Saturday 24 June 2017

Golf GTI: 'I'd be very happy to have one in the garage'

A boy may dream and a Golf GTI gives Campbell Spray sweet thoughts but practicality pushes him towards an i30

The Volkswagen Golf GTI CS offers excitement and a hint of danger
The Volkswagen Golf GTI CS offers excitement and a hint of danger

There are the cars you get, the ones you deserve, those that are lusted over, and, of course, the ones you end up with.

Sometimes there might be a bit of overlap, but usually not. And, there's often someone sitting next to you who will make sure your ambitions are brought tumbling down to earth.

That's how it has been with me over the last few weeks. If there was a car that should have been mine it was the Volkswagen Golf GTI CS. Look, it even has my initials. Okay, they might really stand for Club Sport, but a boy can dream.

It's now more than 40 years since a sedate world had its pulse quickened by the first GTI version of the Golf and petrol-heads have never looked back. There might be many imitators but there's still nothing like the original although the Volkswagen range of cars in this bracket has been extended with all sort of versions branded R, GTD, GTI, Autobahn etc.

The Hyundai i30 may not set pulses racing it is exceptionally well specced
The Hyundai i30 may not set pulses racing it is exceptionally well specced

But it is the GTI CS which is the tastiest, with little to show off on the specially lowered exterior until you see the red callipers behind the 18-inch alloys. It leaves its talking for the road. And it certainly walks the talk, giving excitement and a hint of danger which the AWD Golf R doesn't have. The kickdown function which gives a momentary boost of 10pc to engine power is wheel-spinning exciting and makes this model the most powerful GTI ever as it rockets to 100kmh in 6.3 seconds.

Of course, our dog Sam didn't like the idea of just two doors but with some cleverly positioned beach towels and his ramp he was able to make his way into the back.

Again the interior was sporty and plush without being ostentatious. Just some nice red stitching, supportive sports seats and "alcantara" soft suede steering wheel and gear knob. How many specially bred stoats sacrificed their skins for this, I shudder to think.

The car was coming down with safety and comfort extras but they weren't important in the long run because it's a car to be driven with skill and attitude. I loved it, but I know it is totally impractical for me. For those who really love their motoring won't do anything stupid and respect the driving heritage that the Golf GTI Club Sport gives them, even at an on-the-road price of €45,157 for the test car, it is worth it.

You might think it was a bit of a let down to go straight from the GTI to the new Hyundai i30, but in a way it wasn't. A boy may dream, but at the end of the day transport must be afforded and a family carried. The i30 is a great improvement on its predecessor which is not to say that it wasn't - and still is - a fine small family car.

The car isn't going to set the pulse racing except when you know that you have actually bought a very good car, which is exceptionally well specced, has a long warranty and probably won't cost you anything above fuels and oils for the next five years.

The i30 comes with both a 1.6-diesel and a 1.0-litre turbo petrol engine, the latter is out and out the best for the car, not least because diesel is rapidly becoming a pariah in some countries and will eventually be so here.

But that aside, the 1.0-petrol engine is absolutely lovely; very fine and responsive with a sportiness that betrays its size. In fact, 1.0-litre petrol engines are the way forward and the one coming in the updated VW Golf will really enhance that model. If you must, the diesel proved to be very flexible and solid for the test week.

Yet what I liked about the car was the ease of everything, the mass of safety equipment - including autonomous emergency braking, driver attention alert and lane keep assist - as standard, and things like rear view camera, rear parking assist system and folding exterior mirrors across all grades...

It has safe and controlled handling without having the excitement of cars like the GTI, and why should it? This is a very good car, practical and with cost and ease of ownership far more important for many than image and speed.

The handling isn't on par with the Ford Focus or Opel Astra but is totally adequate for everyday motoring as well as a fast spin down the country. I was annoyed that there isn't an automatic handbrake, which will make it seem very dated in few years time. The rear seats don't fold completely flat but still give an awful lot of carrying space.

The infotainment and connectivity are absolutely first class, although that isn't one of my priorities. It is a small family car and should not be confused with cars like the Skoda Octavia which are fairly massive in the back. I found leg room restricted in the rear, although three people could squish in for reasonable journeys.

The Deluxe Launch edition of the i30 1.0T Petrol is €22,745, with the De Luxe Plus model at €24,495 and diesels around €1,750 more, but you don't go there.

With a few reservations, I'd be very happy to have one in the garage, even though the little boy in me will still pine for the sweet sound of the GTI CS taking off...

Sunday Independent

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