In a surprise move, Volkswagen Passenger Cars Malaysia (VPCM) has given the media a preview of the Volkswagen Golf Mk8. The backdrop you see here is the paddy fields of Sekinchan, an unusual location for a media gathering. This was coming, as VPCM opened registration of interest for the Mk8 Golf and teased it earlier this month, just that we didn’t expect it today.

We have here the eighth generation Golf in two flavours – the R-Line in white and the iconic GTI in red. Both will be launched in the first quarter of 2022 (which is just around the corner) in CKD locally assembled form. While CKD Volkswagens rolling out of Pekan aren’t a new thing – having started in 2011 with the B7 Passat – this is the first time that the Golf is being assembled here. It’s a big deal, especially for the GTI, which was only ever made in Germany and China.

Some are already licking their lips at the prospect of lowered CKD prices, but we have no indication from VPCM, for now. The CBU Golf Mk7.5 was launched in 2019; then, the 1.4 TSI R-Line went for RM166,990 while the GTI was priced at RM239,990.

To the cars. We don’t have a spec sheet, or any official info for that matter, but we’ll try our best via eyesight and questions. This post is about the GTI – there’s a separate piece on the 1.4L R-Line.

The eighth iteration of the hot hatch that started it all continues to be powered by an EA888 2.0L TSI engine, now making 245 PS and 370 Nm of torque. That’s an increase of 15 PS and 20 Nm from the regular Mk7.5 GTI, and on par with the Performance Pack version of that car. A six-speed manual is an option elsewhere, but we get the seven-speed DSG dual-clutch transmission sending power to the front wheels.

The R-Line’s 1.4L TSI engine makes 150 PS and 250 Nm, so the GTI is clearly a big step up in the Golf performance ladder – that step is 95 PS and 120 Nm in height, and with the quicker DSG gearbox too (R-Line now with 8AT). The hot hatch completes the 0-100 km/h sprint in 6.4 seconds (same as our Mk7.5 GTI) and top speed is 250 km/h.

Under the skin are MacPherson struts at the front, multilink suspension at the rear, an XDS electronic differential lock and a sports suspension setup that’s 15 mm lower in ride height compared to the standard Golf. New for the Mk8 is a Vehicle Dynamics Manager control system that coordinates the operation of the XDS and the optional DCC adaptive dampers. Bigger brake discs with red calipers, too.

As for kit, the GTI gets LED Plus headlights (without the red strip, which is reserved for the IQ.Light matrix units) and upgraded LED taillights, as well as a set of 18-inch “Richmond” alloys. GTI-specific touches include the trademark red strip on the grille and a honeycomb mesh for the lower grille – unfortunately without the five-point LED fog light option available in other markets.

The GTI is as understated as performance hatchbacks come – also because our range starts from the R-Line, which the GTI look builds on – but you can easily spot one from the twin chrome exhaust pipes (unlike the R-Line, these are real, one on each side), a slightly more pointy rear wing (barely visible), and the rear GTI badge, which replaces the central Golf wording below the VW emblem.

Inside the Mk8’s newly minimalist cabin, you’ll find perforated leather sport seats (tartan is cool, but leather is what buyers of a RM200k car expect here), a fully digital instrument cluster (with GTI-specific red gauges) and the latest MIB3-powered touchscreen infotainment system with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

It’s all very modern and digital in here – the only knob you’ll find is for the wing mirrors; the lighting controls and cluster between the central AC vents are touch sensitive. The buttons on the steering are also capacitive.

Like the exterior, there aren’t GTI-only cues everywhere you look in the cabin, but there’s a flat-bottomed three-spoke steering wheel with a red accent and GTI logo. As you’d expect, the interior theme is all-black, including the pillars and headlining. Red piping and stitching can be found on the grey-black seats, but not the steering. Gear knob? There isn’t much of a gear knob to wrap in the Mk8, just a small protrusion on the sloping centre console. There’s also some honeycomb trim on the dashboard, which is a nice sporty touch.

In terms of safety, the GTI gets the usual six airbags, ABS and ESP. However, it doesn’t come with any driver assist tech like autonomous emergency braking (AEB). VPCM said that it is working to bring ADAS to its cars, but looks like it hasn’t made it to the Golf. One thing of note is that there are Isofix points on the front passenger seat, not just the rear seats.

VPCM says that CKD locally assembled Golf Mk8 range will be launched “very very soon”, most probably in the first quarter of next year. No price yet, but the CBU Mk7.5 GTI had a 2019 launch price of RM239,990, so you can start guessing from there. So, what do you think of the latest chapter of the Golf GTI story?