Review: 2017 Volkswagen Golf GTD

Review: 2017 Volkswagen Golf GTD

The GTI moniker needs no introduction in SA. Ask anyone what that nomenclature represents and the resounding answer will be the Volkswagen Golf GTI.

It remains the benchmark, the first word in the hot hatch lexicon and a staple for the brand and its legion of fans in this country.

For the first time in our market the Golf GTI’s diesel sibling, the GTD, has finally joined the local ranks. The previous-generation Mark VI Golf had a GTD variant, but it never made it to SA. With a raft of updates to the entire current-generation Golf range, the GTD has arrived as the thinking man’s GTI. So, what distinguishes the model, apart from the obvious — the engine?

Cosmetically the GTD can be distinguished by chrome accents on the grille instead of the GTI’s signature red piping, the GTD nomenclature on the grille, front flanks and rump, while dual left-offset tailpipes are other notable differences. The cabin, too, is similar to the GTI, right down to the steering wheel, which in the instance of the oil-burner has the GTD motif and silver contrasting stitching.

Fire up the engine and you are welcomed by the same clattering power plant that powers most VW Group diesel products, most notably the Tiguan TDI 4Motion we tested a while ago.

Even the engine’s outputs are similar to its high-riding sibling, putting out 130kW and 380Nm and allied to a seven-speed DSG gearbox, although power goes to the front wheels. Overall performance of the GTD is, well, sprightly at most, but it does not fizz like a GTI does, nor does it is sound the part. I can live without the latter aspect, as this remains a frugal, well put-together hatch that handles like its more popular brethren.

We averaged as low as 4.6l/100km with a lighter foot, while our worst was still a credible 7.4l/100km when chasing the 4 500rpm ceiling. Expect a real-world average fuel consumption figure of 6.8l/100km and this is where the GTD flourishes. We managed to eke a quite commendable 750km out of the 50l tank of mostly urban driving. This is where the GTD wins hands down as you will travel significantly further than the petrol-fuelled GTI.

Performance wise, the GTD is competent, but there is a slight delay between the gears when pushing on, perhaps an inherent trait of marrying a modestly powerful diesel and a slick-shifting twin-clutch gearbox.

The question for many is the rationale of the GTD variant, when the GTI remains the volume seller and the one that aficionados still lust after.

In other markets like, say, the UK, you will pay less road tax on a GTD than you would a GTI, which means that the GTD falls into a lower tax bracket when purchased as a company car. So, you essentially drive a model that is similar to its GTI variant, right down to the looks and suspension settings, yet pay a significantly lower price.

Suddenly, the GTD makes a strong case for itself.

Alas, that is not the case in our market, particularly with the high aspirational value that comes with the GTI badge.

There is also another matter, of price. At R506 700 the GTD is marginally cheaper than the equivalent GTI at R545 800, which over a 60-month repayment period provides an almost negligible disparity.

So, does the GTD have the cache of the GTI and will it steal sales from the latter? No, simply because we do not have the road tax laws that some European markets have nor are we a particularly mature diesel market to see the GTD as a worthy alternative to the iconic GTI.

The GTD in isolation is a compelling package and once you start thinking of it in the mould of a sporty Golf TDI R-Line you have an indication what the GTD in our market symbolises. Here, where the GTI continues to be the ubiquitous Golf, the one that stands head and shoulders above any other hatch in its segment, there is no denying that the GTI will continue to reign supreme.

Factor in the new plush cabin that is as close to the Audi’s this time around and there is no denying why it will continue to be the best-selling Golf in the range. As far as image is concerned, the GTD will remain in the wake of the GTI. – Lerato Matebese

Fast Facts: 2017 Volkswagen Golf GTD

Engine: 1968cc four-cylinder turbodiesel
Power: 130kW at 3 500rpm
Torque: 380Nm at 1 750rpm
Transmission: seven-speed automatic
0-100km/h: 6.8-seconds (claimed)
Top speed: 230km/h (claimed)
Fuel: 4.9l/100km (combined)
CO2: 129g/km (combined)
Price: From R506 700