The 2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine, familiar in other VW products, has been tweaked to comply with Euro 6 emissions regulations, thanks mostly to a redesign of the cylinder head. Exhaust gases are now cooled within the head before they depart to the turbocharger, and a dual-injection system has been introduced that combines multi-point injection with direct injection. Two-mode lift on the exhaust valves, stop-start, reduced internal friction and intelligent control of the cooling system (which can close off all circulation on warm-up) complete the picture. Torque is thickly spread throughout the rev range and rarely feels caught off guard or hampered by turbo lag.
The transmissions are also pure VW, which is no bad thing. The six-speed manual’s shift is light and unfussy, but is gratifyingly easy to use in the right way. Work the ’box fast and hard and it’s never in the way, and feels so well calibrated to the engine and chassis it’s almost like VW has been building hot hatchbacks for 40 years. The DSG is a little difficult, lacking the ultimate precision of the DSG, but it’s so nearly there we’d only lightly judge you for making the leap. But the manual is so good that we’d definitely suggest you stick to it, while it’s still around.