New Golf GTI: too little, too late?

The arrival of a new Golf GTI is an important event, you might think. The quintessential practical performance car returns in June with either 220hp or 230hp depending on the version with prices starting at roughly the same as the old one. With a useful 6.5 seconds to 62mph and a claimed 47mpg, it ticks all the right boxes on the way to certain sales glory.

Over a quarter of Mk1 Golf sales were GTIs
Over a quarter of Mk1 Golf sales were GTIs
Or maybe not. In the showroom stakes, the GTI is a shadow of its former self. Last year VW shifted just 1,770 of them according to figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, or 3.2 per cent of total Golf sales.

That's a far cry from the glory days. Following its right-hand drive launch here in 1979, the Mk1 GTI climbed into UK car buyers' affections so steadily that by 1983, just over 25 per cent of all Golf sales were GTIs, according to figures from VW. That equated to more than 6,000 sales.

Same went for the Mk2. The big year was 1989, ahead of the pre-big bumper, when 30 per cent of all new Golfs wore the GTI badge.

Enthusiasm waned with the Mk3 but this next stat will surprise you. The now-reviled Mk4 was a big hit, with a whopping 17,557 GTIs sold in 1999, or 29 per cent of the total. The following year that rose to 30 per cent, even if sales were down a bit. Of course the Mk5 restored pride to the badge in 2005, but even in that first year with all the review praise it accounted for just nine per cent of Golf sales.

Mk4: critical flop but a huge sales success
Mk4: critical flop but a huge sales success
So why is this? Okay, last year was a run-out for the Mk6, but that doesn't explain it given the paucity of competition. There was no Ford Focus ST for example and the Vauxhall Astra VXR arrived late. Last year's GTI numbers actually beat 2010 sales.

More likely is competition within VW, what with the R, the GTD diesel and the Scirocco all competing. And the hot hatch market itself had deflated massively. Amazingly, the Golf GTI was actually the biggest seller among the mass-market players, even taking into account all the supermini rockets such as the Polo GTI and Abarth 500. The Renault Megane Renaultsport achieved a measly 306 sales.

Mk5 got rave reviews but sales relatively modest
Mk5 got rave reviews but sales relatively modest
With the new car starting from £25,845, perhaps it's all got a bit too expensive and that hot hatch enjoyment now lies in the affordability of the old cars. How about a mint-looking Mk1 GTI 1.8 in Lhasa Green for £5,995? Or maybe it's time for a reassessment of the Mk4 - the 150bhp 1.8T rather than the 2.0 of course. This unmolested, low-mileage car from 2001 here is a tempting £2,850.

VW has done all the right things with the new car, such stripping weight and adding a pioneering electronically controlled active limited-slip diff. But it could be all too late to apply the paddles to an ailing hot hatch market.



P.H. O'meter

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Comments (134) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Shadows 06 Mar 2013

    Colonial said:
    Oh FFS.

    Or you can get a 1994 BMW 740Il instead of the 330 and save even more!
    Don't be daft, the running cost's on that would be stupid..

  • Ali_T 05 Mar 2013

    I'd class them on interior space of which the new cars have little more than the older ones thanks to ever bulkier doors, dashboards seats and gizmos. I'd be amazed if a Mk7 Golf has much more room than the original for the actual passenger and driver.

  • aka_kerrly 05 Mar 2013

    GrizzlyBear said:
    But that is the point, the spirtual successor to a Golf GTi will not be a golf, [/footnote]
    If you really believe that then surely no car manufacture can reuse any previous name whilst developing a new model.

    Would you also argue that you would sooner have a Peugeot 107 rather than a 209GTI because the 209 is so big now? Do you think a Fiesta should not be a Fiesta any more since it is wider plus taller and barely any shorter than a mk1 Focus?

    The golf is clearly still a golf, it is a classed as a compact car and is the same size (but not weight!) as it's main competitors the Astra/Focus/Megane/308 which it is outselling.

  • GrizzlyBear 05 Mar 2013

    b0rk said:
    The weight gain is like everything else in its class and cars generally due to increases in size and massive improvements in crash worthiness. In 35 years we've gone from 35mph shunts being possibly survivable to only resulting in minor injuries. A lot of extra steel/aluminium has to be added to achieve current controlled deformations.
    Mk1 Frontal, "fatal injuries possible"
    Mk7 Frontal, cuts and bruises
    But that is the point, the spirtual successor to a Golf GTi will not be a golf, as a golf is now a fairly large car. If you want a sucessor to a GTi you should be looking for something like an Up gti or similar (if you want to remain in VW); small and not needing a 2L turbo to drag its body shell along. The Golf GTi is a comfortable family car with all the toys and most importantly a VW GTi badge which is the image that some people want to give.

    By the way in regard of which I would rather have a crash in, obviously the Mk7 as I don't really want to get hurt, however if you ask which I would rather own it would be the MK1, and which I would rather pay for the regular maintenance on I would again say the Mk1.

    Edited by GrizzlyBear on Tuesday 5th March 11:19

  • Ali_T 05 Mar 2013

    PH is slacking. It took 7 pages before the generic "you can buy a BMW and remap it for the same price" post was made.

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