Rigval Reza 12 years ago

2010 Volkswagen Golf GTI Mark 6: First Drive

Remind me later
There was a time when most of the cars that were sold were rear wheel drive. This started changing sometime during the 1970s when the bean counters started to really take over from the engineers and designers on what a car should be like. Because of cost and packaging and economic survivability, car manufacturers adopted front wheel drive, which to this day is the norm. Less oversteer and fish tailing for motorists, but what replaced it was lots of wheelspin when you put your foot down on the throttle. This brings us to the Volkswagen Golf. The Golf is an icon amongst motoring enthusiasts. Why? Because it bought affordable speed and handling to the masses. It was the first of the hot hatches. It combined good build quality, handling, power and affordability to almost everyone. In fact it was so successful Volkswagen built millions of them. But, there is always a 'but' in every story, the cars became heavier and heavier till the performance factor was diminished. Of course they came out with the Mark 5, which basically brought back the 'GTI' in the GTI. It actually felt fast and handled well. It wasn't the fat porky car the Mark 4 was. Fans rejoiced and critics praised it. But, yes there is still a 'but'; to me it still looked like a fat porky hatchback. It was. If you looked at it without any other car as a reference it looked pretty decent but once you park it beside another car, it looked huge. It was so tall it looked like a minivan. Beside an Audi A4 it was so much taller than even this larger category sedan. It was a good four to five inches taller than a car that was a whole category higher up in the car food chain. It was also pretty shabby inside, material-wise with hard plastics on the door panels and the same parts elsewhere. So basically I wasn't too keen on driving something that looked like a people carrier no matter how good everyone said it was. Then the Mark 6 was launched, and for me things looked so much better. The Volkswagen Golf GTI Mark 6 is a better looking car. The car is slightly lower by about an inch and it looks better too without that large single piece front grill. The new split grill makes the car look wider and also lower. I like this back-to-before look as almost all cars nowadays have that single large grill look. It is more subtle compared to the Mark 5 GTI, which is why some people like the Golf GTI over hot hatches with grills, scoops and wings. The only signs of aggression in a Golf GTI Mark 6 are the twin tailpipes and those telephone dial rims. Anyway, I was at a local Volkswagen dealership and was offered to have a go in one. I told the sales rep that I just wanted a quick spin so that I could understand what was so special about a Golf GTI as it looked too subtle to register as a 'hot hatch' in my opinion. He arranged for me to have a go in one immediately. A really knowledgeable and friendly chap this guy was. You get into the GTI and the seats are good and supportive. The driving position is pretty excellent for this 5foot 8inch fat man. Controls have good tactile feel with everything I wanted to adjust within easy reach. The material used for the interior is close to Audi levels except that there is less design cuts and creases (as it is still a Volkswagen and not the higher class Audi). This car was a 6 speed DSG equipped GTI and had adaptive dampers too. The engine is a 210bhp, 280Nm 2-litre 4 cylinder direct injection turbocharged unit. There is traction control and all the usual safety and refinement systems. The first few kilometers were basically getting used to the car. It is another of those cars where you can just get in and drive without any problems. The ride seems good with a touch of firmness which I like. I left it in the normal setting whilst getting used to the car. Road noise is pretty much subdued but I loved the noise emanating from the engine. The induction noise is fabulously rorty and bassy too. It is very characterful for a turbocharged 4-pot. Highway cruising is good, it felt planted at around 160km/h and I feel confident stating here that it'll feel just as good as this right up to its published top speed of 238km/h (for DSG equipped cars). On corners, it is also more of the same. The chassis is grippy and the steering is accurate with some feel (not much, but it is nicely weighted). After a few corners, some of which I trail braked into, I found that the front end is utterly communicative and pointy, the rear obedient as it swings round fast enough and the overall grip is high. Those 225/45/17 tires work well with the chassis allowing me the confidence to attack most of the corners with vigor. It works with me and it dispenses most of the corners with certain ease. The car does not feel like a heavyweight, does not have lots of body roll and it changes direction quickly even though it says in the spec sheet that the car gained at least 50kgs over the Mark 5 GTI. When it comes to power delivery, the GTI is pretty much on the dot for a car that invented the hot hatch genre. On full bore acceleration from 20km/h, the DSG hesitates slightly (which was slightly surprising) and then downshifts at least two gears downwards, launching the GTI forward. I am not so worried about 210bhp powering through the front wheels, but what is worrying is the 280Nm of torque powering through the front wheels. This amount of power feels fine when you're on the move at higher speeds, but when you are at a dead stop (like at a junction) or taking a very tight and sharp corner at around 20-30km/h where you decide to go full throttle after you downshift, the GTI will wheel spin in first and then in second gear too. The GTI's traction control warning light keeps flickering like crazy on full throttle acceleration from a stop and also at low speed take offs. No torque steer to fight at the steering though. But I do feel what's happening at the front wheels. So the GTI feels very rapid because of the wheelspin it produces. Add this factor to the rorty noise the engine makes and the competent chassis that is there for you when you're flinging it in the corners and you have a very competent car. But I can sense that if I took the GTI up to my favourite B-roads after a rainy day the traction control system (TCS) is going to go off like crazy if I don't take it easy. If you turned the TCS off, you better have a gentle right foot and feed in the power gradually. I also felt that if I drove this car at the Sepang F1 Circuit heading towards turn 1 and 2, I would have to be gentle and feed the power gradually, as these corners are really tight, heavily cambered and undulating. The front wheel drive GTI may need some restraint in order to go really fast. Of course, those built in electronic nannies that will do the work for you if you keep the TCS on. But then where's the excitement in that? Especially when you intend to punt it around a racetrack. This finding of immediate and raucous power when you floor the throttle made me realize that this is why nearly everyone likes the GTI. The handling and quality of the car, whilst very good for a front wheel drive car, may not be the actual reason why people end up buying it. The real reason why people buy a GTI is the sense of speed, stability, quality and the driver's interaction it gives you. It makes you feel as if you're a 'minor driving god' or something of the sort. The above mentioned reasons are what the average motoring enthusiast would want in a car (or a hot hatch). Therefore the Mark 6 Golf GTI is the quintessential hot hatch to most. But to me? The GTI shows me the limitations of front wheel drive, although I have to state here that the GTI is one of the most adjustable front wheel drives that I've driven to date. So if you bought one and chipped it to produce slightly more power for whatever reason you wish to give, you ought to upgrade the rims and tires to at least 18inches with 235/40/18 tires at the very least and keep the adaptive suspension in sports mode all the time (at the expense of comfort). And only then could you use all the power the GTI produces want only, and not be slowly feeding it in. Unless the road you're on is terribly bumpy of course. I think I may be right, as if you noticed, Volkswagen has made the flagship Golf R with all wheel drive to tame the 266bhp and the 350Nm it makes. But heck, some people like wheel spin coming from the front wheels when they're giving the throttle a good boot as much as some who like tire smoking and fish-tailing a 6.2-litre rear wheel drive muscle car from the traffic lights. A memorable drive (even though it wasn't an extended one) for me and a good hot hatch to have if you're in the market for one. Disclaimer: This test vehicle was provided to CarThrottle by the manufacturer for purposes of evaluation

2010 Volkswagen Golf GTI Mark 6 Gallery

2010 Volkswagen Golf GTI Mark 6 Specifications

Base Price: £24,835 (approx) for the 2.0TSI 210PS GTI 5 Door in the UK / RM215,000 (approx with taxes but without insurance) in Malaysia Body: 5-door Hatchback Mechanical Orientation: Front Wheel Drive Engine: 4 cylinder 2.0-litre Turbocharged Power: 210 BHP Torque: 280 NM Transmission: 6 speed DSG Automatic Weight: 1414 kg Wheelbase: 2578 mm Length: 4213 mm Width: 1786 mm 0-62 mph: 6.9 seconds Top Speed: 238 km/h For: Build & material quality, engine noise it makes, power delivery, handling Against: DSG slightly hesitant, FWD wheel spin (TCS has to reel it in or you have to be gentle with the throttle), slightly bland looks (then again, Golfs are usually subtle) Sponsor: karmann ghia for sale