Drive Thru Reviews Volkswagen

Drive Thru: Volkswagen Golf GT TDI v GTI

Volkswagen Golf GT TDIVolkswagen Golf GTI
Welcome to AUSmotive’s first Drive Thru test. In time these will become more commonplace, they will offer independent thoughts gained on a brief test drive that is about what you’d expect from visiting your local dealer. Drive Thru reports are designed to be brief, to the point, and to help you choose what to test drive when considering your next purchase.

Whenever I can force the keys from my wife I really enjoy driving our 2006 Volkswagen Golf GTI three door. Believe the hype, the reviews that have universally hailed this car as the leader of its pack are, for my part, bang on the money. So, when the 2 litre 125kW Golf GT TDI was released last year I was keen to learn more about this diesel lark to see why it is that Australian buyers are embracing these new user friendly powerplants. Okay, so it’s taken me a while, but here goes.

Volkswagen Golf GT TDI

The GT range is nicely differentiated with smart body trim, including a GTI inspired front grille. Factor in the chrome twin exhaust tips at the back and the styling really is GTI lite. This may offend some GTI owners, but to me, I think the look slots in nicely between the regular Golf range and the GTI. Inside, and when fitted with leather trim, the GT is virtually identical to the GTI. It’s only the GTI’s agressively styled dash cluster and well crafted flat bottomed sports steering wheel that seem immediately different. Although, the GTI’s seats do hug you more tightly when pushing the cars towards their limit.

The GT TDI test car was fitted with Volkswagen’s superb 6 speed DSG transmission, and first impressions are that this is perfectly matched to the diesel engine. From take off diesel’s have a tendency to spool up quickly, but run out of puff just as fast, leaving you grabbing for the next gear. And the GT TDI is no different here. However, the seamless upshifts of the DSG make this potentially negative aspect of diesel driving a total pleasure. I wouldn’t suggest the DSG is perfect, but gee, it’s damn close. Comparatively, our 6 speed manual GTI feels slightly less willing off the line, but when the TDI is changing gears the GTI still has a bit more to give. This is great for spirited driving, but if you’re not looking for that in your next car, the TDI will suit you just fine.

In regular driving conditions the GT TDI’s softer suspension set up does handle bumps and irregular surfaces with greater comfort, but the trade off here is increased understeer when you push the car harder through corners. That’s not to say the TDI embarrasses itself when the road is willing you to step up the pace, it is very good, thanks to the inherently capable A5 chassis, but the GTI has a clear advantage here. Which is just as Volkswagen intends.

Volkswagen Golf GTI

When driving the TDI it is difficult to tell by sound that you are behind the wheel of a diesel. Starting the TDI is a different matter, however, as the diesel clatter is apparent. Mind, due to the fuel injection system in the GTI’s 2 litre TFSI engine, an untrained ear could mistake it for a diesel at startup. Once the cars are up and running you’d be hard pressed to tell which was the diesel. Although, when stationary at a set of lights, for example, the diesel does make itself heard a bit more than perhaps is necessary. But if you’re worried about the rumours you’ve heard about noisy diesel engines you can, for the most part, put your mind at ease. The power delivery of the diesel makes the car such a delight to drive in any case, that the clatter chatter is quickly forgotten. The spec sheet tells you the GT TDI is down on power compared to the GTI (125kW against 147kW), but the diesel has a big advantage in torque (350Nm to the GTI’s 280Nm). What this means is that the TDI’s extra torque makes the car feel every bit as rapid as the silky smooth GTI. As mentioned the DSG is a perfect match to the diesel, and when catching a slower vehicle at highway speeds, overtaking in the TDI is immensely capable. The DSG will kick down almost unnoticed, the torque will do its magic, and you’ll be past your slower vehicle in no time at all. From the driver’s seat, with no hard data to back me up, in gear acceleration of the TDI once past 60-70km/h probably eclipses the more powerful GTI. Both engines are a delight to use, but while it may be expected in the GTI, it is a pleasant surprise in the TDI.

Fuel economy for the TDI, according to the manufacturer’s sticker on the window, is 6.6l/100km. On the open road it should be possible to get 1000km from the Golf’s 55 litre tank. Depending on your daily traffic flow expect somewhere around 700-850km around town. The GTI, though, for all the willing power the engine provides, can be driven economically as well. It may never match the frugality of a modern diesel engine, but on the open road, conservative cruising would see you give 800km a nudge from your 55 litres. Sensible city commuting can net you 600km plus, while still allowing you the odd indulgence. The GTI prefers 98 RON petrol, but with the price of diesel rising you’ll still be saving a couple of cents a litre at the bowser.

So which to choose? If you’re shopping on price the GT TDI is the cheaper option, but there’s not a hell of a lot in it. A 6-speed manual GT TDI starts at $37,490, plus options and on road costs. A 5-door GTI is just $2,500 more at $39,990. If you want to split the cars by driving experience, well, this is a cop out, but in considering either car you have already made a wise choice. The decision between the two is ultimately a personal one. If you enjoy driving and want a more focused car that has the edge in fun, the GTI is the car for you. If you’re simply looking for a well built and versatile hatch back to get you around the GT TDI will be all that and more. Much more.

Thank you to Lennock Volkswagen for their assistance.

18 replies on “Drive Thru: Volkswagen Golf GT TDI v GTI”

Good write up. I actually prefer the look of the GT sport over the GTI. Never driven the GT, but sounds like it’ll be fun overtaking! My only qualm about the golfs is that they are a bit too germanic in their styling.

Haha, isn’t that a compliment. 😉

Coming from a MINI driver, though, I understand what you’re saying. I actually think the Mk5 Golfs look great, and yeah, the GT looks nice too. I prefer the honeycomb grille and differences to the bodykit, albeit very minor, that the GTI has.

plus the inside of the GTI is nicer than that of the GT….imo anyway…it’s the small things that make a big difference 🙂

I test drove the R32, GTI and GT TD when I was making up my mind. They were all nice cars, and all offered a quite different driving experience. Adding DSG, leather, and bi-xenons adds quite a bit to the price (though I went with the R32 on which they’re standard). The DSG gearbox is simply brilliant, and is a perfect match for the 3.2 or the TD. If you do buy a VW, get the bi-xenons…awesome lights.

I went diesel for economy and torque. For it to be so similiar to the GTI was a welcome surprise (I went up to a GT TDI from a TDI Comfortline because of an insurance claim) but when the prices are so close it makes sense.

I have driven both around the same “closed circuit” and the review is spot on.

Sure the “lead tipped arrow” GT isn’t as nimble in the corners but I still love it when people looking confused as I fill up and drive away while they are still waiting for their unleaded.

Great write-up Liam. I think that anyone in the market for a warm-hot hatch these days is spoilt for choice. So many good cars on offer, whether they be diesel or petrol…

Liam, that’s pretty much as I am finding it too (we having recently added a GT TDI DSG to the garage, replacing the wife’s Accord Euro).

Having driven both, I would avoid the manual GT TDI unless you REALLY love gear changing — it would drive me nucking futs 😉

One surprise fo me was the seats — you mentioned the GTI’s offering more grip, but I think they are the same(?) However, Golf GT and GTI owners might be interested to learn that the seats in the Australian/Euro version are in fact NARROWEr than my Polo GTI — by around 10-20mm. Indeed, I’ve since been told that the US Golf MkV GTI uses the Polo GTI seats (for obvious reasons!)

BTW, you need to do a Polo drive thru sometime — let me know if you want to borrow a car

Well, I’ll be getting my new GT next week, after waiting something like 5 months for it (!!!). I got it in black 3 doors. I hope it’ll worth the time & the patience.. 🙂

i just had a golf gt tdi on hire and it was the 170 brake and i would like to put it right coz i did 235miles in 1hr 45mins and i was travling from manchester to glasgow and the weather was heavy rain and it was dark…. 1. really good grip 2. top speed of 147mhp 3. it was a german 4. the drive was really good 5. it had really good seats and im sure you guys moan like a woman but this car got my ratings 8/10…… apart from that my own car is a BMW E30 325 shell with a new 335ise engine and it has 545bhp bring it on you gti crew lol

I have a GT sports car which is perfect, I am from Kosovo and in Kosovo there is no good roads where you can drive in with great speed but with gt sport is possible without problems. GT sports car is very very good , but also economic fantastic perfect …

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