Powered by
Subscribe to the only car newsletter you’ll ever need

2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI Review: First Australian Drive


Good points

  • Strong, linear 169kW engine
  • Engaging, fun and refined
  • Improved value equation

Needs work

  • Pronounced road noise
  • Fixed 'Performance' trim axed
  • Assistance pack a bit pricey
2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk 7.5 Tornado Red Front End Driving

When you think hot hatch, you think Volkswagen Golf GTI. The little German that could has deeply embedded itself in the mind’s eye of fast, front-drive hatchback enthusiasts – but it wasn’t always this way. The GTI’s potted history includes some early legends – the original seventies Mk 1, and the first GTI Australia received, the eighties Mk 2. But forgettable nineties Golf GTIs, the Mk 3 and 4, were more sporty styling than sport. The 2004 Mk 5 restored the GTI to classic form: a recipe of much more power than the vanilla Golf, some styling aggression, and proper upgrades to the car’s handling. Since then, the highly-regarded GTI has evolved slowly, never reinventing itself, adding about five per cent more power every few years. And so we arrive at the third such update in the modern GTI era: the Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk 7.5.

And evolutionary it is. The Mk 7.5 is an upgraded version of the Mk 7 Golf that debuted in 2013, and is the second GTI to sit on Volkswagen’s MQB modular small car platform. The 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine received the customary power bump: it’s up 7kW, from 162kW to 169kW. Torque is steady at 350Nm, with a super-linear curve. The Mk 7.5 is a bit faster. It’ll sprint to 100km/h in 6.4 seconds. A six-speed manual remains the enthusiast’s choice; the optional six-speed DSG automatic does good work, too.

2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk 7.5 Tornado Red Side Profile Driving

It’ll take a close eye to pick a Mk 7.5 GTI from a Mk 7 Golf at a distance. Not that this is a bad thing: the Golf was already handsome, with squared-off angles and upmarket European lines identifying it as a mature, premium choice among small cars. True to form, the GTI does get a few lairy touches to identify its sporting intent. As it has always been, Tornado Red is the halo colour. New-look 18-inch wheels, wrapped in 225/40 Bridgestone Potenza tyres, are probably the Mk 7.5’s clearest differentiator. But there are also new LED headlight and taillight graphics, beefier tailpipes – these look great – and a more aggressive front bumper, modelled on that one of our favourite Golfs – last year’s Golf GTI 40 Years special edition.

But a small power bump and subtly revised aesthetics aren’t the only changes. There’s an impressive allotment of new technology – more than you’d expect for a $150 price bump over the outgoing car. As standard, the GTI has picked up LED headlights and taillights, autonomous emergency braking with forward collision warning, and a new 8-inch touchscreen head unit, now with navigation, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto.

2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk 7.5 Tornado Red Front End

The option set has been tweaked, and adding a selection of the palette turns the Golf GTI into a properly luxurious hot hatch. The $2,300 Infotainment pack adds a sophisticated technology proposition including a 12-inch digital driver’s display and a larger touchscreen, plus premium Dynaudio sound. It’s pricey, but the $3,900 Luxury pack brings a sunroof and very supportive and adjustable heated leather seats. Meanwhile, $1,600 adds the Driver Assistance pack, which includes a suite of adaptive safety technologies.

Volkswagen are rightly proud of the fact that the Golf GTI draws a pretty wide audience. A quarter of buyers are female – a high proportion for a performance model, and the median buyer age of 42 shows the model’s unusually broad appeal. It’s not an easy task to engineer a car that can please so many people. Usually, that requires serious compromises. But as I found on the Mk 7.5 GTI’s national launch in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales, the Golf GTI retains an ideal balance between proper dynamic ability, comfort, and liveability – the precise mix that embedded this car in the mind’s eye as the archetypal hot hatch.

Overall rating
Overall rating
Overall rating

Key specs (as tested)

2.0 litres (1984 cc)
Single turbocharger
169kW @ 6,200rpm
350Nm @ 1,500-4,600rpm
Double clutch
Power to weight ratio
Fuel type
Fuel capacity
50 litres
Average Range
746 kilometres
Front wheel drive
Engine configuration
4,268 mm
1,799 mm
1,442 mm
Unoccupied weight
1329 kilograms
Cargo space seats up
380 litres
Cargo seats down
1,270 litres

About Chasing cars

Chasing Cars reviews are 100% independent.

Because we are powered by Budget Direct Insurance, we don’t receive advertising or sales revenue from car manufacturers.

We’re truly independent – giving you Australia’s best car reviews.

Terms and conditions

The estimate provided does not take into account your personal circumstances but is intended to give a general indication of the cost of insurance, in order to obtain a complete quote, please visit www.budgetdirect.com.au. Estimate includes 15%^ online discount.
^Conditions Apply

Budget Direct Insurance arranged by Auto & General Services Pty Ltd ACN 003 617 909(AGS) AFSL 241 411, for and on behalf of the insurer, Auto & General Insurance Company Limited(ABN 42 111 586 353, AFSL 285 571).Because we don’t know your financial needs, we can’t advise you if this insurance will suit you. You should consider your needs and the Product Disclosure Statement before making a decision to buy insurance. Terms and conditions apply.

Indicative quote based on assumptions including postcode , 40 year old male with no offences, licence suspensions or claims in the last 5 years, a NCD Rating 1 and no younger drivers listed. White car, driven up to 10,000kms a year, unfinanced, with no modifications, factory options and/or non-standard accessories, private use only and garaged at night.

^Online Discounts Terms & Conditions
1. Discounts apply to the premium paid for a new Budget Direct Gold Comprehensive Car Insurance, Third Party Property Only or Third Party Property, Fire & Theft Insurance policy initiated online on or after 29 March 2017. Discounts do not apply to optional Roadside Assistance.
2. Discounts do not apply to any renewal offer of insurance.
3. Discounts only apply to the insurance portion of the premium. Discounts are applied before government charges, taxes, levies and fees, including instalment processing fees (as applicable). The full extent of discounts may therefore be impacted.
4. We reserve the right to change the offer without notice.