Volkswagen sell a lot of Golfs, which is pleasing for them, though hardly remarkable. But here’s something that is remarkable: in South Africa, GTIs account for half the total. One in two. Fifty per cent. This is, by some stretch, the highest proportion anywhere on the planet. Quite why this should be so is, even VWSA admit, a mystery. Still, they aren’t complaining.
Of course, the GTI’s performance has to be responsible for some of those sales. As would the features: we’d be lying if we said we didn’t get a kick out of breathing in the expensive aroma of leather sports seats, or fondling all those knobs and switches. The irredeemably sensible among us may even find fulfillment in such things as the number of airbags and a gadget that tells you when you’re tired. Plenty of people also like the DSG twin-clutch auto gearbox, too: a little over half the GTIs sold these days are ordered with this option. (What happened to all those manual-shift enthusiasts, then…?)
Even for the standard Golf, accolades have poured in.
But let’s be blunt: there’s nothing quite like the ego-massaging effect of those three magic letters.
Which is ironic, when you consider that the world almost never had a GTI.
The scene: Volkswagen in the 1970s. Not exactly the centre of the universe for tuning freaks. “Boss, you know our new People’s Car, the hatchback one that’s going to replace the Beetle? We’ve, um, given it fuel injection, real performance, screwed on some go-faster stuff, … it’s a real hot hatch now, and – ….”
“OK, lads, you’ve had your fun, now go on, put it away.”
Fortunately, the real boss had a different point of view and the car that did more than any other to popularise the hot hatch idea made its debut at Frankfurt 1975. The rest, as they say, is history.
Now into its seventh generation, the GTI is sharp when you want it to be, relaxed when you don’t. It emphatically underlines its hot hatch pedigree.
Solid as a rock, PM said when the Golf 7 made its debut earlier this year. To that solidity, the GTI – launched last week in the Western Cape – adds a bracing dose of performance. And there’s more to come, we’re told.
|Capacity||1 984 cm3|
|Economy||6,4 litres/100 km|
|Transmission||fwd; 6A or 6M|
|Price||from R358 400|