G-Whizz : 2021 VW Mk8 Golf GTI & Golf 1.5 eTSI R-Line [first drive review]
Singapore - Here you have it: Volkswagen’s eighth and latest interpretation of the iconic Golf (in 1.5 TSI R-Line trim – S$142,900 at time of writing), along with the brand new Golf GTI (S$205,900 at time of writing), its most powerful GTI model to date.
It comes complete with the obligatory red lipstick on the grille and a smattering of “GTI” badges as reminder you’re in the hottest variant of the Golf thus far – as far as Singapore is concerned, that is.
Design-wise, the new Golf is smartly-styled and a lot more in-your-face than its predecessors, with curvaceous LED headlamps, a bold LED strip running across the grille and a massive front bumper with gaping vents (hexagonal patterned vents on the GTI).
At the lower end of the spectrum, 'R' badges adorn the grille and fenders of the 1.5-litre Golf to further assert its dominance over the standard 'Life' and 'Life Plus' trim levels in the Plain Vanilla Golf range.
The R-Line also sees the addition of bucket-style sports seats and faux quad exhausts. The GTI gets its own share of badging and red accents throughout the car, all to remind you that it trumps the Moonstone Grey car, but true to form, it's nothing too garish.
The Golf 1.5-litre comes fitted with 18-inch alloys – a perk of the R-Line spec – and the red GTI was riding on 19s wrapped in sticky Pirelli rubber.
Despite the new changes to the bodywork, the silhouette of the car is undeniably “Golf-ish”.
However, as I stood before the 'Kings Red Metallic' GTI in all its glory, massive rims with red-painted callipers and dual exhaust tips, I could only sum up my thoughts with just one statement.
"It's gotten big"
Yes, I'm referring to the Golf.
The term “hot hatchback” generally refers to a hatchback with more power squeezed under the hood. That’s it, plain and simple.
The Volkswagen Golf GTI has excelled at this from as far back as the 1970s, with the Mk1 GTI. Compact yet potent, and wrapped up in a body that was less than 4 meters long.
Alas, we're not here to split hairs about the storied history of the Volkswagen Golf. Or make comparisons about how much it’s grown both inside and out. We’re here to drive it, and that’s what I did.
After grabbing my kit out of the 1.5-litre R-Line (which I actually spent less time in), I got the keys to the GTI and eagerly fired it up. In Sport mode of course.
Badges and red-trim aside, only a keen-eyed spotter will be able to differentiate the full-fat Golf GTI from its lesser 1.5-litre sibling. Given the R-Line trim, some may even mistake the grey car as the performance variant.
That is, until the GTI's 2.0-litre engine's stop/start system thrums back to life at the traffic line and the car spurts away from you in a flurry of pops and crackles when the lights turn green.
Under the hood of the Golf GTI, the EA888 evo4 2.0-litre engine has been fettled to produce 245hp and 370Nm of torque. 0-100km/h is rated at 6.5 seconds.
In contrast, the 1.5-litre murmurs to life a lot less raucously than the GTI, though it does it in a surprisingly quick fashion.
Quicker than its “hotter” sibling, thanks to the new 48V mild-hybrid starter motor mounted to the engine. The GTI doesn’t receive such treatment, nor does it have to.
Despite the high trim levels, the cabin of the new Golf is rather minimalist. Volkswagen's glitzy Digital Cockpit Pro instrument cluster comes as standard, offering a range of customisation options for how you want your gauges to look.
Of course, the GTI gets slightly better standard equipment than the 1.5-litre R-Line, though the grey car isn’t miles off in comparison.
A subtle GTI badge on the steering wheel and customisable performance dials in the digital gauge cluster are the only key differentiating factors between the two vehicles.
Gone is the mess of buttons surrounding the 10.25-inch infotainment screen, you get a small cluster of four touch-sensitive buttons in the middle of the dashboard.
Volkswagen’s efforts to future-proof the cabin may not make much sense at first, but get to know the car a little better and you begin to appreciate the little nuances and intuitive features, such as the touchpads under the infotainment unit, for instance.
I was almost at the end of my drive before realising they could be operated by sliding my finger across the surface, as opposed to pushing them like conventional buttons – I was slightly miffed with myself for not realising it sooner, but better late than never, eh?
But these little niggles did nothing to deter me from having some fun on the road. It just made me appreciate the Golf GTI for what it is – a hot hatch. Refined for comfort, yet tuned for performance.
It is a tried and tested formula that VW has had decades of experience in refining. Think “Golf”, and most petrolheads will think of VW's definitive hatchback, as opposed to say, a green expanse, metal clubs and little white balls.
That’s the charm of the Golf, it is and always has been recognised by many as the quintessential hatchback that can do it all. In the case of the GTI, it does it all... but leaves a big grin on the driver's face in the process.
PHOTOS Jay Tee
Volkswagen Golf GTI 2.0 TSI
Engine 1984cc, inline4, turbo
Transmission 7spd dual-clutch DSG
Top Speed 250km/h
Fuel Consumption 6.5l/100km (combined)
Volkswagen Golf R-Line 1.5 eTSI
Engine 1498cc, inline4, turbo
Transmission 7spd dual-clutch DSG
Top Speed 224km/h
Fuel Consumption 4.8l/100km (combined)