There isn’t a name more synonomous with the hot hatch genre than the Volkswagen Golf GTI. While the Mk1 car isn’t necessarily the first ever hot hatch, it’s most definitely the vehicle that excited the public’s imagination and built the template for virtually every car worthy of the epithet ever since. db2017au00041 db2017au00033 db2017au00036 db2017au00049 db2017au00051 db2017au00052 db2017au00054 db2017au00053 db2017au00037 db2017au00038 db2017au00046 db2017au00039 db2017au00031 db2017au00040The Mk7 Golf is a fully rounded, honed and fine-tooth-combed deal boasting exemplary levels of comfort, refinement, efficiency and technology. It also boasts excellent real world pace, although more performance can be had cheaper elsewhere, but to the detriment of build quality. Where the Golf GTI does fall behind rivals is when it comes to outright excitement, but very few, if any, can match it for all-around excellence. As modern hot hatches go, the Golf GTI is the ultimate safe pair of hands.> Renaultsport Mégane 275 Trophy-R v VW Golf R | evo DEADLY RIVALS head to headVolkswagen Golf GTI: in detailPerformance and 0-100km/hWith a 0-100km/h time of 6.5sec and a 245km/h top speed, the GTI delivers performance worthy of the badge. Clubsport shaves another six tenths from the benchmark sprint. Even if you go for the Performance Pack, a peak power output of 180kW is by no means exceptional by today’s hot hatch standards. So does the Golf GTI feel in any way slow? When it’s mated to 350Nm, not in the slightest. In fact, it feels genuinely quick even sans Performance Pack, with a delivery that’s really useable and meaty yet still much keener to rev out than expected. The engine starts to pull hard from just 1500rpm and actually does its best work between 2500 and 4000rpm. But far from becoming breathless after that, it revs out sweetly to the red line, exhibiting extended powerband characteristics that suit the six-speed manual and double-clutch DSG semi-auto transmissions available equally well.Naturally, with the Volkswagen Golf R as the alpha predator in VW’s hot hatch line-up, the GTI can only be allowed to excite and thrill up to a point. It can sometimes feel like a car that’s operating well within its self, even when furnished with the Performance Pack. It’s certainly possible to buy more bang for your buck but a 0-100km/h time 6.5sec and 245km/h top speed are respectable enough by class standards.Volkswagen has updated the Mk7Engine and gearbox The 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine, familiar from other VW products, has been tweaked to comply with Euro 6 emissions regulations, thanks mostly to a redesign of the cylinder head. Exhaust gases are now cooled within the head before they depart to the turbocharger, and a dual-injection system has been introduced that combines multi-point injection with direct injection. Two-mode lift on the exhaust valves, stop-start, reduced internal friction and intelligent control of the cooling system (which can close off all circulation on warm-up) complete the picture.The previously mentioned Performance Pack option, as well as lifting peak power to 180kW, also adds an electronically-controlled limited-slip differential and bigger brakes. As standard, GTIs get a six-speed manual gearbox. A six-speed double-clutch semi-automatic is optional.> 2017 Top 10 Hot HatchesRide and handling It comes as no surprise that the Golf GTI uses the MQB front-wheel-drive platform that you’ll have read about in just about every other VW, Audi, SEAT or Skoda review during the past few years. Its suspension is 15mm lower than a standard Golf’s and it gets something called ‘XDS+’, a development of VW’s electronic programme that mimics a diff by braking wheels during cornering. It works on the rear axle as well even though the GTI is front-wheel drive. The suspension itself is by MacPherson struts at the front and a multi-link set up at the rear.The bumps, humps and general rough and tumble of broken tarmac reveal just how talented the chassis is, as it tracks the road in a display of beautifully controlled damping.The natural instinct is to put the car into its Sport setting and it certainly feels well resolved and not too harsh, which is impressive. However, if you go into the Driver Profile Selection screen and tap on the ‘Individual’ setting then you can retain the Sport settings for steering, engine, ESC etc but knock the suspension back to Normal. Now you get a little more roll and a tiny bit of float over the bumps, which then lets you get the car moving around a touch more into and through corners, which is lovely. The balance remains neutral, but it’s so easy to place thanks to that stiff MQB platform that you can really throw it around.Interior and techIf you need the extra practicality that rear doors offer, the five-door GTI can oblige. And you’re not alone. The five-door model accounts for about 70 per cent of all GTI sales. The GTI is virtually identical to the standard Golf in terms of size, so it’s just as practical as the standard car. There’s a generous 380-litre boot with an adjustable floor, making it better for luggage than the Ford Focus ST, but it has less cargo capacity than the Honda Civic Type R and significantly less than a Skoda Octavia vRS.> New Honda Civic Type R takes front-wheel drive Nurburgring recordWith the rear seats folded flat the load area becomes even more practical – it’s completely flat and the low lip makes it easy to get things in and out. The rear seats are definitely large enough for most adults and there are plenty of storage cubbies around the cabin. Standard tech includes DAB radio, Bluetooth connectivity and, perhaps most impressively, adaptive cruise control.DesignWhile looks are a subjective thing, there’s no getting away from just how evolutionary the Golf GTI’s styling is. Those in the know will be able to spot the Mk7 from the Mk6 and Mk5 which share its overall shape, for there are sharper features (the headlights in particular are more aggressive than before, and gain a red strip in them which carries on from the grille) and the alloy wheels are familiar in overall design but with more angular flourishes.But overall VW has played things relatively safe and you’ll go hunting for the details which set the Mk7 apart as opposed to being overawed by new looks. Still, neat touches like the petrol cap, the lines of which sit in parallel with the kick of the rear window and the taillight, emit a sense of attention to detail that helps set the Golf apart from its mechanically similar relations. RivalsAs you might imagine, the Golf GTI has rival cars coming up left, right and centre – that’s what comes from being held as the benchmark hot hatchback for over 40 years. But none offer the jack-of-all-trades aura of the Golf GTI.The range kicks off at $41,490 for the GTI manual, while the DSG-equipped GTI costs $43,990. The 180kW, 370Nm Performance Pack offers great value at $47,990, as does the R at $52,990 (or $55,490 for the DSG).