By Tom Sharpe | 03/10/2017

Volkswagen Golf GT TDI

Engine: 2-litre, turbocharged, common-rail, diesel
Power: 138bhp and 236lb.ft.
Performance: 0 to 62mph in 9.3 seconds and 130mph
Fuel economy: 57.6mpg (combined)
CO2 emissions: 129g/km
Price: £19,230
Rating: *****


DRIVE to Volkswagen's Wolfsburg headquarters and there is a chance that near-constant transition between 30 different road surfaces will be taking place beneath your wheels.

Part of the manufacturer's state-of-the-art Autostadt manufacturing centre the quarter-mile long stretch illustrates the history of road construction, using everything from dirt, through wooden planks and cobbles, to today's noise-reduced tarmac.

It's not only an educational introduction to Wolfsburg, of course, but a vivid metaphor for the Volkswagen mindset, a mindset which demands the constant development which has seen their biggest selling car (26 million sales since 1974), the Golf, arrive at its MkVI incarnation.

From a distance the silhouette is familiar but, following incremental but significant changes, Volkswagen chairman, Prof Martin Winterkorn, claims: "This sixth generation of Golf cars will completely redefine the quality and comfort level of its class."

Prices range from £13,585 for the entry-level 'S' and £24,305 for a top-of-the-range, five-door GTI.

There are six trim levels (S, SE, GT, GTD, GTI and Blumotion), four diesel engines and five petrol engines, including the combination tested here—the 138bhp two-litre GT TDI three door.

Coming in at £19,230 the GT is no cheap option—although £2,620 cheaper than the 168bhp Golf GTD performance diesel—when lined up against its rivals from Ford and Vauxhall but offers the mixture of sportiness, practicality and sheer quality that many Golf drivers are looking for.

Producing its peak power at 4,200rpm and 236lb.ft. of torque between 1,750 to 2,500rpm the two-litre TDI engine will propel the Golf to 62mph in 9.3 seconds and on to 130mph while fuel consumption stands at 57.6mpg (combined) and CO2 emissions at 129g/km.

Benefiting the new Golf's shape are the GT's 17 inch alloy wheels, a 15mm drop in ride height and tinted rear windows. But the entire look of the car has been sharpened up.

Despite an initial appraisal, carried out from a distance, suggesting I had been conned into accepting delivery of a MkV Golf, up close the changes align the MkVI more closely with the striking Sirocco coupe.

Marginally lower and wider than its predecessor, it has a slightly more sporty stance, and design features which add emphasis to the effect.

A gloss black grille is flanked by a more aggressively frowning set of headlights.

In profile a sharp crease runs the length of the car into rear light clusters, which resemble those found on the Touareg off-roader, to lend the new Golf a more head-down stance, while at the rear improved visibility is afforded by a deeper window.

Below this, a Volkswagen badge swivels to act as a boot release but can also house an optional rear-view camera.

The Golf's shape remains conservative, perhaps a little boring at the side of a Mazda 3 or SEAT Leon, but its simple form does exude an air of quality.

The depth of that quality becomes clear once I am sat behind the wheel.

Generously bolstered, part-alcantara sports seats, a sculpted leather steering wheel and all around me soft-touch materials bring the feeling usually associated with an executive saloon.

Buttons which engage with a positive action and well-judged touches aluminium detailing add to a sense that the Golf has been brilliantly "sorted."

And there's more polish added to the medium-sized hatches act once things get rolling.

With the GT's sport suspension—Volkswagen’s Adaptive Chassis Control system is an option—the Golf boasts a level of tight body control which speaks volumes about the chassis and structure's impressive structural stiffness.

Only the now legendary bumps of Centenary Way flustered the Golf's otherwise faultless damping as I discovered what was an extremely rewarding drive.

Down the narrowest, most twisty B-roads the GT remained composed and agile, turning in with precision and flowing through the bends in fast, refined fashion, as the two-litre engine keeps its torque readily on tap thanks to its broad power band.

The Golf's rewarding drive came as the ultimate surprise for me and completes what is a genuinely impressive package.

Although placed in an extremely hotly contested sector—the Mazda 3 and BMW 1-series both impressive rivals—there is nothing out there that can match the Golf MkVI's sheer depth of quality.

A car worthy of its 35 years of development, the Golf remains a car that is both attainable and aspirational...a worthy class leader, a generation redefined.