Driven: Golf GTI Edition 35

One of the first cars I tested when I arrived at PistonHeads was the then-new Mk6 Golf GTI, and I don't mind admitting that it left me feeling a little deflated. Sure it looked good, with all the right GTI cues (red piping on the grille, tartan-pattern seats, beefy stance), but the whole thing seemed a little too dull, too refined to make it a great hot hatch. After the return to form that was the Mk5 it was a bit of a disappointment

But this year the Golf has turned 35 and, presumably to stop it thinking about the looming spectre of middle age, Volkswagen has given it a birthday present in the form of the Golf GTI Edition 35 - the most powerful production Golf GTi ever.

So, for the rather princely sum of £27,525 (£28,820 if you are talking the DSG-equipped version) you get an extra 25ps, giving you 232bhp at 5500rpm, an extra 15lb ft of torque (221lb ft in total) and an ability to fling yourself to 62mph in 6.6secs on the way to a 153mph maximum (0.3secs and 6mph better respectively than the standard GTI).

You also get a tweaked front bumper, new 18-inch alloys and a return of the 'golf ball' gear knob. Lovely.

But do those few extra ponies help to rekindle that original Golf GTI magic? The only way to find out was surely to line it up against a tidy original for a thoroughly unscientific test...

In truth, part of the glamour of the Golf GTI myth comes via the rosy tint of nostalgia. The old Mk1 might have been a game-changer that blew contemporary sports cars into the weeds, but that was partly because nobody had really had a proper go at a mass-market hot hatch before. The original's 110bhp gave it decent performance, but compare it with slightly later hot hatches (think 205 GTI) and the Golf suddenly doesn't feel as sweet, lively or agile.

That's not to say the old-stager isn't a hoot and James Butler's example, though not concours, is a fine example of the breed. But the surprisingly slow, heavy steering does rather temper the car's otherwise terrier-like vivacity.

Tempering the latest car's vivacity is a fair old bit of middle-aged spread (860kg plays 1420kg), and the standard Mk6 Golf's occasionally too-sensible-for-its-own-good nature. But that power and torque boost, small though it may be, does give the GTI Edition 35 an edge that's missing from the standard car.

There's now just enough power to make you feel as though you're driving something that's properly quick, and somehow that just encourages you to grab the Golf by the scruff of the neck that bit more often.

Do that and you'll find, hidden beneath the layers of refinement, interior quality, and general Golf classiness, more than a hint of proper old-school hot hatch. It's keen to rev, pulls smoothly and hard all the way to the red line and handles with genuine enthusiasm, remaining unflustered even when you push on. There is, in short, a balanced, fast and above all fun hot hatch nestled somewhere in the Edition 35 - it's just that it's not always that easy to find.

It's still a rather refined and sensible affair in the end, then, but that's probably what most buyers spending getting on for £30k want. And if you really want a chuckable VW hot hatch that will plaster a wide grin on your face on a more regular basis, then perhaps you'd be better off finding an extra couple of grand and getting yourself a Scirocco R.

If it were our money, however, we'd probably chuck £3-4k at a super-tidy Mk1 GTi for fun (something like this GTI Campaign, for example), £15k at a solid turbodiesel Mk6, and spend the difference on track days (for the Mk1 - the Mk6 diesel would not be so hot on track, obviously)... But if you plumped solely for the Edition 35 we wouldn't think you in any way mad.

Images: James Butler

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Comments (184) Join the discussion on the forum

  • DavidLScott 03 Nov 2011

    I had a Mk1 1600, a Mk1 1800 and 3 Mk2's when they were contemporary and they were all brilliant cars for their time.
    Moved on to VR6 Storm Corrdado's and that ended my VW ownership (apart from an ill fated heap of a Golf 4 Motion).
    I tried a Mk5 a couple of years ago with the thought that I might rekindle an old love affair but it left me stone cold I'm afraid so I stayed with BMW.

    There is still a soft spot in my heart for older GTi's and I wish we hadn't sold my wife's Mk2 but maybe you can't look back as it was probably all rose tinted.

  • Riggers 03 Nov 2011

    ...Although there's nothing wring with rose-tinted specs, David smile

  • jyates 03 Nov 2011

    £28k for a Golf GTi? No thanks.

  • Beefmeister 03 Nov 2011

    A 5dr Ed35 is one hell of an all-rounder car. I love the Mk6 GTi and this just seems to give it more of everything.

    The price tag is a lot to swallow, but then again most of these will be leased anyway...

  • BMWill 03 Nov 2011

    I couldn't help but immediately notice the granny setting on the driver's seat......

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