Following on from our first glimpse of the 2021 Volkswagen Golf GTI in February, the gaps in our knowledge about the eighth generation of the evergreen hot hatch have now been mostly filled in. The first examples should arrive in Ireland before the end of the year, with prices expected to start at around €46,000, but it is in effect a '211' model.
Power to the people (car)
Volkswagen has raised the bar once more for the Golf GTI. Although a turbocharged four-cylinder 2.0-litre petrol engine remains, the entry-level version now gets the same 245hp output as the outgoing Golf GTI Performance variant, backed up by 370Nm of torque. Top speeds will be limited to 250km/h, though no 0-100km/h time has been released as yet. We assume it will beat the previous car's 6.2 seconds, though, thanks to a modest reduction in weight. We also assume that more powerful versions will be launched in time. For now, we can confirm that a six-speed manual gearbox will be standard and a seven-speed DSG automatic optional. The latter brings with it the dinky new Volkswagen Group 'drive-by-wire' shifter in the centre console, plus paddles behind the heavily sculpted steering wheel. Stick with the manual and, of course, a black golf ball-like design tops the lever.
Red GTI exterior cues FTW
The Golf GTI styling theme is well established and has been further refined for the eighth iteration. The brand's honeycomb motif defines the lower air intake for a start, which may be further enhanced by optional LED fog lights in an X formation. Matrix LED headlights are standard in Ireland and there's a new take on the red stripe across the front, taking in the lights and grille. A (white) LED lightbar runs under this to give the car a unique daytime running light signature.
That front bumper is new, of course, matching up with chunkier side sills and a sportier rear bumper with an integrated aerodynamic diffuser. Either side of that is a decently proportioned exhaust outlet and there's a roof spoiler as well. The smallest alloy wheels fitted will be a new design of 17-inch rims called 'Richmond' (not pictured), though we believe that the minimum size on Irish cars will be 18 inches in diameter.
Tartan lives on
As you'd hope, the GTI's characteristic tartan-esque upholstery is present and correct (though many will choose to ignore it and upgrade to leather). It's a new design of pattern, called 'Scalepaper', while the GTI also gets new sports seats with integrated headrests. The honeycomb detail is found on the dashboard and doors. Speaking of which, if you open the driver's door, the new engine-start button will glow red until you start it up. There's more drama to be found, as the GTI comes with a unique view for the Golf's Digital Cockpit; it features a centrally positioned rev counter (and obligatory GTI logo) and then another round instrument rendered either side - the driver can customise what these display. And they can choose from 30 different ambient lighting colours, too.
Full Irish specifications have yet to be confirmed, but we do know that the touchscreen infotainment, keyless entry and start, three-zone climate control, Bluetooth and two USB-C ports will be included at a minimum, along with a raft of safety and driver assistance technology, such as Lane Assist, Autonomous Emergency Braking Front Assist with Pedestrian and Cyclist Monitoring and Travel Assist.
For those that want to really drive
And while the GTI is promised to be just as usable on an everyday basis as ever, Volkswagen has seemingly put even more effort into it living up to its own 'compact sports car with front-wheel drive' remit. Even the base model gets the sophisticated electronically controlled front differential now, while buyers can upgrade the car with an adaptive damping system, as before. The new Vehicle Dynamics Manager oversees the operation of these and gives the driver various settings to customise the car for a given situation.
There have been significant mechanical changes, too, even compared with the regular Golf. The front suspension is a full 3kg lighter and the effective spring rate has been increased by five per cent. The spring rate has been increased by a massive 15 per cent in the rear suspension, which is comprehensively overhauled. The ride height, incidentally, is 15mm lower than standard. Finally, the GTI gets 'progressive' steering as standard, which means it's a variable ratio system, getting more direct the further away from straight-on that you steer. There are only 2.1 turns of the steering wheel from lock-to-lock, which indicates that it's an incredibly direct system overall.
A word from those responsible
"The Golf GTI has always been a synonym for pure driving dynamics. This level of dynamism is one of the key features of the GTI. Few other vehicles in this category offer a similarly finely tuned balance between maximum sporty character and such high levels of travel comfort," explains Volkswagen's Karsten Schebsdat, Head of Driving Dynamics, Steering and Control Systems.