Who hasn’t had a GTl? Well, those of you with your hands down have missed a lark. It was the first affordable hot hatch we could get hands on that did 0-60mph in 9 seconds. There was also an excellent wheeze whereby it was cheaper to buy it from Germany in RHD, go collect it and get a tour of the factory for less than you could buy it in the UK. We did it in our thousands before they slammed that loophole shut.
The GTl was groundbreaking in many respects and therefore it was with great trepidation that l took delivery of the first one l have driven for over 20 years.
This Mk 7 version is punchy and powerful with a chassis that’s smooth in everyday mode and grips like a leech in the corners. And it’s German, so that bullet proof quality leeks through every pore. It hasn’t changed, in the main, since launch in 1974. It rides flat and smooth, departs the lights like a startled greyhound and will last a lifetime – or more likely see you out if you look after it.
It ain’t cheap but then quality never is. Its competition would be the Megane Sport, Astra VXR, Ford Focus ST and BMW135i and you would need to be certified if you went for the Renault or Vauxhall. The BMW is a different type of car and the Ford, although very good, doesn’t quite carry the badge cache so, in short, it’s in a class of its own. The Focus RS would give it a run for its money.
As standard, the GTI gets a strong turbocharged 2.0 litre petrol engine but you can add VW’s performance pack which boosts power and adds performance-orientated features such as a front differential. It’s an expensive option though, so l might just stick with the standard car given it’s so capable. A twin-clutch automatic is also available but again, unless you’re dead determined, l’d go for the six-speed manual.
One thing that annoys me of modern midrange fast cars is that first gear is a waste of space. You need it but the legs are so short that you are grabbing second in a jiffy, and, with front wheel drive, suffering detestable tire scrabble. Not so the GTl. It has great first gear stretch and feels smooth through the power band – all the way to 153 mph. It is fi rm and that has been a characteristic of the GTl since time began but the trade off is the great handling, secure in any hands, and great rate of acceleration.
Inside, l chuckle to see the Jacara check cloth interior. I hate non-leather interiors but here, it would of been a travesty to change it. Everything in here is as it should be (they’re Germans), the layout is superb (they’re Germans) and the quality is top notch (they’re …oh, you get the idea!)
The other novelty back in 1974, was the hatch concept that didn’t make the profile of the car look like a Zephyr estate yet provided this yawning chasm at the back. This one will take a huge load and with a 40/60 rear seats split and a low loading lip, it fits the bill.
Being a very immature speed freak, l would plump for the R variant and with 296bhp and four-wheel drive – it’s a barnstormer. For you mere mortals, the GTl is every thing you will need to be stylish, fast, safe and cool, in whatever order you so desire, all in one automobile.
A place in my fantasy 7-car garage? Probably.
Model tested: 2.0-litre TSI 220PS
Power: 220 PS
Performance: 0-62mph 6.5 seconds
Top Speed: 152 mph
Economy: 47.10 mpg
Price from: £27,495.00