Published on June 29th, 2022 | by Daniel Sherman Fernandez0
VW Golf GTI Mk8 Malaysian Test Drive Review
Did this Golf GTI Mk8 entertain us like its older siblings?
This is an all new GTI from Volkswagen. It took its time to arrive in Malaysia because it is locally assembled in Pekan Pahang to get a better selling price (the GTI is only assembled in Germany, China and Malaysia). Yes, this latest version has a sticker price of RM211,689 and we got to test drive it over the weekend.
First, a little history. Decades ago we met the second generation Golf GTI, the Mk2. It had a ‘Guards Red’ exterior colour and the cabin was all black with torso hugging factory provided seats that were wrapped in a tartan design material. It belonged to a ‘rich kid’ and after getting the opportunity to test drive it we were hooked.
Yes, the Golf GTI had impressed us with ‘on the edge’ handling and communicative chassis, however it was a fully imported car and was too expensive for us to own at the time (about RM72k against a Corolla FX GT at RM48k). At the time, we were driving our first ever car, a rotary powered Mazda Capella which was faster but already showing its age.
Some years passed and we got our hands on a Mk1 GTI. This was a lightweight hatchback with Recaro designed torso hugging seats and a simple 1.8L engine that provided very good power delivery. With a steering that ‘talked back’ to us, we had the ultimate hot hatch. Only one other car could come close, the Alfasud Ti which attracted rust like bees to honey.
As the years passed we found a well looked after white Mk2 GTI which was heavier than our Mk1 but more refined, better built and equally entertaining. But it was heavier, so its 1.8L engine was slightly less responsive.
Meanwhile, as the years progressed, we got behind the wheel of a Mk3 GTI, a Mk4 GTI and after the global launch of the ‘over-engineered’ Mk5 GTI we knew that Volkswagen had revived the Mk2 GTI in a larger, heavier body with a very entertaining 2.0L turbocharged engine. But we wanted a 6-speed manual version and not the DSG.
We waited patiently and we found a unit for sale and it has been in our garage since. The Mk5 GTI with a 6-speed manual gearbox is one hot hatch that is very hard to beat, even after 17 years. Yes, the Mk6 GTI cured some of the previous niggling issues and the Mk7 GTI delivered modern styling and more power that had the rivals trying hard to better it.
Then in February 2020, at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, Volkswagen unveiled an intelligent, high technology hot hatch for the digital age. This was the VW Golf GTI Mk8. This all new GTI came 45 years after the Mk1 GTI and was larger and heavier but equipped with all the shared technology from Audi (part of the VW Group).
So, with Covid-19 creating havoc, the Malaysian launch of the Mk8 GTI was delayed for 2 years and in February 2022 it arrived in Malaysian showrooms. Arriving together with the ‘R’ version (priced at RM356k), both cars are currently sold out in Malaysia with logistic and factory assembly holding up delivery to waiting buyers.
Driving The Mk8 GTI
The interior of the GTI is progressive, innovative, and intuitive. Its front sport seats are comfortable with built-in climate control. The driver seat comes with power-adjustable memory feature and lumbar support too. All seats are decked out in Vienna leather.
This all-new GTI delivers even more performance keeping it at the top of the segment as an everyday sports hatch. It is powered by a 2.0TSI turbocharged engine mated to a 7-speed wet clutch DSG that delivers 245PS (242bhp) and 370Nm (272lb-ft) of torque. This allows for a zero to 100km/h acceleration time of 6.2 seconds.
From ignition, the 1,463kg Mk8 is quick and entertaining. The seats hug you well and the steering provides enough feel to maintain its GTI status. We miss the tartan seat material, a proper gear shifter and a straightforward metered cockpit.
With the Mk8 GTI, VW engineers have installed a brand new digital cockpit which is what many new generation buyers want. Like in a new generation Mercedes-Benz, you get ‘tablet like’ screens with finger scrolling functionality.
You get 4 drive modes, ambient lighting and a host of features to provide entertainment in a traffic jam. However, when the traffic jam ends and the open road is in front of you, this new GTI is quick, feels quicker than the suggested 6.2 seconds and the exhaust ‘bark’ remains as before.
Gear-changes are quick and on the limit handling (even with worn 11,000 kilometers trashed tires) remains very good. The soft touch buttons on the steering are easy to get used to after a few days as is the infotainment system (residing in the tablet screens) on the dashboard.
The provided sound system is very good (test it with a tune from Def Leppard or Whitney Houston) and the whole cabin environment feels very ‘Audi’ in its presentation. Well, Audi is part of the Volkswagen Group, together with Skoda and Seat so this is no surprise.
Yes, there are still faster and more entertaining hot hatchbacks (Hyundai i30 N at RM298,888) on sale right now, but they are all also more expensive. Take a test drive and you will probably end up making a booking.
Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk8 Specifications
Engine: 4-cylinder Turbocharged 16V
Power: 242bhp @ 5000-6500rpm
Torque: 370Nm @ 1600-4300rpm
Transmission: 7-speed DSG
Top speed: 250km/h