Volkswagen Golf GTD review and pictures

11 Dec 2014

The Mk7 VW Golf gains a new 'Gran Turismo Diesel' model. How does the GTD compare to its GTI sibling?

Evo Rating: 
Styling, economy, eager chassis
Uncultured diesel engine

What is it?

The Mk7 VW Golf GTD is part of a three-pronged 'GT' attack on the hot hatchback market, spearheaded by the Golf GTI and recently joined by the plug-in hybrid VW Golf GTE.

What the GTD Golfs have traditionally lacked in power and involvement to their GTI counterparts they've made up for in economy and effortless urge. With a combined fuel consumption figure of 67.3mpg to the GTI's 47.1 and 22lb ft more torque, that trend looks set to continue.

Pricing for the GTD starts at £26,015 for a three-door manual and £26,670 for the five-door, to £27,430 and £28,085 for the DSG versions in each bodystyle.

Technical highlights?

They’re abundant. Similar suspension tweaks to the GTI (stiffer and 15mm lower than a regular Golf) are joined by its XDS+ electronic faux-diff, which can brake the inside wheels on both axles (even though the Golf is still front-wheel drive) to reduce understeer, while Progressive Steering is also standard. It’s more direct than a conventional, constant-ratio steering set-up, supposedly negating the need to move your hands around the wheel during tight corners while offering a better compromise between comfort and agility with its variable ratio.

The damper rates are slightly softer than the GTI, which curiously introduces a level of looseness to the chassis which the GTI misses. The GTI’s chassis is astonishing capable, but it lacks a fraction of movement – in pitch and yaw – that a good driver can exploit to improve turn in, tighten the line, or agitate the car into releasing tyre grip. The slightly softer GTD allows a little more, perhaps 5-10 per cent, corresponding to a greater feeling of dips and compressions and roll, and consequently a greater understanding of the road surface.

The engine is a 181bhp 2-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel, seen on the SEAT Leon FR and soon to sit in the front of the mk3 Skoda Octavia vRS. Here it combines a 7.5sec 0-62 time with 67.3mpg (claimed, of course) if you stick with the standard six-speed manual gearbox, the latter figure dropping if you spec the optional six-speed DSG twin-clutch transmission. An optional sound actuator attempts to boost the GTD’s soundtrack and downplay its frugal intentions.

In the styling department, its certainly more GTI than TDI, with a deeper front bumper and honeycomb grille – albeit missing the iconic red stripes of the GTI. There’s also a tailgate spoiler and 18-inch Nogaro wheels, unique to the GTD, with 19in Santiago rims on the options list.

What’s it like to drive?

The steering, with a progressive rack, is accurate – but not exactly buzzing with feel even in the weightier Sport mode. The ride of our DCC Active damper-equipped car is firm-edged yet controlled and forgiving in all of its modes.

The GTD’s engine is punchy in its powerband but not particularly fun to rev out – no surprise, perhaps – but you do end up driving it just like any other Golf TDI, surfing its abundant torque (with 280lb ft from a mere 1750rpm) without ever really engaging with it. The sound actuator is a bit silly, adding a burbling, petrol-like noise from the exhausts, which clashes with the very obviously diesel-sounding engine. It’s rorty to those outside the car, but if you’re paying to spec it, you ought to be the one relishing its noise.

Otherwise, this is a precise, polished and refined hatchback that rides with aplomb and shrugs off high speeds like a 5-series or E-class (it sat indicating its 143mph top speed for a lengthy open stretch of Autobahn). Much like the mk7 Golf GTI we drove recently, here’s a car that, on first acquaintance, impresses and flatters without providing that extra level of involvement keen drivers crave.

ESC Sport allows a tiny amount of slip, but what the GTD really needs is the ability for the driver to fully deactivate the stability control. We sense there’s some extraordinary chassis behaviour being disguised somewhat by electronic intervention, which is a shame for those of us who covet the exploration of such things.

How does it compare?

The Golf GTD faces a bigger challenge than ever from its cheaper cousins, the SEAT Leon FR and Skoda Octavia vRS. The VW feels very similar to both, proving how samey cars on the oft-mentioned MQB VW Group architecture are starting to feel. Those seeking a more premium feel can also spec the GTD’s 181bhp engine in an Audi A3, which actually starts at a lower price in Sport trim, kicking off at £24,375, with a saloon body style also available.

If you’re buying privately with little need to consider tax bands, the current crop of petrol hot hatches – mk7 Golf GTI and BMW M135i among them – offer more performance without completely binning fuel economy, our long-term test Beemer averaging north of 35mpg with little trouble.

We tested the Golf GTD against the BMW 220d in evo 200. While BMW's car differs in both body style (coupe) and drivetrain layout (rear-wheel driven, as is traditional), its power and torque figures are identical to the Volkswagen, and its 0-62mph time and top speed (7.2sec and 143mph) are near-identical to the GTD. At £26,865 for a 220d Sport, it's also priced similarly. The BMW is more refined, with more badge appeal, but the GTD is the more focused of the pair.

Anything else I need to know?

Overall, the GTD is not as invigorating as the GTI but is nevertheless a mighty impressive car. Its performance characteristics, while not perfect, are enjoyable and that intangible ‘Golf’ effect – whereby it constantly reminds you of its premium and indeed iconic status – is present and correct everywhere you look. As an ownership proposition, it excels – that it also offers some driver enjoyment too should be celebrated.

Engine In-line 4-cyl, 1968cc, turbodiesel
Max power 181bhp @ 3500-4000rpm
Max torque 280lb ft @ 1750-3250rpm
0-62mph (claimed) 7.5sec
Top speed (claimed) 143mph
MPG 67.3
On sale Now

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