Day 1: The Golf arrives. If you needed to describe the way it looks in one word you might say ‘understated’. Look more closely, however, and you’ll notice that the red line at the bottom of the grille goes THROUGH the headlights. Racy. The engine note is uncommonly bassy, sort of like an old mk2 GTI. Maybe they’ve done this deliberately. Under moderately vigorous acceleration you get a nice whoomph noise when the double clutch gearbox changes up. They’ve definitely done that deliberately. It’s nice.
Day 2: Every time I go to start the Golf my left leg flails about trying to push a non-existent clutch pedal. Maybe this is because the GTI feels like it should have a manual box. You can have one, and you’ll save 1400 quid if you do. You also get a nicely retro golf ball gear knob thrown in. Mind you, you’d lose the upchange whoomph. And I like the upchange whoomph.
Day 3: Arse buggering frig biscuits. Whilst parking outside my house, I’ve kerbed one of the wheels. It’s only a little scuff but it’s still deeply annoying, firstly because the GTI’s alloys have a mirror finish on the spokes that makes the scratch stand out and secondly because kerbing wheels is the mark of a grunting moron. In my defence, this whole sorry affair is the result of getting briefly distracted by an unfamiliar cat walking past.
Day 4: My wife gets into the Golf for the first time. ‘What’s going on with these tartan seats?’ she asks. I explain that they’re a knowing and rather smart reference back to the upholstery in the original Golf GTI, demonstrating that perhaps Volkswagen has a wry sense of humour as well as a solid yet underplayed appreciation for its own heritage. ‘Oh,’ she replies. ‘I don’t like them.’
Day 5: The Golf is tremendously good at being an everyday car, as you might hope. As it turns out, it’s also very excellent at haring about the place in an exuberant way. It’s quick, the gearchange is snappy, it goes round corners in an entertaining manner and responds to accelerator inputs as it does so in a way that makes it feel lively and interesting. All heart warming stuff, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Day 6: For reasons I won’t bore you with, I’m going to Bristol. The Golf is a good motorway cruiser. You’d be surprised if it wasn’t. Sometimes it feels like the ride is one notch too firm but it’s rarely annoying, even over that big lump in the fast lane halfway down the M4. Coming back from Brizzle late at night the GTI is even better. It’s calm and comfortable and brisk. At one point I get into a gentlemanly tussle with an old Golf R32. Empirical evidence suggests the new car is able to keep pace with the old V6-powered one. Although it doesn’t sound as nice, even with the whoomph.
Day 7: Trying to think of something that’s wrong with the Golf. I’ve found it. The little rocker on the steering wheel that does the stereo volume is in the wrong place. You can’t tap it with your thumb unless you move your hand on the wheel. Come on Volkswagen, pull your socks up.
Goodbye: The Golf has gone. When it arrived it seemed a bit ordinary. After a week it seems like all the car you might conceivably wish for and I didn’t want them to take it away. I think it’s what you’d call ‘a grower’. On reflection, it’s handsome, comfortable, practical, and it doesn’t make you look like a show off, a cheapskate or a twat. With the double clutch gearbox, it can cruise around town in a completely relaxed way. But if you want to blow off some steam and drive around like you’re extremely late, it’s excellent fun. There are more excitable hot hatchbacks but I suspect they’d become annoying where the Golf will give years of quiet satisfaction when you’re tired and moments of genuine joy when you’re not. In short, it’s brilliant.