Price: from £27,275
Engine: capacity 4 cyls, 1984cc, turbocharged, petrol
Power: 232bhp @ 5500-6300 rpm
Torque: 2211b ft @ 2200-5500 rpm
Performance: 153mph, 34.9mpg (combined), CO2 189g/km
It’s been a busy few weeks for hot hatches with the Ford Focus ST and Vauxhall Astra VXR launching and early details of the new Volkswagen Golf GTI for next year emerging. In the meantime I’ve been back in the Golf GTI Edition 35, which was launched earlier this year to celebrate 35 years of the GTI hot-hatch moniker.
I’ve always dreamed of owning a GTI – unlike owning an Aston Martin or Ferrari it’s a dream I can actually aspire to. My uncle, who used to race Jaguars for a living, owned a Mk1 GTI when I was growing up and sitting gleefully in its passenger seat is one of my earliest (and happiest) automotive memories.
So testing the Edition 35 is an exciting business. It gets a 232 bhp engine, which is 25 bhp more than the standard GTI but less than the mighty Golf R. Not that you’ll notice in town. My first test drive was a run to the supermarket, not a mad dash up the motorway to some bendy country lanes. First impressions are good though. It’s smooth and subtle around town and at low speeds and the interior is typical VW – full of clean lines, clear dials and easy-to-use touch-screen displays for the audio and navigation systems. There's even a very decent-sized boot and room for rear passengers.
Outside the soft leathers with ‘35’ embroidered sets and red stitching and retro golf-ball style gear knob of the interior give way to overly showy alloy wheels, black gloss wing mirrors, a mean-looking front splitter, aggressive side skirts and a rear diffuser. This is a car that given a little space to roam, means serious business.
Volkswagen hasn’t ruined it though. The handling is engaging and precise without needing too much attention, the acceleration is rapid (it brings objects towards you at a staggering pace) without being insane and the ride is firm without shattering your spine. The 35 Edition is still a lot of fun, and when driven hard is fantastically wild in tight corners. And its electronic front differential means you have no fear attacking each bend with more aggression than the one before. Best of all none of this comes at the cost of an earth-shattering ride. Most true hot hatches (RenaultSport Megane Cup et al) sacrifice any form of comfort for ‘driving dynamics’ but thankfully VW hasn’t made this mistake. I should take a moment to point out that a diesel BlueMotion Golf will give you as much as 74 mpg and that on my test I was lucky to do better than a dreadful 25 mpg, but I just can’t bring myself. In all other respects the GTI Edition 35 is totally practical. In fact I can’t remember having this much fun in something I can drive to the supermarket in for a very long time.