2013 Volkswagen Golf GTI
2013 Volkswagen Golf GTI
2013 Volkswagen GTI. Click image to enlarge

Article and photos by Steven Bochenek.

You could say there’s a substantial subculture of GTI drivers out there who adore this four-door hatchback and geek out over it at every opportunity – but ‘cult’ probably describes them better. A quick search on the Internet results in scores of opportunities for the faithful to aggressively agree with other. To instantly achieve priestly status in the cult, there’s the Wolfsburg Edition which throws in a heap of sporty extras in one price.

(Wolfsburg? World VW HQ in Germany, it was a Brave New World–esque worker’s paradise built during the early 20th century.)

Note the red border, enclosing the signature black mesh grille: de rigueur among the GTI faithful. And of course those GTI and Wolfsburg badges. Let’s get inside: proximity opening means that with the key in your pocket, you jiggle the door handle for it to unlock and open.

Here there’s more to geek out at, like the fire-engine red border-stitching on the leathers, cloth and carpets. Next, there’s the tartan Jacky Cloth coverings on the sport seats (referring to Scotland’s famous son, Jacky ‘Et’s-a-grrrate-day-fr-rrracin’ Stewart). That cloth is the equivalent of the Wolfsburg cult’s secret handshake. As with any religion or cult, some of the rituals and accoutrements will seem questionable to the outsider. But, like the guy in Fiddler on the Roof, believers will shortly tell you it’s a “tradition”! Never you mind if his seats look like they just fell off a shortbread tin. And the Holy Grail is that black golf ball shaped shifting knob.

It’s easy to sneer – that is, until you get behind the wheel. It’s a bloody fabulous ride. A week after the car was returned, my index finger unconsciously reaches for the keyless start button and my pulse accelerates with memories of the GTI’s performance, if not some of its popular garb.

2013 Volkswagen Golf GTI2013 Volkswagen Golf GTI2013 Volkswagen Golf GTI
2013 Volkswagen GTI. Click image to enlarge

You enjoy a rip-snorting front-wheel drive powered by a 2.0L four-cylinder turbo engine with six-speed automatic DSG (short for direct shift gearbox or the infinitely cooler if the utterly unpronounceable Teutonic direkt-schalt-getriebe) with Tiptronic.

It puts out 200 hp. This impressive punch comes in a welterweight body, whose curb girth is just 1,376 kg. There’s the faintest hint of turbo lag, which is readily replaced with turbo leap, or launch. So you can go like hockey puck. Better still there’s the sport mode which shortens gears for an even more dynamic jump to light speed. It’ll get your heart racing – and impoverish you at the pump. Use it sparingly.

But even with all that velocity, what’s more impressive is the car’s maneuverability. A sport suspension drops the GTI slightly for a welcome low centre of gravity. The leather wrapped and sporty flat-bottomed steering wheel offers good grip – and the experience of the steering itself is rally worthy. It handles marvelously.

With some fast cars, you don’t notice the speed. The GTI isn’t among them. Being light, it’s not the quietest ride. The doors are so light, they could almost be renamed flaps – even with those tweeter and woofer speakers mounted in them. And being close to the ground – its clearance is just 138 mm, so you get a good sense of the world whipping by.

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