Skip advert
Advertisement

Volkswagen Golf 7 GTI review (2012-2020) – ride and handling

British B-roads can be the making and undoing of a car. The GTI however is perfectly suited to them, with top-of-the-line chassis control and balance

Evo rating
  • Superbly rounded. Fast yet frugal, fun to drive yet shows no form of compromise on the road
  • Edgier, faster rivals more exciting to drive. Expensive.

If you’ve not driven a Golf GTI from the last five years, we’d suggest you do, as in its seventh generation the Golf’s ride and handling is its most impressive achievement. The MQB platform on which it is based is always a good start, but there is something transient in the Golf’s chassis specifically that makes it a more entertaining car to drive than other VW Group MQB-based models.

Advertisement - Article continues below

Compared to the standard hatch the GTI’s suspension is 15mm lower, and now features a standard electronically controlled front locking differential. The set-up is nothing like as stiff as some rivals, being firm, but incredibly well controlled, with impeccable wheel control and a fluid primary and secondary ride, even on the larger 19-inch wheel option.

The suspension itself is by MacPherson struts at the front and a multi-link set-up at the rear. Sometimes British B-roads can be the undoing of a car, and sometimes they can be the making of it. With the GTI it’s the latter. The bumps, humps and general rough and tumble of broken tarmac reveal just how talented the chassis is, as it tracks the road in a display of beautifully controlled damping.

The natural instinct is to put the car into its Sport setting and it certainly feels well resolved and not too harsh, which is impressive. However, if you go into the Driver Profile Selection screen and tap on the Individual setting then you can retain the Sport settings for steering, engine, ESP etc but knock the suspension back to Normal. Now you get a little more roll and a tiny bit of float over the bumps, which then lets you get the car moving around a touch more into and through corners, which is lovely. The balance remains neutral, but it’s so easy to place thanks to that stiff MQB platform that you can really throw it around.

Advertisement - Article continues below
Skip advert
Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

It’s not as perversely oversteery as the previous-generation Focus ST, nor as front-led as the Peugeot 308 GTi, but finds a wonderful fluidity somewhere between them. Push really hard and the chassis responds. Want to adjust your line mid-corner? No problem. What about a touch of oversteer? Easy. It’s as compellingly pliable as the very best, even if it lacks the outright capability of the Honda Civic Type R or agility of the Renault Mégane RS.

evo Tip

We reckon it’s worth going for the optional Adaptive Chassis Control which, in Sport, means stiffer damping, heavier steering, better throttle response and looser ESP. It might just be the ideal setting for track days. The chassis tenses noticeably and through, say, a fast chicane, the GTI remains flat and agile.

evo Comment

‘The main issue is the GTI’s ability to excite. The most engaging front-wheel-drive hot hatches take a while to key into. After a couple of hours on the road it sometimes feels as if the GTI had yielded all of its character. But the GTI is now in its seventh iteration and 37th year and we’d wager no other car of its genre has ever benefitted from more engineering man-hours, development miles or intellectual effort.' David Vivian, Contributing Road Tester

You can read a more thorough assessment of the GTI Clubsport here, but suffice to say it's the best driver's car in the Golf range.

Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement

Most Popular

Bugatti Tourbillon revealed – the 1775bhp, V16-engined Chiron successor is here
Bugatti Tourbillon – front
News

Bugatti Tourbillon revealed – the 1775bhp, V16-engined Chiron successor is here

With a naturally aspirated V16, a new carbon chassis and a 273mph top speed Bugatti’s latest hypercar has the GMA T.50 in its sights
20 Jun 2024
Alfa Romeo 4C – the car world's greatest misses
Alfa Romeo 4C
Features

Alfa Romeo 4C – the car world's greatest misses

It had stunning looks and promising hardware, but somehow the 4C didn’t add up to the sum of its parts
20 Jun 2024
Lotus Elise S2 v Toyota MR2 Mk3 v Porsche Boxster S 987: The best affordable mid-engined sports cars
Used mid-engined bargains
Group tests

Lotus Elise S2 v Toyota MR2 Mk3 v Porsche Boxster S 987: The best affordable mid-engined sports cars

Everyone should own a mid-engined car at least once in their life, and the S2 Elise, Mk3 MR2 and 987 Boxster S are brilliant places to start
15 Jun 2024