As sure as there is a Volkswagen Golf in the world, a GTI version always follows, and the latest Mk8 is finally here. Evolutionary in its approach, the recipe hasn’t changed significantly since Volkswagen rebooted the franchise with the Mk5, but if it ain’t broke…

On the outside, this means that the GTI isn’t radically different from the standard Golf, the basic design having been lifted from that car’s R-Line package. This includes a larger full-width lower air intake framed by a concentric black line, giving the GTI an uncharacteristically aggressive front fascia in concert with the wide, low-set headlights and grille. It also gets deeper side skirts and a rear diffuser-like bumper insert.

Applied on top of all this are the GTI-specific touches. A thin red accent strip spans across the grille and the standard LED headlights, reaching all the way into the latter’s “tails”. For the first time on the Mk8, the grille also has an illuminated strip that joins the daytime running lights to form a single horizontal graphic, while the honeycomb air inlet mesh can be optioned with five LED fog lights on either side, forming two X shapes.

The red strip continues into the front fender appliqué with the redesigned GTI badging that also appears on the grille. As standard, the car comes with unique “Richmond” 17-inch alloy wheels, with 18- and 19-inch rollers available as options. Finishing off the look are the larger tailgate spoiler, the new centrally-mounted GTI badge and a pair of real round tailpipes.

Subtle additions can also be found on the inside, with the meaty flat-bottomed three-spoke steering wheel getting a red accent on the bottom spoke and GTI badging. The sports seats continue with a tartan pattern on the inserts – now in a new “Scalepaper” design – and feature a bold red stripe around the headrest. Models with a manual transmission retain the golfball-style dimpled gearknob, also in a new design.

The standard kit list in Europe includes the range-topping 10.25-inch Digital Cockpit instrument display with unique graphics, a 10-inch touchscreen for the navigation system, a 30-colour ambient lighting system, stainless steel pedals, keyless entry, autonomous emergency braking, lane keeping assist and car-to-x (vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure) communication.

Under the bonnet, the GTI continues to be powered by an EA888 2.0 litre turbocharged petrol engine, now making 245 PS and 370 Nm of torque – increases of 15 PS and 20 Nm from the regular Mk7.5 GTI and on par with the Performance Pack version of that same car. A six-speed manual gearbox comes as standard, and buyers can also specify a seven-speed DSG dual-clutch transmission with unique tuning.

The chassis is also par for the course, with MacPherson struts at the front, multilink suspension at the rear, an XDS electronic differential lock and a sports suspension setup with a 15 mm drop in ride height compared to the standard Golf. New for the Mk8 is the Vehicle Dynamics Manager, a driving dynamics control system that coordinates the operation of the XDS system and the optional DCC adaptive dampers.

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