Andy Goodwin road tests and reviews the 2013 Volkswagen Golf GTD hatchback, a car that could be all things to all men… and women… and children… and…
The seventh-generation Volkswagen Golf is on a roll, recently being declared World Car of the Year 2013. Its revamped interior, elongated chassis and improved engines are as easy to swallow as a warm croissant. Performance fans have been catered for, too, with the hot GTI already available and this new uber-diesel GTD arriving in the UK in August for £25,285.
The “Gran Turismo Diesel” Golf first appeared in Germany 31 years ago, and now feels more relevant than ever. For customers downsizing from bigger cars, a Golf with a posh interior and big performance makes a convincing argument. It will go head-to-head with pokey diesel hatchbacks including the Mercedes A220 CDI, BMW 125D, Vauxhall Astra BiTurbo TDI and SEAT Leon FR TDI.
The Volkswagen Golf GTD looks incredibly smart in the metal. It has a technical vibe courtesy of the sharp ‘tornado line’ creases along its doors and a front bumper which has clearly seen the inside of a wind tunnel, evidenced by its chin spoiler and multiple flaps. It’s pure GTI, except for a few small, but important details. The iconic red pinstripe has been replaced with chrome, you can’t have the GTI’s Monza wheels, and the GTD’s twin-tailpipes are mounted on the left, not either side of the bumper. Our only complaint is the forward-facing radar sensor, which sits Cyclops-like in the lower grille, staring at the road ahead. A 15mm drop in suspension ride height gives the Golf a greater sense of purpose and its neat LED daytime running lights help warn slower traffic you’re coming through.
The beauty of performance cars like the GTD is that they are about as well-suited to day-to-day British life as you can get. You can seat four adults in perfect comfort (five at a push), the majority sold in the UK have five doors (a three-door is available) and it has a 380-litre boot, which can expand to 1,270 litres with the rear seats folded. Performance models have no practicality penalties to worry about either, but it’s worth noting our test car, fitted with the optional Dynaudio sound system, had a subwoofer where the spare-wheel would normally be.
Performance & handling
Power is up by 14bhp from the Mk6 Golf GTD, to 181bhp, while torque is a colossal 380Nm. That’s 10Nm more than the 2013 Porsche Cayman S. Zero to 62mph takes 7.5 seconds, in both the standard manual six-speed and DSG dual-clutch automatic, while the GTD’s top speed is 143mph. To help deal with all this thrust, there’s XDS+, which can modulate the front brakes individually to quell wheel-spin and reduce understeer.
The GTD also gets steering which quickens the more you turn the wheel off-centre. This means motorway driving is still relaxed, but there are only 2.1 turns of the wheel from lock to lock, instead of 2.75 in lesser Golfs. Adaptive Chassis Control (ACC) features suspension with a cushy Comfort setting, as well as Normal and Sport settings, which really sharpens up the handling response, but its adaptive dampers are an £800 option.
Unlike some quick steering systems, we found the GTD’s ‘progressive steering’ easy to get used to and the benefit of keeping both hands at “10 and 2” on the steering wheel, even for sharp corners, is clearly felt. We struggled to find UK-style roads on our German test route, but one particularly sinuous valley road saw the Golf completely composed and unflustered, just as it was at 140mph on a section of derestricted Autobahn an hour later. We need to drive the GTD more – and on tougher roads – but our only worry is that the chassis is so composed, it might prove a little dull to drive at normal speeds.
Economy & environment
It’s the first time VW has fitted a GTD with stop and start and its engine is cutting edge, but economy of 67.3mpg and emissions of 109g/km of CO2 still make you look twice at the tech specs. Yes boys and girls, this 143mph hatch has better economy than the first 105bhp Golf BlueMotion. Isn’t progress great? It’s also more economical than the Vauxhall Astra 125d (60.1mpg), Astra BiTurbo (55.4mpg) and Mercedes-Benz A220 CDI (64.2mpg). The only black mark is a significant economy drop if you go for the DSG automatic (62.8mpg and 119g/km). Ok, so it’s still pretty good, but we’ve become accustomed to DSG gearboxes either not affecting economy, or even improving it.
Equipment & value
The Golf GTD is near the top of the Golf tree for equipment. Its exterior gets LED rear lights, bi-xenon headlamps and 18-inch ‘Nogaro’ alloys. The interior is suitably overhauled with tartan sports seats, a natty sports steering wheel, stainless steel pedals (and a huge left foot rest), a GTD gear lever and bespoke instrument cluster. Comfort and tech is taken care of with dual-zone air-con, Bluetooth, iPod connection and DAB radio. Options include two levels of sat-nav (rather pricey at £735 or £1,725), a rear-view camera (£165), keyless entry (£355), leather upholstery (£1,695) and a Dynaudio 10-channel amp and eight speakers (£525). Our advice is to keep this Golf about the simple pleasure of driving and just choose the Adaptive Chassis Control, as the GTD’s starting price represents better value than its costly extras.
The latest Golf has already been awarded the top five-star score by EuroNCAP crash testers, so you can safely choose this car for you and your family. The all-seeing eye in the grille can also warn you of vehicles in front of you at speeds up to 99mph and automatically hit the brakes in urban areas at speeds below 18mph.
The Golf GTD is very good. It’s the sort of car you could imagine buying and keeping for much longer than you expected, because it just does everything you ask of it so well. Whether you are popping to the shops, taking your favourite road home from work or driving to the other end of the country and back it will always feel like you’ve got a great car for the job. Our only worry is that the chassis is now so adept, you don’t actually get too excited about driving the GTD quickly. If you want to drive a car mainly for the fun of it, you’ll be better off in the petrol GTI, which has a little more power to exploit the masses of grip.
Model tested: Volkswagen Golf GTD 6spd manual
Engine: 2.0 TDI
Acceleration: 0-62 in 7.5 seconds
Top speed: 143mph
Emissions: 109g/km CO2