The VW Golf 8 GTI came out last year and while I did not attend the launch event, I finally got to experience it recently over a few days. I received the Golf 8 GTI in Kings Red Metallic and just incorporated it into my daily life. I did not have any trips booked, so drove it around, even in rainy Joburg weather.

Quick Look

  • Golf 8 GTI 2.0 TSI
  • 180kW and 370Nm of torque
  • 0-100km/h in 6.4 seconds; top speed 250km/h
  • 7L/100km fuel consumption; 50L tank
  • Standard price: R669 300
  • Fitted with extras and VAT: R780 000

What’s new?

The new Golf 8 GTI has an upgraded 2.0L 7-speed DSG petrol engine that delivers an output of 180kW and 370 Nm of torque, up from its predecessor of 169kW and 350Nm. It now has increased traction and handling control combined with an electronic differential lock and front-wheel drive. It has noticeable LED headlights (with IQ Light) and a red line all the way across, with a striking 5 fog light layout on the honeycomb grille with side skirts. The 18″ Richmond alloy wheels come standard, along with chrome tailpipes and roof spoiler. The LED taillight clusters give off a unique look.

First impressions

The Golf 8 GTI has a bit of a cult status in South Africa and is arguably one of the most recognised vehicles on the road. And as an Durbanite, I can tell you with certainty that people in Durban LOVE this car.

My first impressions was the red car was meant to grab all the attention, especially with the way it was kitted. This ain’t no ordinary car. However, when you get in, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. Yes, this car is the most digitally advanced Golf, but I felt some of the interiors and finishes was a bit basic, or rather, felt dated. I think what VW tries to do is keep the costs down and this is what was felt when I got in. Certain finishes felt like it wasn’t modern enough. Maybe I was just expecting more?

But this has nothing to do with all the tech and features in the car. Speaking of, some of them felt way too advanced, and by that I mean, it didn’t feel as intuitive to me as I kept hitting the wrong buttons when I tried to do something. At times it felt that I did something accidentally when I wasn’t supposed to, all while trying to get used to the new touch surfaces.

The car still gets all the attention, and people are excited to see it on the roads.

The most digitally advanced Golf

The new Golf 8 GTI is littered with touch sensitive surfaces, and I must be honest, this is what I struggled with. From climate to lights etc, you had to use buttons and sliders and it’s not obvious how its supposed to work – are you meant to get haptic feedback or are you meant to slide your finger, or tap. I felt like I fumbled a lot with this and eventually got the hang of it.

It also features VW’s Innovation Cockpit with two high-res screens that is 10-inch and 10.25-inch but the GTI comes with the digital cockpit pro as standard. The cockpit has various views that you can toggle between the rev counter, speedometer and mileage counter and others like CarPlay, driving data, navigation; depending on what you’re in the mood for. I love playing with these options for different types of drives.

The infotainment display works like how a smartphone works, you can swipe through to see a list of apps available for the car that you can easily go into. It also has widgets with shortcuts for maps, radio, vehicle and phone, which I preferred to access my settings. More widgets that were useful were the Apple CarPlay shortcut, your driver stats summary, settings and help. I have gotten used to wireless smartphone connections so it was pleasure to access CarPlay without lugging cables around. There was also wireless charging and USB-C ports.

At the bottom of the touchscreen interface were the sliders and touch sensitive buttons for climate and volume. Though further below around the hazards, there were quick touch buttons for climate, assist, menu and driving modes. I also preferred these buttons as shortcuts.

One of the options that the car came with was Travel Assist. Once you turn in on, it will aid you with keeping in your lane and maintaining speed using the distance of traffic ahead. It is also meant to help with stop-start traffic. Some of these features exist in other cars but I don’t know if a GTI driver would want these, lol. After heavy rains in Gauteng, the car told me the feature was not available, assuming because water got into the sensors. I was cautious after that but it was fine the next day.

Final thoughts

As expected from a VW, the ride quality was good. I enjoyed driving it around, it was comfortable and it had the power I appreciate from a hot hatch. I loved zipping around with it and at times, I felt like people just expected that of a GTI. I love linking my phone to the system and accessing everything on digital screens, but as with any new, unfamiliar tech, it takes a while to adjust to. If I had to spend a month in the Golf 8 GTI, I would have gotten used to the controls but for the short duration I had it, it was a bit challenging. I know I’ve mentioned this enough times, but I love the DataPlug that makes the car “connected” so I could access my driving stats and get an efficiency rating. It worked perfectly fine on iOS, but I struggled to pair it to Android.

That said, no matter what I say in this blog post, the Golf 8 GTI will sell, and that’s all that matters.


The Golf 8 GTI starts at R682 700 with VAT before extras.