clearly hasn’t driven a GTI. You see, that peak power arrives at an unusually low 4 700 rpm but just as importantly, the peak torque output of 350Nm is accessed all the way from 1 500rpm to 4 600rpm. Collectively, such outputs make for very, very energetic performance which is available without massive applications of throttle. In everyday motoring, all out performance afforded by high power outputs simply cannot be accessed all the time or you’d be spending your days in jail. How that power is served up is all-important and this is why the GTI excels in the real world.
If the driving experience is so sweet, how do the facelifted bits and pieces stack up? Externally, unless you’re a Golf 7 aficianado, the changes are certainly subtle. New standard-fit LED headlamps lurk underneath mildly re-shaped lenses, the front bumper and apertures, together with trim elements, have been re-modelled and the front fenders are mildly re-shaped. The overall impression is of a slightly wider, lower stance that’s still unmistakably Golf. Down the back, the LED rear lamp detailing is massaged along with the bumper and most obviously, the indicators are now of the sweeping variety and are a visual treat which may get noticed more readily by other motorists.
Pride of place though in terms of revisions must go to the Active Info Display which in today’s lingo is a “virtual instrument display” as first introduced in the Audi TT. This is linked to the Discover Pro radio/nav system which is now presented in a gorgeous 9.2in display, with gesture control , that makes the free-standing units employed by others look like an afterthought.
In the meantime, VW has successfully massaged the hatchback that’s defined the class for so many years and added new tech to a formula underpinned by solid engineering, practicality and pleasing driving characteristics. Let’s just say they’ve scored another hole-in-one which is a most unusual achievement.
At launch in May 2017, the SA prices are as follows:
1.0 TSI 81kW Trendline Manual R289 900
1.0 TSI 81kW Comfortline Manual R304 200
1.4 TSI 92kW Comfortline DSG R356 400
2.0 TSI 169kW GTI DSG R545 800