5 Oct 2004

Paris saw Volkswagen launch the production version of the mk5 Golf GTI. It's an important car for Volkswagen, as it must restore lost credibility to one of the most evocative trio of initials in the automotive dictionary.

Encouragingly, this time around Volkswagen insiders actually admit that the company had taken its eye off the ball with recent GTIs and now it's time to get back on track. The new car would certainly seem to have a head- start thanks to the mk5's dynamic superiority over its predecessor, even in the lower-powered models. One of the reasons is that the bodyshell is 35 per cent more torsionally rigid.

The GTI's turbocharged 2-litre FSI four-cylinder petrol engine produces 197bhp at 5100rpm and 207lb of torque from a diesel-like 1800rpm. The projected performance of the new car is in keeping with its aspirations to be considered once again as a genuine hot hatch - a claimed top speed of 146mph and 0-62mph in 7.2sec.

Standard equipment includes 17in alloys with 225/55 tyres, dual-zone climate control, six air-bags and a ten- speaker CD system; it all helps increase the kerb weight to 1328kg, about 500kg heavier than the original GTI.

It's interesting to see how the power- to-weight ratios have changed over the years; the new car works out at 150bhp per ton, compared with 110bhp per ton for the outgoing model and 133bhp per ton for the final 1.8-litre version of the mk1 GTI. Which means the mk5 is the most powerful Golf GTI to date, another sign that VW is taking its icon more seriously this time.

There's even rumour of a lightweight, stripped-out GTI after VW chief Bernd Pischetsrieder let slip that the company is considering a 230bhp version with lower trim levels for introduction in 2006. Now that really could be a Golf GTI to relish.

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