Words: Ardie Lopez
Photos: Jerel Fajardo
This would be one of the instances when you’d be glad the reasons behind a car’s iconic status aren’t self-explanatory. Sure, the blunted-out rear and long-hooded configuration with the subtly squat and low stance, and well, a spec sheet indicative of its sporty predisposition would automatically have you labeling it as a hot hatch. But those born after U2’s Joshua Tree album was launched will not fully understand why it’s earned such a stature- unless they’ve driven one of its later generations.
The 2015 Volkswagen Golf GTi (debuted 2013) is the 7th iteration of the original gift to the driving enthusiast who wasn’t born with a premium sports car fund at the ready. Mark I (1975) was primarily affordable, capable, and designed to be exceptionally spritely despite the fact; giving out only slight hints of its performance prowess from its understated aesthetics. It grew rapidly in reputation mainly by word-of-mouth from those who’ve been hopelessly smitten. Back in the late seventies, being fast, cheap, and fun (in a good way) would apparently earn you a nice and shiny niche in automotive history. So four decades and seven generations later, what, as the uninitiated would ask, is all the fuss about?
It rings true in this case, that ignorance is bliss. Picture yourself lightly dicing through standard 1AM Metro Manila traffic in a capable sedan, where there are still a good number of cars on the road but the light density of the traffic allows you to stitch in and out of spots and have a grand time modulating the throttle to fluidly execute those moves you’ve mentally visualized, almost effortlessly. Now instantly transport that picture of yourself doing that, onto a racetrack, in the Mark 7 Golf GTi, at double the speed. Given that you’re familiar with the track’s layout, and that you know what you’re doing, it’s the fact that in real life the Golf GTi will allow you to make easy work of that situation, that would otherwise have you pushing hard and risking it with fear already nibbling at your glutes, is the huge revelation. The Golf GTi with its astonishingly innate ease-of-use and forgiving predictability during high performance driving is what makes it the bomb; seemingly upgrading the driver’s skills with levelheaded confidence to match; and that’s what makes it deserve, without a tinge of a doubt, the title of the original hot hatch.
From its neatly designed rear, the rather plain-looking twin exhaust pipes bellow with one of the most delightful exhaust notes one could have the pleasure of sounding off, when putting the Golf GTi through its long-winded paces in Sport Mode. Its 6-speed DSG automatic transmission shifts undetectably at lightning speed, allowing you immediate and sweeping stepless acceleration, with nary a bead of sweat. It’s effortlessly fast, with the kind of fast that makes you feel it attained a 246 km/h top speed without having to crack a whip at it. Its 2.0-liter DOHC Direct Injection gasoline engine with Intercooled Turbo simply rewards the driver with one big sweet spot of very well matched power-to-weight ratio, on-tap and rated at 217 bhp and 258 lb. ft. of Torque. The resulting dynamics as complemented by its semi-stiff suspension leaves you no need for second-guesses; the Golf GTi becomes an extension of yourself- your confidently relaxed self, not your straining-to-contain-adrenaline-poisoning self, for it would turn you grunting and white-knuckled much later than other sporty cars would, going through the same things at the same speed. It’s a FWD that thinks it’s a RWD, safely endowing you with levels of command and control that make you think and feel you drive a lot better than you really do- and that’s not a bad thing.
Having your way with the GTi even for just a day unravels the other reasons why it is endearingly hot. It is a rocket in sleeper packaging. It is exceptionally capable without being overtly so, without having you pay for it in terms of mileage. It gets admiring nods from a wide spectrum of driving enthusiasts; from post-pubescent racer boys in the know to seasoned gearheads alike, and you know it’s due to its respected prowess and substance, and the fact that it has nothing left to prove. There are no compromises in comfort, and to say it’s got sharp and dapper styling is hitting it on the nail. No other car can pull-off a plaid pattern on sport seats like the GTi can, and everything else in terms of stitched leather and aluminum was done tightly right. Active safety features that complement its performance tech sit right on the cutting edge, and with the way it drives and drives you- it just qualifies as a great, good-looking value overall-
…plus it makes you look better than you give yourself credit for. Hmm… wait, l think gotta fork out for a deposit soon.