The Volkswagen Golf GTI is more than just a hot hatch

Quick, practical and stylish
by Ian Magbanua | May 13, 2018

'The GTI is truly a master at being both sports car and everyday beater. It boasts wicked performance and also enough space for you, your friends, and your cargo. '

We're at Pradera Verde in Pampanga to shoot our landmark 150th Issue cover story, and for this special feature, we’ve put together a lineup of five cars and one superbike packing a combined total of more than 1,800hp. The boys are out to play, and today is the day we rekindle our love of cars.

I get to drive my personal favorite, the Volkswagen Golf GTI. With its four doors and hatchback shape, it looks almost ordinary and domestic. It seems out of place in the company of sports coupes. But anyone who is familiar with the history of this car surely understands why it's being featured alongside these meaner-looking driving machines.

It looks almost ordinary and domestic. PHOTO: Igor Maminta

The GTI, a motoring icon born in 1976, is widely recognized as the world’s first true hot hatch. After the Beetle and the Kombi, it’s the most famous of Volkswagen’s offerings. The GTI Mk1 was the result of a skunkworks project that aimed to elevate the humble Golf into a car capable of holding its own against the autobahn blitzers of its time. It was a sleeper car that provided considerable performance and practical enjoyment for relatively little coin.

The latest iteration is no different. What I have here is a five-door hatchback that seats four and has a reasonably sized trunk, but also boasts one of the sportiest driving experiences you can get in the sub-P2.3-million price range. It’s got a boosted 2.0-liter four-pot delivering 210hp to the front wheels via a six-speed dual-clutch gearbox, and you’d be a fool to think that the humble power figure is bound to disappoint. I implore you to ignore the numbers and let your senses do the driving.

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The sharp steering and the sporty suspension are able to communicate everything you need to know about the road you're on. This car excels at being calm when you need it to be, and suddenly becoming fun and engaging when the blacktop opens up. The potent acceleration will hit you right in the gut, but more than that, it's the brakes that impress me the most--there is little to no drama as you scrub off speed.

In city driving, the exhaust note is calm and civilized, but opening up the throttle reveals the engine's full repertoire of throaty bellows and ripping screams as the needle sweeps the tachometer. It's amazing how something that looks so ordinary can be so exceptional.

It's amazing how something that looks so ordinary can be so exceptional. PHOTO: Igor Maminta

The GTI is truly a master at being both sports car and everyday beater. It boasts wicked performance and also enough space for you, your friends, and your cargo. It's a multifaceted car that's equally at home on EDSA at rush hour and on the twisty mountain roads of Bataan. There's no denying its place in the company of these chiseled and heavy-hitting two-seaters.

Taking into consideration our local roads, driving conditions, and fuel prices, you'd be hard pressed to find a package that offers as much power and practicality as this hatchback. Pack for a weekend out-of-town trip with your family or friends; park it at the mall when watching a movie; use it for a trip to the grocery store; ferry the kids to and from school in it; cruise around in it late at night; or take it out for a track day. The GTI skirts the line between sports car and everyday beater.

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The GTI skirts the line between sports car and everyday beater. PHOTO: Igor Maminta

Since childhood, cars have been my one constant obsession. And as I write this, I feel that today, more than at any other point in my life, I'm truly one with all the cars I love. Our 150th Issue celebrates our passion for cars and motoring, pays tribute to the hard work of everyone who is or has been part of the team, and honors the loyalty of our readers throughout the years.

I'm personally celebrating it not just because I'm driving the latest iteration of the original hot hatch, or because I've been given the privilege of shooting some of the greatest performance cars on earth. I would like to extend my gratitude to the Top Gear Philippines team for assigning me with the two sections of the magazine that are closest to my heart: Old School and Mod Rides. From your new classics and customs editor, a shout-out to you, our dear readers, for your continued patronage.

Of course, we should include a dramatic shot of the author with his favorite car. PHOTO: Igor Maminta

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