Review: 2022 Mk8 Volkswagen Golf GTI in Malaysia – Still the benchmark of hot hatches

Depending on how you see it, it’s an even more attractive package overall as it is now locally assembled in Pekan, Pahang. For the same reason, its asking price has dropped significantly to just RM212,711 on-the-road without insurance inclusive of SST exemptions. Taking into account that the previous model went for around RM239k, it’s safe to conclude that it’s already a winner.

Ever since the Golf made a comeback with the Mk.5 model, Volkswagen’s iconic model has grown, matured, and is more skillful and powerful than ever before. It’s no easy feat but just when you wonder if the Golf can still be improved consistently beyond what it was already capable of over the past four generations, it did.

With 25 hp and 20 Nm more than before at 245 hp and 370 Nm, it’s certainly more powerful on paper but because the previous generation model was already so quick, there really wasn’t a noticeable increase in performance especially when it’s still aided by the quick-shifting dual-clutch gearbox.

Not that it’s a problem as there will still be a queue of cars that the GTI can take on convincingly and look back at in the rearview mirror with a sense of pride but that’s not where the magic of this new car is. It’s not even the way it looks but we’ll come to that later. Instead, it’s how it corners – something most Golf GTI enthusiasts would expect of the car.

How it finds its grip, only someone with a mechanical engineering degree can properly explain but in layman’s terms, it’s just better than before – it’s calmer, more composed, more stable, and more exciting. It just grips! Whether on track or on uphill climbs which saw a car full of passengers, the Golf GTI danced around with the finesse of an experienced ballerina.

Put it into Sport and the ride becomes a little stiffer, the car sounds a little angrier while everything from the throttle and steering becomes sharper and more responsive. When you’re not being an 18-year old behind the wheel, it’s comfortable, docile, and practical and that’s what the Golf GTI is (still) all about. When you want it to be a fun car for the weekend, it’ll oblige and when Monday comes and the kids need to go to school, it’ll perform its duties as well as it did over the weekend.

The seats are by far the most attractive item in the cabin (in my books at least) but the rest of it was far from perfect. Moving to touch-sensitive controls may seem like an upgrade for most (and in the eyes of Volkswagen) but in reality, it felt more like an inconvenience. Parking the car can trigger the volume to increase/decrease or activate the voice command or heated steering features. It could be the way I held the steering; wouldn’t discount that.

The buttons below the screen do not light up at night.

The same can be said about the infotainment, it takes some getting used to going about the features/functions, and for the most part, once you’re more familiar with it, it’s actually quite easy to use and responsive to the touch but that’s not the issue.

In a time when safety is paramount (over performance even), the thought of laying my eyes off the road to change the air-con settings just didn’t feel right. When you’re resting your hands on the dashboard to accurately change the settings while on the move, it triggers the volume controls beneath the screen. At night, those controls beneath the screen aren’t lit up either.

On the topic of safety, much has been talked about the lack of driver aids and it does warrant some questions as traditionally, locally assembled cars, although cheaper, do come equipped with more features. That said, it is what it is, and at the end of the day, with all things considered, it’s hard to see it being a deterrent factor to walk away from the car.

That’s cause when it comes to having hatchback that’s able to do more than just go fast, there’s nothing like it and at that price, nothing can come close either.



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