Volkswagen Golf GTI Ambleside
Volkswagen Golf GTI
Why it won...
The intense competition in this category never ceases to amaze us. It explains why we’ve had three different winners in as many years – and why the Golf GTI needed to be better than ever to take the title this time around.
Last year, the three-year-old MkV model was commended behind the MINI John Cooper Works, but the new MkVI Golf has raised the bar yet again. Hot hatches typically range from the manic to mature, and it’s the Golf’s ability to play both roles that marks it out as something special. Whether you are embarking on a long motorway drive, a city commute or rural sprint, the GTI makes the perfect companion.
It has always been the consummate grown-up hot hatch, but its ability to put a smile on your face is what surprised us the most when it went head-to-head with its lively MINI and Honda rivals in Issue 1,070.
With its trademark red grille trim and distinctive alloy wheels, the Golf certainly looks the part, while its smooth-revving 2.0-litre turbo engine delivers just enough performance, without straying into needless overkill. And because of this finely judged pace, it delivers reasonable fuel economy, too.
Clever technology, such as its electronically controlled XDS differential and the company’s optional Adaptive Chassis Control, add to its appeal, while the DSG gearbox provides double- clutch automated manual thrills. All of this combines to make the latest Golf GTI one of the most desirable real world cars on the planet – and a worthy winner of our hot hatch prize.
Ford Focus RS
You could argue the 301bhp Ford has too much power to be classed as a pure hot hatch – and you’d have a point. But the RS is priced to compete with the likes of the GTI and JCW, which makes its blistering performance and incredible handling even more mind-blowing. However, its incredibly high limits are actually its biggest weakness, because it can’t match the GTI or JCW for pure driving thrills.
MINI John cooper works
The MINI’s stay at the top of the hot hatch class lasted only a year. It still provides livewire handling and potent turbocharged performance, but it can’t cosset and relax like the talented Golf GTI, which is what left it reeling when the two met earlier this year. Its small rear seats and limited boot will put off some buyers, but anyone after a small, sharp hot hatch would do well to consider last year’s champion.