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Volkswagen Golf GT Sport TSI (Golf V, 2007) review: Volkswagen Golf GT Sport TSI (Golf V, 2007)

The GT Sport TSI shape-shifts easily between a relaxed cruiser and inconspicuous hot-hatch, and the 1.4-litre Twincharger engine is an engineering marvel. But the GTI is just five grand more. Decisions, decisions.

Derek Fung
Derek loves nothing more than punching a remote location into a GPS, queuing up some music and heading out on a long drive, so it's a good thing he's in charge of CNET Australia's Car Tech channel.
Derek Fung
5 min read

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Since the first generation debuted some 34 years ago as a replacement for the original "people's car", the Beetle, the Golf has been a handsome, if somewhat understated in nature, hatch. Even after five generations of evolution this rule has yet to be broken, even in GT Sport trim. In many ways it's a de-pimped version of the GTI hero model; although both ride on lowered suspension and have 17-inch alloy wheels, the GT Sport's rims look decidedly less sporty. They also both have full-height black-out grilles, but the GT Sport's version is less shiny and does without the GTI's red border.


Volkswagen Golf GT Sport TSI (Golf V, 2007)

The Good

The engine — small, sporty and smart. A hoot to drive, when you're keen. Relaxed, when you're not. Handsome styling.

The Bad

Quality of the interior is inferior to previous model. Not exactly cheap. Leather and MP3 player connectivity are optional. GTI, at AU$5k more, is tempting.

The Bottom Line

The GT Sport TSI shape-shifts easily between a relaxed cruiser and inconspicuous hot-hatch, and the 1.4-litre Twincharger engine is an engineering marvel. But the GTI is just five grand more. Decisions, decisions.

Our review car was a supremely comfortable on-road habitat. For that we can thank the optional AU$2,990 "macchiato" leather interior. Opting for the "macchiato" colour alleviates the car of its standard grey-on-grey bunker-like feel, as it also brings a two-tone interior to the Golf. Not only are the leather seats wonderfully plush and sofa-like, but they are much more aesthetically pleasant than the standard cloth seats with dull red studding.

As we sank into those leather pews, we reminisced about the previous generation Golf, whose main claim to fame was its luxury-grade interior at family hatch prices. Luxo features like the soft and squeezable dashboard, damped overhead grab-handles, slowly dimming interior lights and a lined glovebox are still present in the current Golf. 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. The impression is somewhat ruined by the hard, cheap-feeling plastic — some of which feature sharp mould lines — around the lower dashboard and centre console areas.

For a car starting from about AU$35k, the Golf GT Sport isn't lavishly equipped. Although the audio system boasts eight speakers, it doesn't sound particularly flash, with most music being acceptable but very flat. The system features an MP3-capable single slot CD player, although in this iPod age it's disappointing to see the auxiliary jack reserved for higher grade models and the iPod connector relegated to the options list. Like the Golf's instruments, the display on the large head unit glows a pleasing shade of electric blue; the display is impossible to read with polarised sunnies though. A large screen, hard-disk satellite navigation system is an AU$2,990 option and, unfortunately, not fitted to our car.

Climate control air-conditioning comes as standard, and was just the thing for getting us through some of Sydney's coldest winter days. Heated seats helped to warm our tushes, although they're only fitted as part of the optional leather package. Speaking of options — again — our review car was fitted with the AU$1,890 bi-xenon headlamps. That's a lot to pay for lighting, but if you regularly traipse across this island nation it's a worthwhile investment. The xenon lamps light a greater area than the Golf's standard fit items which, coupled with the more intense light they emit, allows for safer driving in the bush at night. Included with the xenon lights are headlamp washers and a self-levelling system, that serves to both keep the lights focussed on the road and from dazzling oncoming drivers.

A large LCD screen — multifunction display in VW lingo — is sited between the speedometer and tachometer. This screen can be configured to display various tidbits of information — from outside air temperature, average and instantaneous fuel consumption, and the distance from empty to warning messages and audio information — as well as the ever-present time, odometer and gear indicator for cars equipped with the DSG semi-automatic gearbox. At standstill, a configuration menu is also available via the multifunction display, which lets the driver tune a number of minor, but nice to have, settings, like courtesy lights for when you exit the car and the number of doors unlocked by the car's plipper.

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 star of this car lives under the bonnet; hidden beneath a shroud of anonymous plastic is an engine fully deserving of its class win at the 2008 edition of the International Engine of the Year awards. Displacing just 1.4 litres, this engine has no right to produce 125 kilowatts of power and 240 Netown-metres of torque — that means it has as much power and more torque than the 2.5-litre engine fitted to the Mazda 6. This is courtesy of the fact that the Twincharger engine comes with both a supercharger and a turbocharger; an unusual arrangement as engines usually only feature either a turbocharger or a supercharger. (For more information on how the Twincharger engine works, check out our photo gallery.)

Although there's an abundance of torque or pulling power from low in the rev range, which means that if you're feeling lazy you'll rarely be stuck in the wrong gear. Nonetheless, with a rather high 7,000rpm red-line and a nicely muted growl, it's a zingy engine that encourages spirited driving. It's also deceptively fast, we had to set the over-speed warning at an aggressively low level to keep ourselves from losing our licence. The suspension works well whether you're doing the brain dead crawl to and from work or blasting through your favourite windy road. It takes care of all but the largest road zits without completely isolating you from what's happening underneath; body roll is also nicely controlled. The fun factor is slightly ruined by the steering which, while accurate, provides little clue as to what the front wheels are doing.

The optional (AU$2,300) six-speed DSG dual-clutch gearbox fitted to our car shifts between gears smoother than most automatic transmissions and quicker than any human rowing a manual gear lever. Shifting gears on the DSG either via the steering wheel mounted paddles, or by tipping the gear lever backwards and forwards, is great for both performance and fuel economy — which according to official testing is better and equal, respectively — but lacks the intimate man-machine interface that shifting gears manually with a clutch and gear lever provides. On the highway we managed 7.53L/100km, while in the city, where we a did a mix of suburban running; daily commuting and the odd spirited run or two, we consumed 11.79L/100km — the latter is an especially good figure considering the vigour with which we were normally driving.

The VW Golf GT Sport TSI is a really good car. It shape-shifts easily between a relaxed cruiser and inconspicuous hot-hatch, and the 1.4-litre Twincharger engine is an engineering marvel. There are but two problems: to make it a truly great car you need to dive into the option list where the GTI, at another AU$5k, is awfully tempting.