The GTI’s cockpit complements its performance-oriented character. The flat-bottomed steering wheel is a delight to hold, while the stainless steel pedals lend themselves well to an enthusiast’s fancy footwork. GTI drivers also enjoy an infotainment system with an 8-inch display, as opposed to the 5-inch affair in the basic Golf.
More importantly, the GTI’s 6-speed “wet” dual-clutch transmission comes with paddle-shifters, whereas the manual override for the other Golf’s 7-speed “dry” dual-clutch transmission can only be utilised via the gearshift lever.
When it comes to outright performance, there’s no question that it’s the GTI that dazzles here. With a turbocharged 2-litre powerplant delivering 220bhp and 350Nm, the boyracer in a hurry can zip past slower vehicles with two taps of the left “minus” paddle and one flex of his right foot.
Said boyracer can also dive into corners with greater confidence, thanks to the GTI’s quicker steering (2.1 turns lock-to-lock compared to the ordinary Golf’s 2.8) and Electronic Differential Lock (XDS), which helps reduce understeer. Accompanying all this action is a rorty engine soundtrack that’s continuously punctuated by naughty exhaust notes.
While the normal Golf cannot match its “bigger” brother’s outright performance, it can still impress with its overall refinement. Its 105bhp turbo 1.2-litre engine is smoother than expected and its 7-speeder can swop cogs as rapidly as the GTI’s 6-speeder.
The Golf 1.2 might only be able to keep up with family saloons (it does the century sprint in a leisurely 10.2 seconds), but its pliant ride and quiet cabin are a welcome respite for the harried driver, who is in no rush to reach the office anyway.
The car also requires less frequent trips to the petrol station, as Volkswagen claims that it can travel up to 20km on each litre of unleaded, compared to 15.2km for the GTI.
In conclusion, the Golf 2.0 GTI tugs at the heartstrings of the passionate, while the Golf 1.2 appeals to the purse strings of the pragmatic, but they’re both practical vehicles perfect for day-to-day motoring.