With the prospect of a new Golf GTI - and, we're told, a follow-up TCR - now firmly on the horizon, it feels like an ideal time to stand back and give our current Fleet member a moment of beard-stroking contemplation. First impressions, it's fair to say, have given way to a broad sense of fondness for the Pure Grey occupant of our allocated parking space. Say what you like about the Mk7 Golf, but in high spec format it does do a mighty fine job of convincing you that you've chosen wisely.
Yes, it has slipped into everyday life with all the convenience of a contactless credit card - but that ought to be the low bar of new car ownership. I'm talking about the feel-good factor that comes from interacting with something modern which has been carefully conceived with its end user in mind, and then well made to boot. Put it this way, if the TCR had come in a white box with a silver apple printed on it, it would not seem incongruous.
Does that make it perfect? No. Of course not. And it certainly doesn't make it cheap, either. We touched on the asking price before, and it's fair to say its bigness has not been made to seem anymore reasonable over time. It does not help that one constituent of the option list, the £2,900 'Performance Pack', is filled with things you might reasonably expect the top-spec GTI to come with as standard - namely the lower sports suspension, a derestricted top speed, adaptive dampers and 19-inch Pretoria black alloys.
Save perhaps for the Autobahn-applicable 164mph V-max, you would not willingly give up any of the above. Most TCR buyers would likely think a 20mm drop in ride height and larger wheels (as standard the car gets slightly slimmer 18-inch Quaranta alloys) a no-brainer. And from experience, the GTI's passive suspension, while adequate, is no match for the variable settings of the adjustable Dynamic Chassis Control (put it this way, the Nurburgring-conquering Clubsport S had it fitted for the greater pliancy it afforded, and so should you).
Elsewhere the sliding/tilting panoramic sunroof seems steep at £1,000 - and near redundant at this time of the year - yet there was just enough sunshine at the end of September to remind yours truly why such a thing is desirable in a hot hatch. Ditto the paint job, which might slide into obscurity when dirty, but looks the business under pale sunlight. The rest? Well it gets a lot more 'meh' - especially when it comes to the £555 decals we banished to the bin - although no-one could be blamed for thinking the S5-VTS tracker a worthy dealer-fit option.
Either way, the 'Performance Pack' alone sees the TCR's price edge close to £40k. Which makes the concept of a sub-£35k Honda Civic Type R GT a naggingly persistent thought. Especially when the latter comes with virtually all the trimmings as standard, possesses the slick-shifting manual gearbox you can't have with the Golf and edges it dynamically. The flip side, of course, is would the Civic, with all its internal and external peccadilloes, radiate the same shrewd-buy vibe without moving a muscle? I'm not so sure. The TCR is expensive. But perhaps not unreassuringly so.
Car: Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR
Run by: Nic
On fleet since: Sept 2019
List price new: £35,305 (price as standard; as tested £41,289 comprised of GTI TCR Performance Pack - 8J x 19" Pretoria Black alloys with 235/35 R19 semi-slick tyres and anti-theft wheel bolts, derestricted top speed to 164 mph, lowered sports suspension by approx. 20mm and Dynamic chassis Control (DCC)(£2,900) Panoramic sunroof - electric, glass sliding/tilting including integrated blind (£1,000) rear tinted glass - from B-pillar backwards, approx. 90% tinted (£100) side decals - honeycomb design (£555) rear side airbags - includes rear seat belt tensioners (for 2 outer rear seats) and optical warning if rear seat. Pure Grey (£595) with TCR upholstery belts unfastened (£300) Retailer fitted optional equipment: Vodaphone S5-VTS - vehicle tracker including one year subscription (£534.19 incl. fitting)