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Unlike at some stages in the sometimes dark and distant past of the hot Volkswagen Golf, a substantial suite of changes is now required before it can earn its GTI badge.

But visually, VW is more keen than ever to evoke the spirit of the original, which is why aerodynamic add-ons are restricted to a small rear spoiler and diffuser, while even the side skirts are less pronounced than before.  

Nic Cackett

Nic Cackett

Road tester
A substantial suite of changes is now required before a Golf can earn its GTI badge

Under the skin you’ll find a reworked version of VW’s 2.0-litre, direct-injection TFSI engine that raises power by 11bhp to 208bhp, although torque remains unchanged at 206lb ft from 1750-5200rpm. Arguably more significant is the reduction in CO2 from 189 to 170g/km (knocking £40 off the price of your tax disc) and a 3.4mpg improvement in fuel economy to a claimed 38.7mpg.

This engine also comes hooked up to a ‘sound generator’, an electronic device that sifts the noises coming from the engine as they pass through the exhausts, ensuring that only the ones you want to hear reach the cabin.

For the first time in markets other than Britain, the Golf GTI is now offered as a cabriolet variant. It is powered by the same engine as the hatchback GTI but the extra bracing required for the cabriolet conversion has added a lot of weight. VW claims a kerbweight of 1318kg for the GTI hatch while its figure for the cabriolet is 1533kg, a gain of 215kg.

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Suspension follows the now standard class form of struts at the front and a multi-link rear end, a system that can be enhanced by choosing Adaptive Chassis Control, which also alters the steering assistance and throttle map.

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