The world’s best hot hatch

Volkswagen Golf GTI

This, Volkswagen assures us, is the new Golf GTI. In reality, it’s much like the old one, says Jeremy Clarkson in The Sunday Times. It’s been given a facelift in the hope that existing owners will feel compelled to update their old model, which will please VW’s beancounters, hardpressed by Dieselgate. I am one of those existing owners, says Clarkson, and the Golf GTI is what I use as my daily driver.

The odd technological fault aside, the old Golf is an extremely good, a wonderful car. It’s equipped like a Bentley and goes like a Ferrari, and yet has modest looks that won’t turn heads. The fact that this new model is pretty much identical to the old one is then a good thing. The old Golf GTI was the world’s best hot hatch. This new one is as well.

The new Golf has remained true to the maxim “never change a winning team”, says Georg Kacher in Car magazine. The design changes are subtle – a bit of fresh makeup to the bumpers, lights and grille, and looking a little leaner and sharper than you remember it. And it now has as standard the kind of performance you’d have had to pay extra for in the old model. That means a 0-62mph time of 6.4 seconds, effortless overtaking and a top speed of 155mph. There are hot hatches that are rawer and more chuckable, with more power and that are more obviously appealing to hot-hatch fans.

But twist things however you like, there is still no better all-rounder than the Golf GTI. No other contender can match it. It’s one of the most expertly judged and complete performance machines you can buy, agrees Matt Saunders in Autocar, and the subtle changes are good news for a car that needed little fixing. There are more exciting rivals, but the incredible 40-year success of the Golf tells its own story.

Price: £29,280
Engine: 1,984cc, turbocharged petrol
Power: 227bhp
Torque: 258lb ft