To GTI or not to GTI..?
That actually isn’t the question, it is obvious, you should always GTI. I have a confession to make, up until about a week ago I had never clipped into or even driven the Golf GTI. Ok, I drove the Golf 4 GTI, but you can hardly call that a GTI, more like a golf with a GTI badge.
I am talking about the red calliper, red striped, tartan seated, arguably best selling all-around desirable, hot hatch, Golf GTI. Yet I had an opinion about the car, and it wasn’t a good one. It was, however, respectful, simply because, how could so many consumers and journalists be so wrong about a badge? They couldn’t be, right?
Whenever there was a gathering of petrolheads around an open flame, undoubtedly the conversation moved from supercars to 4x4s but always ended with a debate over which hot hatch to buy. The general consensus fell towards the GTI, I personally always looked at the underdog, the French warrior, the American brute or even the spicy Spanish cousin to the GTI, but I simply did not like the GTI because it was the safe option. The option that everybody else loved.
Well recently, I have been fortunate enough to step into the golf’s little brother, the Polo GTI, and its cousin, the Scirocco TSI and R. Both surprised me, yet both did not wow me until I was handed the keys to the limited golf 6 GTI Edition 35.
When the owner handed over the keys to the dark grey, gold wheeled limited edition 35, he whispered with a cheeky smile, "enjoy". I returned the gesture with a “thanks, but it’s just a DSG 2 litre”, his response added a flutter of excitement, “no, it's a manual!”
Now don’t get me wrong, I love a snappy twin-shifter like the rest of them, but I still feel that it removes the engagement that petrolheads love the most. If you truly love driving, you will opt for the experience, the click, the control, the third pedal.
Unlocking the car, the flicker of the indicators edged on the internal excitement. Like all new cars, I jumped at it and for the first seven and a half minutes, I familiarised myself with my new surroundings.
Adjust seat, check.
Adjust steering wheel, check.
Adjust mirrors, check.
Switching on the ignition, yes it's alive! Ok, multi-function display adjusted, phone connected and I am ready. Seatbelt click, sunnies on, clutch in and I turn the key. There it is, the inevitable four cylinders “tick, tick, tick” of the German engineered powerplant. First gear and go!
First thoughts as I make my way through the booms and over the speed bumps, “well this is comfy.” The edition 35 has these amazing front cloth buckets that keep you straight and centred, the visibility is great and all of the controls are easily accessible, but truth be told, I expected this much as the same can be said for the Scirocco and Polo GTI, so no surprise here. The true surprise came when I shifted my way through the gears, and I don’t mean redline and screeching tyres, I mean, just cruising on the way home. Here it is, this is why the GTI is loved by, well pretty much everyone, it just does its job. It is comfortable and quiet when it needs to be. it is accessible and reliable, yet when you need it be to more, it can be, maybe not all the time, but definitely, when you need it to be.
The gears are smooth, the clutch is light and when you need a rush, you bury your right foot and watch the revs race to the top end before you change gear and do it all over again!
Ok, so I was wrong, this is what a GTI is all about. It is about doing everything well, not magnificently, but well. The thing is, it does everything so well, that you cannot fault it.
So after two days, I felt reluctant to hand the edition 35 back to its owner, but just before I did, I realised something. This car is 5 years old, it has just under 120 000km recorded on its clock and yet it was good. Barely rattles, comfortable, economical (when not chasing revs and fast forwarding the present) and very well maintained, yet driven every day.
So when I got home, I started running a few numbers.
First, I found a second-hand edition 35 with similar mileage and guess what, it will set you back anything from R250 000 to R290 000.
Second, maintenance. Well, tyres are the obvious place to start this exercise and a quick search online revealed that cheap tyres start at roughly R1 125, but we don’t want those. They will only decrease the smiles. So a good set of reputable tyres are around R1 600 a tyre. I can live with that, especially when I found that a set of good tyres for a tiny Picanto are R1 200 per tyre. Hot tip, look out for the specials, time it right and you will be in a happy place.
This particular edition 35 just had a full check-up at VW, with an oil change. That was roughly R1 400. Peace of mind - totally worth it.
Next, on the list, major and minor services from a VW dealer as the car is out of service and motor plan. A minor service is around R2 000 and a major service was closer to R5 000 and I am pretty sure you could get an extended warranty on the car. The only other thing I would replace on this car was the door seals, they were a little squeaky, but not that you couldn’t live with them as they were.
So, hypothetically speaking, if you track down a well maintained GTI, with decent mileage, full-service history and approved checks. Slap on a new set of tyres, run an oil change and possibly get an extended or 3rd party warranty, you could own what I would like to call, a “great-constant”. The car that will do what you need it to do, when you need it to do it! It will start, it will cruise, it will fast forward time and it will put a smile on your face without ripping a hole through your pocket (as long as you plan and save a little).
Now, I know what you’re saying, Marko, R270 000 plus is quite a bit of cash, but when looking into the new car market, R270 000 doesn’t even get you past the brochure for a new Polo GTI. For one of those, you may need to remind yourself that Trump is president, Great Britain may not be part of the EU, Tiger Woods is not Tiger Woods anymore and a brand new Polo GTI starts at R370 000, and in no world is the brand new Polo GTI as good as this particular edition 35.