GTD? For starters, it doesn't hold a significant price advantage, the range starting at £25,285 compared to £25,845 for the manual, 3-door GTI. And whilst the GTD of course boasts some enviable economy and emissions stats (67.3mpg and 109g/km), the GTI's 47.1mpg and 139g/km make the case for petrol stronger than ever.
So then, what can the GTD offer? Well, as it's the engine change that makes 'I' into 'D', under the bonnet seems the best place to start. The 2.0-litre diesel makes 184hp and 280lb ft; that puts power at 36hp below the standard GTI but, just as relevantly, only 22lb ft ahead. That's delivered across a narrower band of revs also.
Out on the road, the engine surprises with its sprightliness. It feels keen to rev smoothly beyond 4,000rpm in a quite un-diesel like fashion. It even sounds pretty good and appropriately aggressive too, which makes for a diesel that you really want to push rather than just utilise the torque of.
At just 26kg heavier than the equivalent GTI (1,377kg plays 1,351kg), the GTD feels similarly agile to the petrol powered car. Both the GTI and GTD we drove were equipped with the standard dampers, which offers a good basis for comparison and also prevents us getting lost in VW's acronym labyrinth... The GTD has a softer standard set-up than the GTI, riding with a fraction more compliance and feeling a tad less agile through corners. The 'progressive steering' is fairly limp and lifeless in Eco mode and, whilst there's some weight in the sportier driving modes, it never feels that confidence inspiring. Artificial probably describes it best.
It's standard fast Golf fare as far as the styling is concerned too; quite restrained but beautifully executed. The wheel, despite being connected to a less than brilliant steering system, is a lovely thing to hold.
This may be damning the Golf GTD with faint praise, but you can't escape the impression that it would make a fantastic company car. You could easily spend hours on the motorway returning more than 50mpg, actually enjoy a few more minor roads and arrive at your meeting destination in a desirable car. The GTD is very accomplished, but this is PH and not Fleet Car News; we'd take the GTI every day of the week.
VW GOLF GTD
Engine: 1,968cc 4-cyl turbodiesel
Transmission: 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive (6-speed DSG optional)
Power (hp): 184@3,500-4,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 280@1,750-3,250rpm
Top speed: 141mph
MPG: 67.3 (NEDC combined)
Price: £25,940 (standard five-door manual), £30,250 (as tested inc. £1,415 for DSG, £1,135 for Discover Navigation Pro, £355 for Winter pack, £355 for keyless entry, £525 for Dynaudio soundpack and £525 for 'Carbon Grey' metallic paint)