Although the quality of the materials in VW's fifth-generation Golf has dipped a little, there's still an abundance of nifty features. We take an in-depth look at the Golf GT Sport TDI.
GT Sport trim means your Golf is kitted out with 17-inch alloy wheels, full-height black-out grille and lowered suspension to distinguish yourself from the common Golf driver.
Steering wheel controls
The leather trimmed steering wheel — standard throughout the Golf range — is a tactile delight and because it's not shiny and hard like many leather wheels, it's usable on even the coldest winter days.
Buttons for controlling the audio system's volume and the optional Bluetooth phone system are housed on the steering wheel's left spoke. The buttons for changing tracks or stations reside on the right spoke. However, because these buttons are also responsible for controlling the multifunction display, it's often easier to just fiddle with the audio head unit instead.
The standard grey interior has a rather bunker-like feel to it. The previous generation Golf brought us luxury-grade interiors at family hatch prices. Luxo features like the soft and squeezable dashboard, damped overhead grab-handles, slowly dimming interior lights and a lined glovebox remain, but there's now some hard, cheap-feeling plastic — some of which feature sharp mould lines — around the lower dashboard and centre console areas.
The arm rest, which doubles as the lid for the bin in the Golf's central tunnel, is padded and extendable.
Although the rear bench is pretty flat, rolling around is kept to a minimum thanks to the car's suspension which keeps body roll in check. Head rests and ISOFIX mounting points for child seats are both standard and welcome.
There are a number of shopping bag hooks located around the boot, as well as a 12V DC power outlet.
The rear seats don't fold completely flat but it shouldn't be an issue in most situations. There's also a ski port allowing you to carry long items along with a few rear seat passengers.
It looks like an automatic transmission, but it's way more interesting than that. DSG stands for Direct Shift Gearbox and it combines the best parts of a normal automatic (namely, automatic gear shifting), a traditional manual (better responsiveness and fuel economy) and more (super-fast gear changes).
Danger, Will Robinson!
Depending on how the stars aligned, we would sometimes get a mysterious engine fault. When this gremlin was at play in the engine bay, throttle response was dulled and revs limited it to about 3,000rpm.
There's an engine somewhere
With the amount of plastic shrouding car makers put in modern engine bays it's sometimes hard to know what's lurking beneath. The GT Sport features a high power version (125kW of power and 350Nm of torque) of VW's 2.0-litre turbo diesel.
Spot the difference
Externally the only difference between the petrol Twincharger (TSI) GT Sport and the diesel (TDI) version is the badge on the back.
Red is sporting ja?
The GT Sport's "sports" front buckets are nice and supportive but lack the GTI's extra bolstering. We weren't so enamoured with the red studlets though.
As part of the Golf's luxury pretensions, Volkswagen has lined the inside of the glovebox with imitation mouse hair. There's also a neat cubby (where the VW logo is) holding the car's instruction manual binder set.
The heat is on
The dual-zone climate control air-conditioning, which is a standard inclusion, successfully fought off winter, but the eight-speaker audio system was a disappointment with its flat sound. The audio system's large dot matrix display glows a pleasing shade of electric blue but is impossible to read with polarised sunnies.
Will you be my wing man?
The wing mirror on the driver's side is flat except for a convex portion on the far right.
From the outside you could almost fool yourself that you're driving a GTI — the biggest clues are the different alloy wheel style and missing red garnish for the grille.
Passengers in the rear are treated to their own set of air vents, mounted at the back of the centre console bin. Below the vents are a set of fold out cupholders.
Giving it the boot
To open the Golf's boot, press the top VW badge to unlock it and then lift up the tail-gate from the bottom of the badge which has flipped up. Very, very neat.