A car as flashy as its advertising

The latest VW Golf GTI is more exciting than you'd imagine, says Sean O'Grady

Now, you've probably seen those clever television ads for the Volkswagen Golf GTI "starring" the late Gene Kelly in a breakdancing version of his famous routine in
Singin' in the Rain. "The original: updated" is the strap-line. Actually, that could also be the slogan of the ad itself, as it reminded me of another great car ad, the one where they used a few clips of Steve McQueen in
Bullitt to suggest that he, too, had been reincarnated and was going around in a Ford Puma.

Now, you've probably seen those clever television ads for the Volkswagen Golf GTI "starring" the late Gene Kelly in a breakdancing version of his famous routine in Singin' in the Rain. "The original: updated" is the strap-line. Actually, that could also be the slogan of the ad itself, as it reminded me of another great car ad, the one where they used a few clips of Steve McQueen in Bullitt to suggest that he, too, had been reincarnated and was going around in a Ford Puma.

Not to put too delicate a point on it, dead celebrities sell. Sales of the Ford Puma were greatly boosted by its association with the cool Mr McQueen, and I have no doubt that the "Poppin' in the Rain" adverts will have much the same effect on the GTI.

Strange to say, the GTI does need a little help. It suffers from being the glamorous sister in a plain family - it's tainted by association. Worthy and durable the new VW Golf may be, but most people see it as just a bit too predictable, a little ubiquitous, a touch tedious. Plus, the last Golf GTI, the Mark IV, was just as dull as its siblings. This Golf GTI, however, is a more distinctive car than the old one, or its lesser brethren. Just as well, for £20,000.

I know this because my neighbours own a red three-door Golf Mark IV, and I had never noticed it was a GTI variant until I parked the press car I was driving - also a red three-door version - next to it, just to compare them. The anorak in me is ashamed to admit I hadn't clocked it before, but really it's all VW's fault that I had overlooked this important piece of neighbourly intelligence. For the old Golf GTI was just a bit too understated to be special.

The new Golf's detailing is much more striking, and the use of black plastic in the bumpers and red piping around the grille lifts its heavy lines and lends it a more delicate look - in fact, just like the great original Mark I of 1976. White paintwork brings the best out in it; it's unfashionable now, but give it a year or two and it might be "the new black", as they say, and your used GTI will be much more sought-after on the second-hand market. Just a thought.

The interior is beautifully finished, too, with those blue dials gently telling you what is going on as it progresses from rest to 60mph in seven seconds and on to nearly 150mph.

Which just leaves me to tell you how it drives. It has lots of torque and revs like crazy, so it is incredibly accelerative. All you need to know, in fact, is that whichever of its six gears it is in when you put your foot down, you will feel like you are sitting on a speeding bullet. That's it.

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