Volkswagen’s diesel take on the Golf GTi lacks the spark you’d expect

The 2.0 litre cruiser looks like a GTi, but with little refinement or feedback it certainly doesn’t act like one

Make: Volkswagen

Model: Golf

Year: 2013

Fuel: Diesel

Date Reviewed: June 16, 2013

Tue, Jun 18, 2013, 18:01


The order books for performance cars may make for sad reading for motor dealers these days but Volkswagen’s new GTi has a better chance than any other of appearing in the sales statistics as the year goes on. The car’s pedigree and styling have made it a favourite choice among those who want to blend some excitement with everyday practicality. Ticking as many boxes as the petrol version does, one has to wonder how the diesel version of the GT will make an impact with enthusiasts.

The petrol version has a dynamic feel about it and is about as rewarding to drive as a car of this design can be while the diesel – offering an advantage in terms of economy – simply does’nt offer the same degree of feedback. The normal argument in favour of diesels suggests optimum benefit when the car is doing high mileage at cruising speeds, but the GTDi is not going to feature on any fleet I can think of.

And if one is concerned about economy this car is not going to be a first choice anyway. The diesel version is also heavier and, while it still impresses in terms of torque and responsiveness, it does not match the versatility or the refinement of the petrol. The fact that VW has introduced a “sound actuator” ( an ingenious device that allows you to hear a performance burble inside the car) as an option suggests an acknowledgment of this lack of spark.

The engine is the bigger but standard performance 2.0 litre unit that features across the Volkswagen group range and it does as well in the Golf as it does anywhere else. It will get you from 0-100 kph in a respectable but unremarkable 7.5 seconds and is probably at its best when you need maximum torque or when cruising. In higher gears it comes into its own and is a pleasure to drive. The diesel also comes with the proven DSG automatic gearbox option, but a brief drive with it did not exactly inspire.

The car is fitted out in exactly the same way as the GTi, that is to say it has a modern and edgy finish while being very comfortable. The exterior design is in the same vein as the petrol and sits on 17” alloys. With these attributes it is an impressive car in its own right and is way ahead of many diesels.

However, the problem with the diesel version of the GTi is a simple one. It suffers too much from direct comparison with the petrol version, which is fun, engaging and extremely capable. It doubtless makes sense in a market such as Germany, but it struggles to exploit its virtues in a market such as ours.

2.0 litre four cylinder diesel producing 380 Nm of torque at 1,750/3,250 rpm

0-100 Km/h: 7.5 seconds


Claimed 4.2 l/100km (56 mpg)

109g/km (tax band A3)

Includes as standard: sports seats; alloy wheels; GTi trim; red brake callipers; twin exhausts; stop-start engine technology


If you are looking for GT performance, stick to the petrol version