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Which VW Golf GTI was best?There have been seven generations of the Volkswagen Golf GTI. But which was the greatest?
[SOUND] [MUSIC] The three little letters on the front of this car mean so much to so many. They're synonymous with fun, speed, space, and the Volkswagen Golf. This Mach 1 Golf GTI debuted in the 1975 Frankfurt Motor Show And, so far, it's spawned six direct successes, and I have a question. Which is the greatest of them all? [MUSIC] It was VW's replacement for the aging Beetle. The world was moving on, and wanted something a little bit different, a little bit more refined, and Thanks to tech from newly acquired Audi in front wheel drive and water cooling, that's precisely what Volkswagen could offer. The car launched in the early '70s, but initially the Golf GTI wasn't part of the plan. In fact no one at VW really thought about a hot Golf, but thankfully engineers with imaginations and spare time exist The GTI prototype was built as an after hours skunk works affair. In fact, it was done against the wishes of the head of engineering at the time. But once he had a go, he saw the light. Now the initial prototype was actually based on a Sirocco, and had a 1.6 liter, 100 horsepower engine Engine, and some anti- AT GT. The suspension was set to very hard, and the exhaust to super loud. It was a bit mad. However, when it was presented to top brass in the form of the Golf Sport, it was in a more sane state of tune. They tried it And they liked it. It appeared at the 1975 Frankfurt Motor Show and it was dubbed the fasted VW ever. Its badges read GTI, Gran Turismo Injection, and it looked a little different from the usual Golfs. Tartan interior, golf ball gear nob, chin spoiler, red lipstick, black details on the sides and even almost Flared wheel arches. Its engine was a 1.6, boasting 108 horsepower and 103 pound feet. Now that's not much by today's standards, but for a small hatchback in the mid 70s, that's a fair whack. And it's light, 810 kilos, which means it's good for the naught to 62 run in 9 seconds. And it has a top speed of 110, but later down the line its engine was upgraded to the one you get in here. It's got a 1.8 with 113 horsepower and 109 pounds foot. Now that's good for a naught to 62 run of 8.2 seconds and a top speed of a dizzying 114 miles an hour. [MUSIC] And here's what it's like to drive well. I'm in a car made in the 70s. It feels like a car made in the 70s. The visibility out of this thing is just amazing. I can see everything and there's so much space and it feels so airy. The steering is a little bit of a dead zone. You might be able to see. But, it's nice. It's [UNKNOWN]. It works. The throttle response is there. The engine, because it's an old car, and they make loads and loads of noise, you're always a bit scared to rev it, but [SOUND] it feels good. It feels perky, awake and alive. And the suspension Nowhere strong as the stuff you get today, but this is fantastic. It's such good fun, cuz it's a car designed originally as a normal family hatchback. But some engineers had a good idea. And that good idea accidentally created an icon. the brakes are its major flaw, because if you want to use them you have to plan well ahead of any kind of speed. and im breaking now please slow down car. please slow down, come on there we go. they're not brilliant, they're not the worst we've ever encountered but it would be going Ladies, they don't want a mess. [MUSIC] [NOISE] Aw. [LAUGH] The gear change is fantastic. I love it. It's very light. It's very airy. It really direct as well. To drive it is to understand why people loved it. It's a fun happy little thing. It's revvy. It wants to go really quickly. It wants to feel like you're having fun, it wants to let you enjoy it for it's talents and it's skills. You fling it into a corner, you feel the whole thing roll, and they did have a habit of raising their rear wheel if you went in at maximum attack. Now I can't say I'm going to have the stones to do that but it's so much fun. [BLANK_AUDIO] It came to market in 1976 in Germany, 79 in the UK, and it did rather well for the company. It was a serious car for people who needed practicality. It was your sports car and daily driver in one. Now it's often referred to as the first hot hatch that was predated by One other and the term wasn't coined until the 80s. It was the first to reach public consciousness in any meaningful way though. The GTI was the car to have. So, that was the first. The start of the lineage lasted more than fourteen years. So, where do we go from here well, how bout we try the current This is the Mark 7, Golf GTR. [MUSIC] The car you can buy in 2016 is a more powerful affair. You can have it with 220 or 230 horsepower, depending on whether you want to spend more money or not. And it looks like A relative of the Mach 1 at a brief glance. The hallmarks are all there. It's quick as a 62 at 6.5 seconds for the 220 and it will breach the 150 mile an hour barrier. Those are some serious figures compared to its 70s great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather. So then Mach 7, what you got for me? It's quick. It's properly, properly quick. You've got a lovely little engine note that just verbals nicely. It makes you feel like you're in a proper sporty car. But in the same time, it's easy to drive. The breaks are great. And the engine, well the turn of pace is lovely. It's silky, silky smooth. It sounds rowdy and shouty and Like it wants to go faster and faster and faster and faster and the handling is not too hard, it's not too soft, it's just pretty. It feels like you're driving a proper nickel sports car. Many criticism is that [UNKNOWN] everyone can drive It makes it a little bit too easy. There's something about older cars in general, where you kind of have to work for your supper. You have to get in tune with the car. You have to learn its quirks and learn its ways. And then you get the best out of it. Whereas this, even my mum could jump in it and stick in a fairly decent lap. That said there's all the mod cons in here. I've got nab, I've got dab radio, and bluetooth this and bluetooth that, there's button for traffic, I don't know if it's summons it or gets rid of it. And what I do like about this is that it's not ashamed to be golf GTI, it's proud of being what it is. This Is a proper Golf GTI. But once and now, this is the everything car. It's the car as I said when I first drove it, for when good enough isn't good enough. [BLANK_AUDIO] It's modern, spacious, comfortable, and pretty quick. It's the right kind of Golf GTI for today. Where its elderly relative was a normal Golf with more go, this feels more than that. Today's Golf GTI can be all things to all drivers. It's even got an eco mode. In the original, that was your right foot. And the brakes work, which is always a bonus. The first and last Golf GTIs are unsurprisingly pretty decent. So now's probably the right time to take a look at two cars that are lowlights. The cars that bear the name but don't necessarily live up to it. Up first, the Mach 3. Born in the early 90s, the MK III GTI didn't get the greatest start. It was bigger, heavier and it's initial eight valve, two liter engine offered a 9.8, not the 62 type, and a top speed of 123 miles an hour. It was slower to 62 than the MK I. Later down the line it got the engine in this. A 16 valve two litre with 150 horses, and a sub nine, naught to 62 time. But there was a problem it was too heavy, too planted. It wasn't the ten tenths car it could have been, it stopped being a sporty fun thing, and became a quick well-specced car as well. A desirable band stamped on its nose. It's a solid motor but easy to GTI. I'm gonna go out on a limb and say no, not really. There's something missing here and it's the fun, the peppiness. This doesn't feel like it predecessors. They've put a bigger engine in it but that feels about it. It's a similar story with the fourth generation GTI. 1998 to 2004 was not a fine vintage So the breed, there were engines for one point take and [UNKNOWN] even a diesel. This one is a one point take t with a 180 horsepower, a sub eight, not the 62 type. It would hit nearly 140 as well. It was, in its day, the fastest accelerating GTI ever. As before, this is no GTI. I mean in name, yes. In spirit, no. The Mk IV is basically that middle age stage where lots of men decide to give up and they go nope, I'm now dressing for comfort so out goes the exercise, and in comes the beige. And it's a very nice beige. I mean, the interior here's very nice. There's some walnut trim on the dash and Same goes for the exterior. It's got a GTI badge, but it looks like a golf. Not much to make it stand out. You can tell they listen to the concerns from the Mark three because it's not quite as dull not quite as safe. I do think this is better than the MK Three. But you know, treading on lego is preferable to treading on a plug. It just feels heavier lumper on dirt and [UNKNOWN] and lets go around another corner. [UNKNOWN] The MK four Golf GTI is not going to go down as one of the greats. Now to wash away the taste of that, let's have a go in another fine example: the Mk two. Launched in 1984, it came with similar looks like the Mk One and to start with, the same engine. Later down the line it got a sixteen valve version with 137 horse power. If you didn't have a catalytic converter onboard. The chassis was changed, the interior a little nicer and it found a large audience. Now this is much better compared to the Mach4, it's light, it's airy, I can see things. It's still massively, solidly build, it feels very German, and this is one of the most popular [INAUDIBLE] Patches around. It seems everyone loves a mark to golf GTI. It's a big wobbly, the steering on this isn't fantastic. I mean the Mark one felt a little bit sharper, a little bit more direct I think. I'm not sure what's going on here. Just a little bit very wooly. The engine feels nice and revvy and free flowing. Now this was the more popular one, the more mainstream one. The Mark I started the legend, the Mark II is the one that people actually bought and you hear stories of people buying them and then just keeping them for decades and decades and decades and decades. And looking at it, it looks a bit chunkier, it looks a little bit harder wearing the mark on it. It may not be as big an icon, but I think it looks a bit better. I know people are going to kill me for that, but I really do. Because when you drive it back to back and the mark's small, what went wrong? The gear change feels fantastic. They've taken the recipe for the Mac1 GTI and they've figured out how they could have made it a little better, a little sharper, they refined it, and they made I think a genuinely fantastic motor I get it, I get Get why people like these now. I get why someone says I bought a Golf GTI. Which one? Mark 2. And then you get that kind of chin scratches. Yeah, you've done good there. You've done really good. The biggest [UNKNOWN] now, I must say, is brakes, cuz they work. They actually feel like they'll stop the car if you need it to be stopped in a hurry. This is a pure, wonderful Wonderful hot hands. A car from the era of excess, the 80s. Feels like it too. The Mark one was a brilliant motor, the mark two had to capture that and keep it going. And you know what? It did rather nicely. It's a fabulous little thing. The last two to try a Mark five and a Mark six. We're going to start with six With good reason, because essentially it's less of a new car and more of an update on the Mk5 with a little bit more go, two more horsepower, and some extra shiny bits on top. Here's the verdict. It's good. It's very good. The Mark 5, however, is a highlight. After the lacklustre efforts with the Mark 4 VW had to make the 5th Gen a proper GTI. It was the mid-noughties, a time when the world was being all ambitious and millennial. They couldn't let another stinker through and thankfully they didn't. Now this one has 197 break two liter turbo engine naught to 62 In about 7.2 seconds. Top speed is 146 miles an hour. And it's not low. It also came with a ton of harks back to the original GTI. Red piping around the grill, for example. Tartan seats for an option. But its parting piece was its automatic option. It came with a newfangled BSG gearbox that offered shifts so good that a, you wouldn't feel them because it was so smooth, and b, it was faster than a stick shift. I would never a huge fan of its Monzer alloy wheels because, well, I always thought that if you glanced at them, you'd curve them like that, they do look imminently curve-able. However, the rest Man I like this car, so so much. The steering is great. It's nicely weighted. It feels really really nice. The gear lever again the shift It works, it feels really smooth, really crisp. But the engine is my favorite bit, because there's a nice little rumble from it. And that turbo, it's not intrusive, there's no big roll up of torque, it's quite linear. Now remember this came in the mid 90s, lot of people raving about thinking about this car thinking it was the best thing they had ever driven. I also remember looking at car magazines going, "yeah, but hot rod xyz is faster," but that is not what this is about. It is about being just right. This is [INAUDIBLE]. I've got my smile back! back. It's quick as hell. It's proper fast. And it looks good It's shouting proudly that it's a GTI because someone in wolfberg figured out it's a GTI worthy of wearing The GTI badge. Yes, it does look like a normal Golf, but it looks like a normal Golf that's been given a proper GTI working over. The Mark 4 was fast, I will give it that, it was a [UNKNOWN]. But it didn't feel half as good as this. It wants you to push just a little bit harder. It wants you to go Faster. [MUSIC] But let me go faster, I wanna do more, I'm a GTI. I can be a practical family car, but look, I can also do this. Mach drive is, I think, a major hight point, cuz it's where everything just kind of, it was right. It was a modern hot hatch. It wasn't too fast, it definitely wasn't slow, just beautiful. With each car something changed in a big way. Be it for the better or the worse, they are wonderful reflections of the times they were released in, too. The first was really a child of the late 70s and the early 80s. One of excess. The second, more accessible. The third highlighted just how awkward the 90s were. The fourth shows how the whole new millennium thing of trying to be everything can blow up in your face a bit. The fifth, a new beginning in the early 90s as the world found its feet again. The sixth was a bit of a cheat. And the seventh When it highlights how tech has evolved so much that you can have a car that'll be a sports car and an ecowagon at the same time. Now, which one is best? For me, it's gonna be the Mk V. Somewhat controversial, I'm sure. But you know what? I love the way it looks. Looks. It feels and basically how it is. I love a mach 1 or a mach 2 or pretty much all of them maybe less than three or four. But all of them have something about them that makes them fell special, that make them brilliant. And afterall when you think of a hot hat It's usually got a Golf GTI badge on it. [MUSIC] [BLANK_AUDIO]