Long term tests

VW Golf GTI

The VW Golf is taken for a spin around Cadwell Park with surprisingly pleasing results

It was standing on the bridge at Adenau that the idea came to me. Two Golf GTIs – one white, one a lovely oily grey – had just gone absolutely belting into the uphill right-hander at Exmühle. Nose-to-tail and tyres howling, they looked fantastic. It was then that I thought what a great car the GTI would be in which to learn the Nurburgring. The Golf has been given ho-hum reviews for its on-track performance in the past – too clinical, too boring, we’ve said – but then that’s really based on driving it around Bedford Autodrome’s West Circuit, a track that’s flatter than most of evo’s karaoke efforts. Throw in a bit of topography plus some corners that you haven’t seen before, and I reckoned the Golf would shine. I couldn’t justify a trip to the ’Ring just to test my theory, so a visit to an unfamiliar track closer to home seemed in order. The evoactive event at Donington was just too long to wait, so I threw corporate caution to the wind and booked a day at Cadwell Park with MotorSport Vision (they visit other circuits too and prices start at £79 for a half day – see www.motorsportvision.co.uk/trackdays). With its infamous Mountain section, Cadwell is affectionately called the mini-Nurburgring, so it seemed like the perfect acid test. Two weeks later, the satnav is taking me on an unexpected but interesting route towards the circuit. With five miles to go there’s still a distinct lack of hills, and I’m starting to think that some clever marketing has been making a mountain out of a molehill. But then I hit a one-in-ten. Phew. Ubiquitous pig bap consumed and wrist wreathed in luminous bands, I pull-on the old bonce protector and venture forth for some exploratory laps. Like some beautiful shrub concealing a snake, Cadwell’s tortuous twists are set in gorgeous surroundings. I purposely haven’t looked at any circuit guides, so it’s all a surprise. Lots of corners are blind, but the Golf is a reassuring place to be. The fantastic mid-range means that even if you make a bit of a Horlicks of your entry, apex or exit (or any combination thereof), you’re not left embarrassingly off the boil. It’s a bone-dry day so ESP isn’t necessary, but I keep it on initially because it’s a good discipline to drive without it cutting in on the exit of corners. There’s endless grip, but the GTI is a car that flows beautifully and corners very neutrally when you’ve got it just right; if a corner seems scrappy, then you know you’re doing something wrong. The Golf’s forte is learning the quick stuff. Coppice and Charlies are approached at over 100mph and they’re deep-breath quick, but the Golf relishes being teased ever harder. You up the pace bit by bit, lap by lap, but when you do eventually over-commit slightly, you can lift a fraction and the nose will tuck in, allowing you to get straight back on the throttle. No drama – it’s beautifully balanced. I didn’t do more than six or seven laps at a time, and the discs and pads were no doubt thanking me for not leaning on them for everything they’d got lap after lap (the Golf feels like a big car under braking). I also found it was rarely worth revving out the last thousand rpm, the GTI’s punch being lower down the range. This approach resulted in almost acceptable fuel consumption, too – I saw 10.2mpg when thrashing it, but teens when I was more gentle. Overall, though, it looks like my hunch was right. If you’ve got a mk5 GTI then you undoubtedly have the ideal car to learn new circuits in, whether it’s the mini-Nurburgring or the real thing…

Running Costs

Date acquiredSeptember 2005
Total mileage14,496
Costs this month£16.99 (oil)
Mileage this month1865
MPG this month30.5mpg
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