A surprise was in store this week when Volkswagen used the Australian launch of its critical new seven-seat SUV, the Tiguan Allspace, to show an example of the 2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI – the brand’s hot hatch which receives a number of significant updates for the 2019 model year. In a strict rationalisation of the range, the Golf GTI moves to a single, five-door, DSG-automatic specification priced at $45,490 plus on-road costs, with deliveries of the MY2019 GTI commencing on October 1st.
While that price is an increase of $1,000 on the outgoing Golf GTI, there are a number of mechanical and specification upgrades to take into account. The GTI’s dynamics will become considerably sharper thanks to the standard addition of an electronically-controlled, mechanically-locking limited slip differential (LSD) on the front axle – a staple of the Golf GTI Performance sold overseas and formerly in Australia, and the halo Golf GTI 40 Years that was offered at the end of 2016 and was a real cracker of a hot hatch.
The Golf GTI’s 2.0-litre ‘EA888’ turbocharged petrol four-cylinder also sees output increases, with the outgoing vehicle’s 169kW/350Nm tune being upped to 180kW/370Nm. In a move that will undoubtedly disappoint some enthusiasts, the six-speed manual is no more, with the sole gearbox offering being Volkswagen’s new seven-speed wet-clutch DSG automatic. Larger brakes are also included.
As for the manual returning at some point in future, don’t hold your breath. “There are no plans” for a future manual final edition, said Todd Ford, product manager at Volkswagen Australia. Paul Pottinger, VW’s general manager of corporate communications in Australia, is adamant that manual is a dying feature of hot hatches. “We want to sell cars,” Mr Pottinger said. “Our customers have spoken and it’s the everyday usability [of DSG] that resonates,” Mr Pottinger claimed, adding that the manual gearbox has made up less than 10 per cent of sales in the Mk 7 Golf generation.
Sadly, Mr Pottinger told media there would be no return of the Golf GTI Original badge to Australia before the Mk 7 Golf generation wraps up at the end of 2019. The Original, which was sold driveaway for less than $40,000, was a three-door only GTI variant which was available with either manual or DSG. “There’s still some stock of the Original, though – we got an extra allocation of 100 manuals and 100 DSGs, so manuals are still available,” Mr Pottinger said.
Part of the reason for the mechanical changes to the Golf GTI – and the loss of the manual choice from the GTI and hotter R ranges – is due to the new Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicles Testing Procedure (WLTP) emissions testing standard that European cars must pass from this year. The WLTP regime vastly increases emissions testing costs where brands wish to sell multiple sub-variants, so the days of 3 or 4 variants of a Golf GTI, for example, are probably gone for the foreseeable future.
Specification has increased on the 2019 GTI, with the Driver Assistance Package, which includes adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert, becoming standard. Inside, the Active Info Display is now standard-fit with analogue dials consigned to history.
Outside, the new Golf GTI is identifiable by some new black Performance detailing, including a new rear splitter. Atlantic Blue metallic, a fetching navy blue, is now available, and at the rear end, trainspotters will be able to tell a MY2019 GTI by the red ‘GTI’ lettering. A new option package called Sound and Vision ($2,300) also adds hot 19-inch ‘Brescia’ alloys, a 400-watt Dynaudio stereo and a 9.2-inch touchscreen for the interior.
The Luxury pack ($3,900) has been carried over and replaces the standard manual tartan fabric seats with Vienna leather pews, with electric adjustment and memory for the driver – and a sunroof is thrown in.
We’ll be driving the new Golf GTI – both standalone, and against key rivals like the Hyundai i30 N, closer to its launch in October this year. For now, enjoy the walkaround by clicking the video at the top of the article.
With contributions from Tom Baker and Jake Williams.