Review: CKD 2022 Volkswagen Golf GTI – Is she still the girl that can do both?
Dinesh · Mar 24, 2022 01:28 PM
CKD means the Mk8 is almost RM 30k cheaper, meaning a no brainer on its own
Quicker but not funner
Clumsy integrated cabin controls can shorten your lifespan
You’ve all seen the memes extolling the virtues to “Get you a girl that can do both.” You know what we mean. It’s those memes with a girl that can pull off going from looking like one of the dudes to a total 10 on the sexual scale. She’s cool to hangout with your guy friends and even blends in but can transform into a stunner for when those white-tie events come-a-calling. That’s always been the Volkswagen Golf GTI’s forte as well.
The iconic hot hatch etched its nameplate in the annals of performance cars with its unparalleled dual-purpose capabilities. Quick on the canyons and loads of fun to toss around the twisties, it was perfectly at home doing the school run or ferrying the family on a daily basis.
That’s the Golf GTI for you. It wouldn’t look out of place at a weekend touge drive session up Ulu Yam nor would it stick out like a sore thumb in the car park of your office or the valet parking at a high-end hotel.
Timid with the kids in the back but a terror with a sweeping corner up ahead, there wasn’t anything quite like it in that price bracket that could serve unwaveringly as the weekend plaything as well as the weekday runabout.
Unfortunately though, for every jack of all trades, you’ll eventually end up mastering one a little more. Be it by design or unintentional consequence, it’s nigh impossible to maintain that perfect balance between both ends of the spectrum forever.
That’s precisely the conundrum we find ourselves in with the all-new 2022 Mk8 Golf GTI. In this new iteration, you’d be hard pressed in ignoring its pronounced skewing towards one end of that spectrum and it isn’t the one that you’ll like.
You might find the word “sleeker” tossed around like the village bicycle by the motoring media when narrating the appearance of new cars. Believe us, it’s not that our employers won’t splurge for a thesaurus in the office but most modern cars just keep getting sharper front facades.
Does that automatically translate into better looks in the eyes of buyers? Who knows? It’s just our duty to tell you what we think it looks like and the MK8 Golf GTI looks sleeker.
Literally, the headlights and taillights are slimmer although its heavily contrasted by the larger grille and rear diffuser. Lighting itself is a full LED with sequential indicators at the rear. We’re usually not fans of a unibrow but the LED unibrow on the front grille of Mk8 Golf GTI that links the headlights is a distinguished touch and one that’ll be instantly recognisable if you catch it in your rear-view mirror.
Some might argue the curvier front end lacks the aggression expected of a GTI as opposed to the more angular face of the Mk7.5. It’s akin to comparing the blunt finish of a club against the sharp edge of a spear; one aims to clobber while the other is a precision tool for accurate damage but fortunately the only thing getting hurt on this occasion are the eyes.
Well balanced proportions do well to hide the larger dimensions of the new model. It’s longer and taller but narrower than its predecessor. The wheelbase is a negligible 1mm longer although all that added dimensions adds up to it being over 100kg heavier.
We’re huge fans of those wheels but it perplexes us that the side-view mirrors aren’t foldable; not even manually.
While the physically larger might be disguised behind the shroud of good design, the interior is easily noticeable as much more generous in terms of space. Legroom in the rear grows by a large margin and that nub of a gear knob goes a long way in lending an airy ambience to the front.
Form should always follow function but both are a little lacking here. While the overall layout is catchy, the positioning of the central air-conditioning vents and the materials leaves plenty to be desired. If you can't make it feel nice, a consolation can be to make it appear nice and they've fallen just a little short in both departments here.
However, in an unwarranted attempt at mimicking the uncluttered dash of some brands, Volkswagen has royally effed up. There’s an art to decluttering; just ask Marie Kondo. Volvo and Mazda appeared to have consulted her but Volkswagen went a step too far.
The manner in which Volkswagen integrated almost all functions into the 10-inch Discover Media touchscreen head unit leaves plenty of head scratching to be desired. The basics of audio and climate controls should be easily accessible. In the Mk8, it simply isn’t.
To access the climate controls, you’ll always have to hit the “Clima” tile below the screen. They might have thought themselves smart by integrating touch buttons for the front temperature and the audio volume beneath the screen but they forgot to light it, meaning at night you’ll be fumbling to make it warmer and end up cranking up the volume of Taylor Swift on the radio. Not ideal.
Perhaps given enough time; as owners obviously will, the functions will be second nature but on an intuitive scale for someone that’s just jumped in, it’s a nightmare. Occasionally, the system lagged a little on start up as well. And don’t ask us how to deactivate the ESC, Google it for a laugh if you have the time.
It’s saving grace comes in the form of wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay though it might be an exercise in futility.
Engine + Transmission
For all of the balls they dropped with the interior’s integrated functions, Wolfsburg was smart enough to not mess with the engine. The engineers coaxed out an additional 15 PS and 20 Nm of torque from the familiar 2.0-litre turbo four-banger.
That brings the total output now to a very mouth-watering 245 PS and 370 Nm of torque. With an extra cog in the seven-speed wet clutch DSG, those front wheels translate the extra oomph into something very tangible behind the wheel.
An additional forward gear means that the engineers could spread the ratio better. The first four are shorter for quicker acceleration while the last three are taller for more efficient cruising all the way up to its quoted 250kph top speed.
Volkswagen themselves quotes a 0-100kph time of 6.3-seconds and our Racelogic box clocked our quickest attempt at 6.68-seconds on a less than ideal surface. Suffice to say, in an ideal world that quoted number doesn’t seem like a stretch of the truth.
Ride & Handling
So how does it all come together? Pretty darn smoothly and therein lies the problem… it’s too smooth. You can tell the extra ponies add a sense of urgency to the Mk8. It might not gallop a whole lot faster but its initial strides are definitely quicker.
Even the DSG has been finetuned further. Judder is absent and shifts are seamless across the rev range. The best automatics in this age might make you question the need for a dual-clutch but Volkswagen’s head start with this tech ensures it remains leaps and bounds ahead of anything else.
Now remember how eventually a jack of all trades will end up leaning towards one side of the spectrum? Well, in this case it’s the part that does the weekday tasks instead of the exciting weekend shenanigans.
For sure it’s quicker and certainly more usable but that’s the downside though; the usability seems to have chipped away a little at the part that carves a smile on your face when you carve that corner in the road.
Speaking of corner carving, it’ll still bite and go. The XDS electronic LSD has been further honed and feels more forgiving at the limits without sacrificing grip. If you’ve ever driven the Mk7.5, you might wonder why this Mk8 just refuses to be ruffled at the limits.
It’s that refinement which is also part of the grievances. Everything happens without any drama that it can be boring behind the wheel. It lacks that sense of excitement. Petrolheads that fall into the buyer demographic for the Golf GTI don’t prioritise outright performance over that fun factor. This Mk8 has been refined so much that going fast in it feels like you’re stuck in a sensory deprivation chamber.
Even the signature DSG exhaust crackle is almost muted unless you’re giving it all the beans in Sport mode. Annoyingly though, Volkswagen decided to pipe in some synthesised engine noise into the cabin. Again, this very much falls into the misplaced priorities when engineering the Mk8.
We also put the Mk8 through our usual fuel consumption cycle, racking up just a hair over 100km on the drive. It covered roughly 60 percent of highway and the remaining 40 percent being urban commuting. It returned around 9.1-litre/100 km, which is a fair number although quite some litres off the claimed 7.4-litre/100 km.
Some of you might be bewildered that for something costing north of RM200k, the Mk8 is lacking any modicum of active safety tech. On another hand, a small faction might argue an enthusiast’s hatch such as the Golf GTI doesn’t require it.
Thing is that active safety is almost a given nowadays so it isn’t a good look for the brand but we’re guessing the omission of active safety might have been in the name of keeping the price down.
Hot hatches are all about being fun rather than outright speed and performance. Yes, the latter is a major contributor to the former but not at its expense.
Nonetheless, being locally-assembled has priced the Mk8 close to RM 30,000 lower than the Mk7.5. From that standpoint alone, it’s a no-brainer. It’s a much more capable hot hatch in every sense of the hot and hatch compound; you just might not enjoy it as much.
Furthermore, when held up against its previous contemporary peers... the Mk8 Golf GTI doesn't quite have any direct contemporary peers anymore. The Honda Civic Type-R and the Renault Megane RS have all surpassed the RM 300k mark leaving the Golf to be a hole-in-one as nothing else can tee up next to it on the course.
Will you get from Point A to Point B faster than a Mk7.5? The answer is a resounding yes. Will you have more fun doing so? Probably not.
“Better late than never.” Some despise it, others begrudgingly agree with it but he swears by it… much to the chagrin of everyone around him. That unfortunately stems from all of his project cars not running most of the time, which in turn is testament to his questionable decision-making skills in life. A culmination of many wrongs fortunately making a right; much like his project cars on the rare occasions they run, he’s still trying to figure out if another project car is the way to go.