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2013 Volkswagen Golf GTD Road Test

By raccars Published

RAC Cars drives the new 184hp Volkswagen Golf GTD – a hot hatch that carries a green twist…

10 Second Verdict

The old Volkswagen Golf GTD was one of the unexpected stars of the range, proving satisfying and fuel efficient in equal measure. Can the new one stack up as well? RAC Cars found out.

Price: £25,285-£27,355
Engine: 2.0-litre turbodiesel
Power: 184hp
Torque: 280lb ft
Gearbox: Six-speed manual
0-60mph: 7.5 seconds
Top speed: 141mph
Fuel economy: 67.3mpg
CO2: 109g/km
Insurance group: 26

Three UK Golf GTD facts

  • Produces more torque than a Porsche Cayman S
  • Costs £560 less than Golf GTI
  • Historically, has outsold GTI three-to-one

What is it?

The Volkswagen Golf GTD is, as the name suggests, the turbodiesel sister car to the 2.0-litre turbo petrol Golf GTI hot hatch. It’s a model that VOLKSWAGEN has offered for several years and has really grown in popularity – it actually outsells the GTI in the UK now, meaning its introduction is even more significant.

This is why Volkswagen has brought the Golf GTD to market at almost the same time as the GTI. And it’s also why the GTD now looks even more like a GTI – 18-inch wheels, bodykit, lowered sports suspension, special LED lighting features and all. Now more than ever, separating GTD from GTI is about circling the tiny details rather than the major differences.

For this seventh generation model, Volkswagen has given it more power than ever: a full 184hp. That’s not too far behind the 220hp of the GTI and fully justifies the decision to make it look even more like a GTI. There’s another headliner with it too, though – more than 67mpg, ably backed up by sub-110g/km CO2 emissions.

Performance AND efficiency? It’s always been the unique selling point of the Golf GTD hot hatch: now more than ever, it’s a phrase that’s fully justified…

Performance

The 2.0-litre TDI engine produces its 184hp at 3500-4000rpm. More significantly, 280lb ft of torque arrives at just 1750rpm. This means the GTD surges forward almost as soon as you press the accelerator. This is the key difference over the GTI petrol – the GTD is all about pulling power. Immediately apparent in this car is a feeling of real urgency.

It still likes to rev too, though – it’s remarkably easy to hit the rev limiter set at just over 5000rpm – meaning the combination makes for a performance car more eager than you first might think. Big speeds can be reached with considerable ease (particularly if you choose the optional DSG paddleshift gearbox over the standard six-speed manual); it’s the simplicity of accessing its performance that sets it apart from the GTI.

The stats say 0-62mph in 7.5 seconds, which is very impressive – but believe us, on the move, it feels a lot quicker still. Oh, and for those who think a diesel will never sound as exciting as a petrol, you’re in luck: Volkswagen sells an optional noise enhancer, to give it a suitably GTI-style soundtrack…

Ride and handling

Just like the new Volkswagen Golf GTI, the GTD is an extremely competent and capable car. It covers ground with excellent poise and is flattering through the bends. It’s perhaps not quite as sharp as the GTI, but it’s still a sporty-feeling drive, even if it does dial back the raw excitement and involvement of some hot hatches.

Indeed, Volkswagen quells the considerable torque of the 2.0-litre diesel engine with a standard XDS+ electronic differential aid. This can both brake the front inside wheel and vary torque distribution across the front axle, helping the GTI turn in and hang on well in corners without becoming a handful.

The front-wheel drive Golf GTD offers a choice of two suspension setups: a standard sports-focused configuration, and an optional Adaptive Chassis Control system with adaptive dampers. This allows drivers to choose between Comfort and Sport: the car we tested was so equipped.

Don’t be misled by the ‘Comfort’ label – it’s still hardly a cruiser even in this mode. Sport offers stiffer body control and less body roll, and we found it almost entirely unflappable. Drivers can mix and match settings for steering weight, suspension stiffness and other configurations to create their own ‘Individual’ setup.

Inside story

This is a genuine GTI on the inside. Volkswagen has given it the full GTI makeover, including the famous hip-hugging tartan-trimmed seats (this time, the trim is themed in grey rather than red). Another blast from the past is the ‘golf ball’ gearknob.

The chunky flat-bottomed steering wheel is good to hold and other subtle GTI-style details make it feel very special. Add to this the fantastic, premium-level build quality inherent in all new Golf models for a car that is every inch the measure of a BMW and Audi.

Few swift hatches are this practical either. There is a three-door model but the more family-friendly option is the five-door, which makes best use of excellent rear passenger space and comfort, plus a flexible boot that boasts a 380-litre capacity even with the seats up.

The latest Golf GTD really does epitomise what has always made the hot hatch great – giving as much flexibility and lifestyle-focused space as possible, without dialling back on the sporty touches that make them more appealing than lesser models.

Marketplace

The new Volkswagen Golf GTD is on sale in the UK now, in both three-door and five-door guise, with deliveries expected from August. Volkswagen dealers are looking forward to it eagerly, with almost as much relish as the GTI that’s just nosed ahead in the rush to market. Particularly as the GTD costs less than the GTI.

The previous Golf GTD was a hit in the UK, outselling the GTI model three to one. We expect the same to continue with this car: that’s how important fuel economy is to British buyers. As this version is even faster and boasts even more GTI styling cues, it’s hard to see how it can fail.

Where the Golf GTD really excels is with fuel economy. With the standard six-speed manual, it averages an exceptional 67.3mpg, and emits just 109g/km CO2. That’s the same as the 2007 Golf Bluemotion 1.9 TDI – a car described back then as offering groundbreaking fuel economy for such a practical family model. Yet this puts out almost twice the power…

In other words, it’s so efficient and green, it will cost you just £20 a year in road tax – despite also accelerating to 62mph in 7.5 seconds. Remarkable!

Verdict

The latest Volkswagen Golf GTD questions more earnestly than ever the logic of buying the GTI. Its engine is smooth, its punch is considerable and its economy is exceptional. It can even be had with a sound enhancer that means it sounds the part too.

OK, it’s not quite as raw as the GTI. True hot hatch fans will remain wedded to the petrol car, and rightly so. But for many, the slightly less focused but still sporty talents of Volkswagen’s latest well-developed GTD will hit the nail squarely on the head.

The 67mpg hot hatch you really want? You’d better believe it…

Five rivals

SEAT Leon 2.0 TDI FR: Same engine as the Golf GTD; lower list price; equally compelling
Vauxhall Astra 2.0 CDTi BiTurbo: Why stick with just one turbo? Vauxhall gives us two and adds spice to the Astra
Ford Focus 2.0 TDCI: Doesn’t have the power of the Golf but the chassis is just as fun
BMW 125d: More expensive than the Golf, but more powerful: real rear-wheel drive satisfaction
Volvo V40 D4: Five-cylinder engine adds punchy drive and a warbling soundtrack. Looks like a GTI in R-Design guise too

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