First Drive

Volkswagen Golf GTD 2020 review

What’s it like?

Inside, it’s all very contemporary looking, with minimal switchgear. There’s a sports steering wheel with capacitive touch controls and a 10.3in digital instrument display. You notice quite a lot of hard high-gloss black plastic high up within the dashboard and there’s some less than premium materials out of the line of sight. However, there’s also precision to the build quality and a clarity to the digital displays that you don’t get in some rival diesel hatches. It’s also fairly easy to operate, even if some menus within the infotainment system run excessively deep.

The engine is quite responsive and, by diesel standards, willing to rev in Sport mode. Performance is dictated by the torque: there’s strong shove from little more than 1500rpm and it keeps building in intensity until close to 4000rpm, giving the Golf GTD fairly potent in-gear acceleration.

For all its rev-building urgency, though, this diesel is happiest in the mid-range in Comfort mode, where it provides outstanding flexibility and relaxed high-gear cruising. There is some marked diesel chatter at start-up in cooler temperatures but it quietens as it warms and delivers acceptable mechanical refinement over longer trips.

The dual-clutch gearbox copes well, providing smooth and fast upshifts under acceleration. It is less impressive around town, though, where it can be a little tardy on downshifts, with the result that you occasionally get some mild driveline shunt in stop/start traffic.

Despite the weight of its diesel engine, the GTD turns in nicely and offers the sort of front-end grip you’d expect from a true hot hatch, holding your chosen line even at quite brisk cornering speeds. It is composed, too. There’s a progressive building of body roll but it remains well contained within the high limits of grip offered by the 235/35 R19 Dunlop Winter Sport SP tyres of our test car.

The ride is less forgiving than in other diesels, with greater vertical movement over uneven surfaces, but it continues to deliver excellent absorption and is never harsh.

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