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RedRobin

Mk6 GTI - Review....

61 posts in this topic

....

In reading my review I'd like you to bear in mind that I'm not a professional driver nor a motoring journalist, neither have I driven this car on track. I am, however, a very experienced (over 40 years) and very focussed fast (when appropriate) road driver - No radio nor music nor other distractions while driving. So, my findings and comments are based on the kind of driver I am and I although am naturally inclined to make some comparisons with my beloved and much modified Mk5 GTI, on this occasion I will try not to do so too much (I think!!).

All of us who already own and love our Mk5 GTI's have been obviously very keen indeed to assess and compare the new GTI version. Some of us don't want to like it because we fear we may then grow dissatisfied with what we already have. Some always want the latest model or version of everything and therefore want it to be streets ahead of the last version to justify us buying it. Others take a long term financial view and want to swop their cars regularly or while still under warranty and often are principally driven by what money is 'lost' - I've got news for you: You lose money on every single car you own, so if you truly are an enthusiast, get over it and just enjoy it. In the words of Stephen Stills from the flower power days of Woodstock: "Love the one you're with".

I'll try my hardest to be as objective as possible and to see other points of view. So here goes.......

Mk6_Loders.jpg

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SOURCING:

Available through the usual places - Your friendly neighbourhood dealer and built to order in Wolfsburg, Germany. The example I had is a DSG 5-door without the ACC.

Very much depending on which factory options you choose, purchase price is approximately £1-2,000 more than the equivalent spec Mk5 GTI was in 2005. I haven't bothered to make accurate cost comparisons - It's somewhat academic - You either want the car and you have the money available, or you don't. When I was a lad, a bag of sweets only cost sixpence - So what!

OVERVIEW - EXTERIOR:

The example I've been driving is black. I'm not a fan of the glossy black on the Mk5 GTI though I love the metallic black. From the photographs, I think that this latest GTI is much more colour sensitive than the Mk5. For me, silver and red are the best looking. Coupled with the body styling, the Mk6 GTI in black and 5 doors looks disappointingly undistinctive.

The body styling is the part of this new car that I am most critical of. I really want to like it but I can't fall in love with the styling. The acid test for eye-candy ratings is how much you want to photograph it - I had to persuade myself for the purposes of this review. It looks better in pics than real life too! Although the Mk6 GTI is a very organic evolution of the Mk5, to the point where many have described it as the Mk5.5 (and some Mk5.2!), the body stylists have somehow missed a few tricks. The small things mostly work fine visually in isolation but not as a whole. Example: The upper grill honeycombe is a deeply glossy coated black but the lower honeycombe grill is matt black as it was in the Mk5 - Why not match instead of making it so fussy? The side skirts look like a totally uncoordinated afterthought. The exhaust pipes look like wheelbarrow handles and don't sit well in the moulded exhaust trim design. And although the front treatment style works, it's virtually the same as most of the other VW's in the Golf range, plus a few others such as the Scirocco and even Volkswagen's new pickup truck! The Mk5 R32 had the same front design as the Passat - This did not go down well among hardcore .:R enthusiasts. This is taking coorporate marketing too far and letting the tail wag the dog. Talking of tails, the whole rear design treatment bears no relationship to the rest of the car and its only redeeming feature is the fact that the tail lights are tinted and look so much better for it than the others in the Golf range so far. Funny, I seem to remember criticising the rear end of the new Scirocco - However, this new GTI is much worse.

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Another styling disappointment is that the vents leading towards the fog lights look quite nicely aggressive and functional but they are false.

Note how the honeycombe grills don't match each other - The upper one being glossy bling:

Mk6_fogdetail.jpg

I like the headlights but think the DRL's would have been more effective if LED's and consequently not so yellow.

Mk6_DRLs.jpg

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In the pic below, notice how the new GTI looks so front heavy. This is even more evident when the body is in other lighter colours:

Mk6_FrontvsBack.jpg

OVERVIEW - INTERIOR:

Immediately you sit inside the new GTI you are impressed by a strong and undeniable feeling of quality - Quality of the Audi variety. Even the doors have a higher quality clunk when you close them. But Jeeze, those door handles are surely much bigger than they need to be - They are gigantic - Were they designed for ease of use by Attila The Hun? I thought that he no longer ruled Germany. The bits of silver trim are very Audi but I found them a bit distractingly flashy on a very bright sunny day. The legibility of the instrument display is miles better than the Mk5 but where's the kph display!? - Not clever if on a French autoroute jaunt or invading Poland. The interface for the heating and aircon controls is over-designed and unintuitive - I was fearful of switching on the heated leather seats which although feeling luxurious gave me a sticky back. The Mk5 controls, although far less stylish, are far simpler and far more intuitive - You don't need to read the handbook to learn what does what.

Mk6_steeringwheel.jpg

The steering wheel controls are easier but a bit too much silver bling has been applied.

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Is there any feature remaining where the designers could have added some silver bits?

Mk6_interiorall.jpg

Overall a more luxurious feel but it's mostly as a result of the silver bits giving you the perception of it looking more expensive.

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The Mk6 window controls are much better positioned and so is the horn as I was to discover later! Wing mirror views are very good but is the rear window smaller? Perhaps not, but it seemed so.

I had switched on the engine and was talking to my friend Elliott through the fully open window before leaving. To my horror I discovered that I couldn't hear the engine and had to check if my ignition was on! This might impress many 'normal' car buyers but surely not an enthusiast. However, if Volkswagen have intended to match Audi quality, they have succeeded well. The Golf is no longer a poorer relative. So overall, I might award some plus points for the interior but minus points for the exterior.

But hang on in there, guys - It isn't all criticism....

[continued...]

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....

DRIVING:

I set off in D-mode and my first wish was to get the feel of the brake pedal - Not much different from the factory Mk5 - Effective but lacking pedal feel. The first sensation I experienced was how utterly seamless the D-mode shift was and, unfortunately, that I could hardly hear the engine. The ride was a little soft at low speed but I knew that most customers would love the smooooth comfort of it all. As I left the 30-limit zone and gathered speed, I slipped her into M-mode but I still couldn't hear the engine. I was then grateful for the very clear gear indicator in the top of the computer window but personally I much prefer to feel which gear I'm in via the sound and the seat of my pants, and that applies to every vehicle I drive without exception. It wasn't long before I had the opportunity for overtaking a couple of lorries in the company of other cars overtaking and found that the GTI had the power mid-range to then safely and comfortably pass those as well. Suddenly she felt more like the Mk5, but with a little bit more power throughout the range. I was comparing it with my Mk5 in stock ECU map.

I've worked out a local 'test' route of about 50-miles each 'lap' which includes just about every type of road you can think of - A smoothly surfaced coastal B-road (a well-known biker's favourite) which twists and goes up and down very steeply, a section of what I call C-road with only room for one car except with fairly regular passing point bays, some fast 2-way A-road followed by a long section of very varied B-roads with bends of many different types, back to base via fast dual carriageway A-road with a few roundabouts chucked in - The whole 'lap' with a variety of road surfaces. If local, I 'test' every new car I drive on this route - Recent ones being the latest S4 Avant (better than my expectations) and the Scirocco (lesser than my expectations).

The power is smooth and very linear and gives confidence but you just can't hear the engine at work until you are near the 5,000 zone. If you are someone who listens to music or the radio while you drive (I never do) then you might be forgiven for thinking you are driving an electric car! The ride is very good indeed - It somehow seems to perfectly combine comfort without totally isolating you. It's soft yet firm and nobbly. The car is extremely stable in all conditions and I mean all conditions I managed to purposely chuck at her in a public road environment and also a couple which were uninvited, one of which could so easily have put me in a hospital's intensive care unit. It's strange when you know you aren't going to die yet.

For a couple of miles I had patiently kept a textbook distance and position from one of those drivers who merely wanted to enjoy the countryside on a bright sunny day, including driver's arm dangling to catch a cool breeze - 40 mph everywhere including 30's - You know the type. If you read my S4 review you may remember my coming across an overturned car where the woman driver had fallen asleep [pic below]. As you can see from the pic this was a straight enough section for me to overtake and so I did so with much acceleration. However, about a mile and a sweeping bend later I found myself confronted by a car coming straight at me with about a third of its width across the white line and increasing! I registered a high bank on my left (nowhere to escape) and the gap for my car funnelling fast and went for my horn and headlight flashing with a touch of braking but thinking of accelerating if I thought it might get me through before there was no gap at all. When I set out on my test drive I hadn't planned on testing the airbags! My thoughts were also, oh dear what am I going to tell Elliott (when I've regained consciousness) about the mess I've made of their car, but also I remember thinking to myself thank goodness it's not my car! No witnesses around and I could also hear the driver of the car I had just so patiently followed at a distance but overtaken very fast, saying to the incident investigators that I had been going like a bat out of hell - Doubtless he probably hadn't even been aware of me following. Or had my Mk6's Daylight Running Lights alerted him? Well, I tested the horn and I'm glad to say its ease of operation is an improvement on the Mk5 and a whole lot better than the Audi S4. The idiot driving the oncoming car fortunately heard and saw me in time to just leave me enough gap - It was a situation in which I had no choices and I remember wishing I had my loud Italian triple airhorns onboard. But what is it about the drivers in that neck of the woods? Had this driver fallen asleep as well? The snotty woman in the overturned car last month had virtually boasted about how a friend of hers had recently also fallen asleep at the wheel and survived - It was as if she was trying to impress someone at a cocktail party. In the time I've been roaming this planet I've had a number of near death experiences and also experienced the deaths of others at close (very close in some cases) quarters. You build an acceptance and I have found that so far I have never felt it was my time to leave this planet [Please God, can I go to Venus next? And please, this time, can you give me enough blood to work my penis and my brain at the same time]. After a couple of phews I motored on.

Accident_18May09_4.jpg

So the new GTI is very stable indeed. It feels very flatly planted even when getting fractionally airborne. Within the circumstances of other road users and the road conditions at the time, I didn't exceed or even find its limits and I did try to push it while staying within safe bounds as I became more confident with the car. I was able to go for those overtakes which only performance cars can manage safely whether up a very steep hill or politely queue hopping at speed.

This car didn't have ACC and I can't say I was disappointed it didn't. I think it's purely a marketing feature - In the real world different types of driver will stick it in the setting they prefer and just leave it there for the whole duration of their ownership. Better to save money on the ACC option and put it towards DSG or aftermarket mods such as an exhaust.

If only it sounded more sporty inside the cabin. I resorted to having the windows down just an inch but the road noise mostly drowned out any exhaust music. Volkswagen's marketing states that: "Then there’s that wonderful exhaust note. The GTI burble is ever present in the cabin, while in cars fitted with the DSG double-clutch automatic, there’s a satisfying pop every time the car changes up gears and a rumble and spit when you lift off the accelerator coming into a corner." and also "A resonance tube carries induction growl into the cabin when the engine is under load." I'm sorry but all that simply isn't true unless you the rev the hell out of it, and even then it's remote - The cabin soundproofing has simply been overdone. Why? It's doubtless the same throughout the Mk6 Golf range and it's pandering to the lowest common denominator - Joe & Joanne Public and not the enthusiast. Thank goodness for aftermarket companies like Milltek. BUT, hang on! WTF is going on!? - Turn up your volume and listen to this : -

Why didn't mine sound like that!!? It does help to have a whole mountainside for the zorst to reverb on!

By the way, that's an uber cool music track by Brad Sucks.

DSG:

As apparently claimed by Volkswagen, the DSG shifts did indeed feel significantly smoother than on my Mk5. But when combined with not being able to hear the engine properly if at all, I found this to be a big negative. To add to my confusion of which gear I was in, I found that in M-mode the DSG was far too quickly inclined to shift down the box without my input or choice. An aftermarket DSG remap will sort that out and restore M-mode to being a proper Manual mode. The only help I had was the greatly improved gear indicator display: D4, S3, 5, etc. On a couple of occasions when spirited driving I felt more confident by popping her into S-mode to get the optimum which I couldn't achieve by tactile means. I managed to just about hear that famous and much loved "phwopp!" on shifts but on one occasion I got an almighty kick and bang and instinctively found myself looking for a roadside space to coast into. But all was well - It was as if the DSG box had been sealed and I'd just bust its virginity. Naturally I couldn't reproduce the occurence again and she settled back to being smooth - Just a tad too smooth for my liking though. Without much exhaust note I resorted to using S-mode more than I normally would, just to encourage it. My Mk6 DSG experience has taught me that I'm no longer critical of feeling and hearing the DSG shifts in my own car.

XDS DIFF:

Now this is a feature which I am obliged to compare with the Quaife diff in my own modified Mk5 GTI. Because FWD is able to get the power on earlier there is both more need and more benefit in ensuring that the power gets delivered to the road with the minimum of fuss and minimum loss of traction. I found that in normal and even some spirited driving that I couldn't feel the XDS working at all as it was so smooth - It anticipates a wheel breaking free and intervenes by using braking, but I had to throw the car hard into roundabouts to feel it working and then it worked on-off-on-off-on-off in a very quick but not so smooth succession of stabs as it first seemed to read and afterwards responded to what was happening. By contrast my mechanical Quaife diff can be very gently felt whenever it's needed and it doesn't stop-start but continues smoothly. The Quaife feels as if it's pulling you around and out of the corner whereas the XDS feels more preventative than positive. They both achieve much improved traction but the Quaife is more involving and tactile because it delivers 100% of your desired power instead of probably restricting it by braking the wheel that's losing surface grip. However, while accelerating very hard across slippy white lines I have experienced a degree of fishtailing with my mechanical Quaife diff - Quite exciting.

Volkswagen's Press Release says: "For the first time in a Volkswagen, the XDS electronic transverse differential lock is being used. It significantly improves traction and handling properties. Technically speaking, XDS is a functional extension of the electronic limited-slip differential (EDS) integrated in the ESP system. In fast curve driving, as soon as the innovative electronics detects that the wheel at the inside of the curve on the GTI’s driven front axle is insufficiently loaded, the ESP hydraulics specifically builds up braking pressure at this wheel to restore optimal traction. So XDS acts as a type of transverse differential lock that compensates for the understeering that is typical on front-wheel drive vehicles when driving fast through curves. The results: Thanks to XDS, driving behavior is significantly more precise and neutral; drivers perceive this as more like the handling characteristics of a car with all-wheel drive than those of front-wheel drive. Hans-Joachim Stuck: “Beyond the GTI’s already good chassis layout, XDS gives the car an enormous measure of driving stability. And it leads to greater driving enjoyment, since it reduces understeering. Experienced sports car drivers will be much more active underway. Yet, XDS is a very important safety feature for normal drivers too, because they will not experience any unpleasant surprises with the GTI. It simply would no longer press ahead.”

Again, the XDS electronic method is a cheaper and good solution more suited to an average driver who only wants to be kept safe and has no interest in how this is achieved nor enthusiastically exploiting how it works. Perhaps I am expecting too much from what I would prefer to view as an enthusiast's car. Too many companies nowadays are run by hard-nosed accountants and not enough by those who are led by passion and vision.

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Looks better in red, doesn't it.

PLUS POINTS:

- Still a truly great allrounder (if 5-door version).

- Exceptionally stable in most if not all conditions.

- XDS diff better than no diff.

- Very even and linear power delivery throughout the range.

- DSG transmission with paddle shifters - Very smooooth and fast.

- Audi feel of luxury interior. You have to sit in one - The quality doesn't come across in photographs.

- German and therefore well built.

MINUS POINTS:

- Far too well soundproofed inside the cabin. So you can't enjoy the exhaust note enough.

- The DSG needs remapping to truly emulate a manual transmission and give the driver control.

- Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder but she ain't gonna win any beauty contests which I vote in.

- VW have taken another step towards meeting the demands of the ordinary masses rather than the GTI enthusiast. Unless, of course, you modify her!

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WHY WOULD YOU BUY THIS CAR?

- Because you want a new Volkswagen.

- Because you've heard how great the Mk5 GTI is and may as well buy the latest version.

- Because you regularly change your car before warranty expires.

- Because you have seen the error of your ways running on Satan's fuel, and are a petrolhead at heart. However, you may be tempted instead by the Mk6 GTD which is just a 'grey' version of this GTI.

- Because you can afford to and it's a car that is a great allrounder.

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SUMMARY:

The Mk5 GTI was always going to be a very hard act to follow as it was streets ahead of its predecessor the Mk4. The much smaller differences between the the new Mk6 and its predecessor the Mk5, have caused many to nickname it the Mk5.5 and some even the Mk5.2. Volkswagen have very wisely not mended what wasn't broken and have retained the Mk5 fundamentals and just sharpened it up. However, although I do understand the commercial reasoning and the wish to appeal to as many car buyers as possible among stiff competition, I feel disappointed that the GTI is so well soundproofed and has all the blingy silver bits added to the interior. I am also disappointed in much of the body styling - It looks like changes have been made for the sake of making changes and also by an uncoordinated variety of different design teams. At worst, a bit of a dog's dinner. And at best, a design by committee.

But, for a factory car, I am very impressed by its ride and handling and in spite of many criticisms, I returned the car having really enjoyed myself driving her. It would be pointless me trading mine in for the Mk6 but I would advise anyone considering this car to arrange a test drive - It's another good Volkswagen and is now a much closer rival to the Audi.

The Mk5.5 does look better as a red 3-door : -

Linky : -

THANKS:

A special thanks to VW Loders of Dorchester for the loan of the car, and especially to friend Elliott aka 'DJ Dodgy' for making it happen - Very much appreciated, mate. He's the man if you want to buy a Volkswagen in the SouthWest neck of the woods.

Elliott.jpg

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FOOTNOTE: [or should that read "FINGERNOTE"] When using Google to search the words "DSG explained" I had intended and hoped to find a video I had once seen showing the DSG box cutaway and in motion. However, when I then clicked Google's "Video" I was offered "The Female Orgasm Explained". As I believe we each learn something new every day and in the interests of research, I naturally checked the video out and found it was a very tasteful 48 minute film interviewing French women but with English subtitles. Why does the French language always make females sound sexier? Among the women is one 26yo called Robin and it's very interesting what she says about the finger at about 3:50 - Now you know about Robins and one finger salutes. But 30yo Ingrid is the one I fancy. I still haven't found that DSG in motion vid!

+++

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Excellent review Robin +++

KPH - the odometer changes to display KPH when you start moving and jumps back to mileage when you stop.

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Excellent review Robin +++

KPH - the odometer changes to display KPH when you start moving and jumps back to mileage when you stop.

....Glad you enjoyed the read +++ Thanks for the good feedback.

I'm sorry but I must be being thick because I don't understand about the odometer (distance info?). While I was driving I thought I only saw mph data displayed in the speedo [Not helped by me having a PogoAlert with large GPS digital speed in my own car]. Are you saying that the speedo dial changes? But how does the car know if you are in a mph or kph zone without your driver input?

:confused:

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Although I cancelled my MKVI test drive, I feel like I've had a good taster of the car. Thanks, RR. nice write-up +++

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Fantastic review Robin, Thank you so much for taking the time to go into so much detail. 169144-ok.gif

I do agree the mk6 is very colour sensitive too. Much more than the mk5 is.

Im still wondering how a shadowblue mk6 GTI 5 door would look myself.

As i have not seen any photos anywere of them in the two blues available in the uk yet.

Geoff.

Edited by Snoopy

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Thanks, Geoff! +++

Yes, that Shadow Blue is a great colour - I'd like to see a Mk6 GTI in it too.

Mk6TDI_colour.jpg

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Although I cancelled my MKVI test drive, I feel like I've had a good taster of the car. +++

....That's a great compliment! Cheers :beer:

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....Glad you enjoyed the read +++ Thanks for the good feedback.

I'm sorry but I must be being thick because I don't understand about the odometer (distance info?). While I was driving I thought I only saw mph data displayed in the speedo [Not helped by me having a PogoAlert with large GPS digital speed in my own car]. Are you saying that the speedo dial changes? But how does the car know if you are in a mph or kph zone without your driver input?

:confused:

The MKVI I drove, the digital mileage display changed from mile to show an instantaneous KPH vale once moving and then reverted back to miles once stopped. It's not obvious unless you're looking for it. If you say the one you had displayed MPH then it may be a setting that can be changed to change the digital value in either MPH or KPH.

The other thing that could be confusing is the resolution on the analogue speedometer is different below and above 80MPH

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Thanks for trying to explain. It does sound a bit more complicated than it need be.

In any decision based on an analogue dial display (speed or time, for example), the brain reacts more to the learned position of the 'arm'/'hand' than it does to the numeric value displayed. The information is recognised and hence reacted to, but is abstract.

+++

[Time now to watch the TT superbike highlights on ITV4]

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It's not complicated, the mileage display normally just displays total miles covered and you don't need that data while driving so they have just used the field to display speed whiile moving.

You're right regarding analogue vs digital and the abality to make quck judgement. I had some ifficulty when I first changed from bikes with analogue speedos to digital, although the analogue speedos were very difficult to read as they went from 0 to 200mph in 10mph increments. You just mae judgement with the rough direction the needle was pointing.

Hope you enjoyed the TT, these guys are something special +++

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I missed that mileage to speed display - Was it small as the mileage (distance covered) is?

If it was more like the Audi S4 it would be much more clear and obvious to find : -

S4_mph.jpg

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I missed that mileage to speed display - Was it small as the mileage (distance covered) is?

If it was more like the Audi S4 it would be much more clear and obvious to find : -

It is the small mileage (distance covered), display that changes.

Agree the size of the one on the S4 is much more useful+++

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Great review RR - I think I'm with you on the looks. I really, really don't like it. The lights are all wrong for me.

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Excellent review Robin. +++ Thanks for taking the time. There seem to be some great road in your neck of the woods to exploit a test drive.

I'm a bit sat on the fence re your comments regarding the quietness of the car. 70% of the time I like to feel involved and engaged when driving. A more apparent exhaust note helps deliver part of this and creates some drama and excitement as well a being able hear what's going on clearly. There are also times like today when I was in heavy traffic heading back from Wareham after a busy & tiring day when i'm happy to cruise along and appreciate a smooth ride and quieter cabin (i'm getting old :P). I guess the new MKVI can deliver both. Drop the window an inch and the zorst is more audible I guess.

I also agree with colours. My local dealer has a red one and it looks great. I would say that though! For me it would have to be red or white although I have no intention to buy a MKVI.

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Thanks for the seview Red.

Still some time before we see the MkVI here - probably October. I have to say the black car in your photos looked uninspiring, yet the offical photos I have in the red and white look ....well OK. I'm afriad I'm going to fit into one of your "boxes". I'll upgrade from the current MkV because its time to upgrade - well in the next year. The car has just turned 4 the current lease was up (but have extended a year).

What to get? Well I was holding out hope that the GTI (or R20) might do the job. Not so sure about the GTI now. R20 remains a possibility when it arrives in mid 2010.

We have just bought a Tiguan 147 so I can look at 2 doors now (elderly mother and dogs can get put into the Tiguan) so I'm thinking BMW135, JCW Mini. Nothing much else appeals. I've been an Alfa tragic, had Audi's, not 'old' enough for a Merc, won't buy Japanese. The R20 is looking good at the moment.

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....

I think that the 'R20'/'Golf R' is the one which most GTI enthusiasts are hanging on for.

The Mk6 GTI is a very good car indeed but it depends what you are coming from.

+++

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Saw a white one this evening on the M3, travelling very fast in the opposite direction... those red lines stick out from a mile and IMO makes the car look naff...

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Saw a white one this evening on the M3, travelling very fast in the opposite direction... those red lines stick out from a mile and IMO makes the car look naff...

I know what you mean but then I did think the MKV has always looked a bit strange having a red smile in the front instead of joining it up or something. I guess at least the two parallel lines hark back to the MK1 & 2 in a round about kind of way.

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I guess at least the two parallel lines hark back to the MK1 & 2 in a round about kind of way.

Talking of which, I saw a near mint MK1 last night with a female driver at the helm - lovely; as was the MK1. Took me back and I reminisced the rest of my journey home.

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There was a white Mk1 Campaign at Bedford Autodrome on Monday - immaculate condition, former show car that the guy (60+) had stripped out and stuck a 20vT engine in because he was bored of people pitching up at show competing with him after they took their cars of a trailer. Quick little toy round the track as well and only 920kg - try getting down to that in a Mk6 :roflmao:

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I did not know that the 1.8T 20vT engine was that much heavier than the 1.8 8v :confused: to add that much extra weight to the mk1.

Edited by Snoopy

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Yes, it's heavier - it's the extra 12 valves :P

Full rollcage as well +++

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