Should I buy a VW Golf or wait for the GTI Performance?

  • The fastest Golfs on sale explored
  • GTI, GTI Performance, GTE, GTD, R
  • Find out which one’s our Parkers Pick

With sales of the VW Golf topping 33 million since its launch in 1974 – equating to a frankly unbelievable new car every 40 seconds – it’s Europe’s best-selling model by quite a margin, and originally found fans and fame thanks to the ever-popular GTI hot hatch.

Now deep into its seventh generation, a major range update in early 2017 ushered in some new kit and engine options, including the car we’re driving here.

If you’re after a high-speed hatchback for everyday driving, it doesn’t get much better than the 2017 VW Golf GTI Performance.

What’s new in the VW Golf GTI Performance?

It has everything we love about the GTI – comfortable yet supportive seats, great ride quality, assured handling and a wonderful turbocharged engine  but adds a further 15hp along with a limited-slip differential for greater traction and bigger brakes with red calipers.

Should I buy a VW Golf or wait for the GTI Performance?

This upgrade was previously known as the Performance Pack, but VW has now launched it as a separate version of the GTI.

Inside there’s the Active Info Display (similar to Audi’s Virtual Cockpit) thrown in too, which is a welcome addition to enhance the cabin, and an upgraded infotainment system with eight speakers, automatic wipers and lights, and a smartphone interface with USB and aux-in ports and compatibility with Apple devices.

What’s the VW Golf GTI Performance like to drive?

We’ll start by saying that you won’t notice the extra 15hp, but you will notice the handling parts VW’s fitted to make this car the driver’s choice in the range.

Should I buy a VW Golf or wait for the GTI Performance?

The locking differential on the front axle offers far better traction on the exit of corners and it all but eradicates wheelspin. In fact, if you get close to where you’d expect the driven front wheels to lose grip, it feels like the Performance simply provides ever more.

But the impressive thing about this is how composed it remains when driven at normal speeds. Other cars of this type – such as the Ford Focus ST and the SEAT Leon Cupra – can be a little too feisty in some conditions, with the steering wheel tugging left and right, feeling as if it has a mind of its own. You don’t have to fight the GTI Performance. It works with you.

We were impressed with the brakes too, but doubt you’d notice a huge amount of difference between the standard set-up and this bigger arrangement unless you were going significantly faster than anyone should be on the road.

Typical GTI traits aplenty

Being based on a car as accomplished as the GTI is a blessing for the Performance model. Its ride quality on the optional adaptive suspension at the launch was excellent; our only criticism that there’s an annoying minor juddering from the rear end at motorway speeds that didn’t settle down regardless of drive mode.

Should I buy a VW Golf or wait for the GTI Performance?

That said, it isn’t something that would put us off buying the car. Many drivers simply won’t notice. They’ll be having too much fun using the flexible, powerful and sonorous turbocharged petrol engine we’ve grown to know and love in the GTI.

This is perfectly matched with the six-speed manual gearbox on our test car for this early drive, with each gear easy to find and the leather golfball-esque gearknob a joy to use. There’s a seven-speed DSG automatic on offer too, but in our experience this won’t offer quite as much engagement.

Should I buy a VW Golf or wait for the GTI Performance?

Another attribute worth mentioning is the tartan-patterned upholstery (a GTI hallmark), covering seats that strike a near-perfect balance between support and comfort thanks to great bolstering and much adjustability. They look very cool, too.

Which options should I get on the VW Golf GTI Performance?

The adaptive suspension (£830) is a very interesting optional extra because it opens up quite a gulf between softer Comfort mode and harder Sport mode with its reduced bodyroll. It transforms the GTI into a true Jekyll-and-Hyde machine that can switch characters at the touch of a button.

If you like technology, we’d strongly suggest you consider upgrading to the £1,325 9.2-inch Discover Pro infotainment system. Not only does this feature a huge amount of tech and apps to unlock more functionality, but it has gesture control and a glass touchscreen that has to be among the best we’ve sampled to date.

Should I still order my ‘regular’ Golf GTI or wait for the GTI Performance?

While pricing hasn’t been announced yet we’re led to believe an approximate £1,000 premium is on the cards for the Performance over the regular GTI. However, the resale value will also be slightly higher, meaning that if you’re getting your car on PCP finance the rates are likely to be all but identical. We’d hang fire and get the better car.

What about the Golf R?

Now don’t get us wrong here, the Golf R is a very good car indeed, and one that requires exploring in more detail elsewhere.

Should I buy a VW Golf or wait for the GTI Performance?

It has titanic grip levels and prodigious performance, but it’s also more expensive than the GTI Performance and not as enjoyable to drive quickly. We’d say save yourself some cash unless you really need the 4Motion all-wheel drive system.

How about the GTE? Are plug-in hybrids as much fun?

If we’re talking about cheap fast cars, the GTE can’t be mentioned in the same sentence as the other performance models.

Should I buy a VW Golf or wait for the GTI Performance?

With the best will in the world its hybrid petrol-electric powertrain simply isn’t as much fun. It sounds very strained if you stretch its legs and doesn’t provide anywhere near the handling of the above cars.

However, it does boast a decent array of kit and startlingly low running costs compared to all of these performance Golfs. If that’s on your agenda, a test drive would definitely be worthwhile.

Don’t mention the diesel GTD…

In much the same way that the GTE doesn’t pass muster in the performance stakes, the quickest diesel isn’t the sort of car we’d recommend for brisk driving thanks to its less refined engine and less consistent power delivery. In fact, in the wake of the Dieselgate fiasco, there was barely a mention of this version during our early drive event. Hardly surprising really, though. It’s been eclipsed by the array of models above.


The Golf GTI is genuinely one of the best all-rounders on sale, and the Performance model takes that recipe and noticeably improves it. It’s for that reason it’s our Parkers Pick of the fast Golfs on sale.

Should I buy a VW Golf or wait for the GTI Performance?