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The new Volkswagen Golf GTI has arrived – time for redemption?

The Mk8.5 Golf GTI gains more power and an interior refresh – can it right the wrongs of its predecessor?

The Volkswagen Golf GTI lost its footing slightly when the latest version arrived in 2020. Taking a step forward in performance but losing the deep-seated quality feel and excellent ergonomics of its predecessor, Volkswagen left the door wide open with the Mk8, and the Honda Civic Type R walked right through it.

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In 2024, exactly five decades after the Mk1 Golf hit the road, Volkswagen is addressing these complaints with this: the Mk8.5 GTI. It arrives as part of the Golf’s mid-life update and its last outing as a petrol-engined hatch – the Mk9 will be pure-electric when it launches later in the decade.

Visually, the changes are mild – the GTI has gained new LED headlights, a new front bumper and an illuminated Volkswagen badge, along with redesigned taillights and a set of ‘horse shoe’ alloy wheels that might ruffle a few feathers at Alfa Romeo

Inside, the Golf gets an all-new infotainment suite that’s touted to be more intuitive and quicker to respond than before. Dubbed MIB4, the system offers a 10.4-inch touchscreen with revised graphics and menus, powered by new computing hardware. The GTI gets an upgraded 12.9-inch unit display as standard, and the Golf’s temperature and volume touch sliders are now backlit, as they always should have been. 

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The rest of the cabin, such as the GTI-specific steering wheel, digital dash and stubby automatic gear selector are familiar. As before, the GTI is only available with a seven-speed DSG gearbox – the manual option was removed from sale last year.

The Mk8.5 does, however, gain more power. Volkswagen’s EA888 2-litre turbocharged engine is being rolled out for service once again, this time with 261bhp (up from 242bhp). Later this year, revised GTI Clubsport and R models will also follow, potentially with power hikes of their own. 

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The Mk8.5 rides on the existing MQB Evo platform – Volkswagen hasn’t specified any changes to the GTI’s chassis hardware, but it’s likely to have fine-tuned its suspension calibration and geometry as part of the updates. The firm’s new DCC Pro adaptive damper technology may make an appearance, with dual-valve internals enabling separate adjustment of compression and rebound on the fly. The current DCC system offers 16 steps of electronic damper adjustment, and the new setup could offer something similar. 

As for the rest of the Golf lineup, mild-hybrid eTSI models get a 1.5-litre petrol engine developing either 113bhp or 148bhp, sitting alongside two non-hybrid turbocharged variants with the same outputs. Plug-in hybrid Golfs – topped by the 268bhp GTE – also use a 1.5-litre petrol engine. Thanks to a larger 19.7kWh battery pack, pure-electric range has been boosted to 62 miles this time around. 

Two 2-litre diesel options have also been announced, but whether these – and a replacement for the outgoing GTD warm hatch – will be available in the UK remains to be seen. 

Pricing for the new Golf is also yet to be announced. The current cheapest model, the Golf Life, starts from £26,945, but Volkswagen will introduce a new entry-level version to sit below this for the Mk8.5. The GTI, meanwhile, is likely to see a minor uplift over its current £39,815 asking price.

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