Awhile back, I was invited to one of the weirder events I’ve ever attended. It was in a paddy field in Sekinchan. There was a Malaysian ninja dude jumping from hay bale to hay bale. And there were also two brand new Volkswagen Golf Mk8s.
The two models present were the Mk 8 Golf R-Line in white, and the Golf GTI in red. None of these designs are radically new because the Mk8 design has been around since, I think 2019? And I gotta say, I’m not a huge fan of the design. I get that it’s supposed to be more aerodynamic, but I generally prefer my hot hatches a little more boxy.
Still, I think if the goal was to keep it looking like a Golf, VW has done it. I also like the way they did their headlamps with the DRLs. It looks kinda like, unimpressed, which I think is kinda cool.
They’ve also kept the GTI’s looks more restrained, as is tradition, with just a few red accents, including the classic red lipstick across the front grille. But I’m not sure I really like the big fanblade wheels. Around back, things are looking really clean with just the logo and either GOLF or GTI under it. You pop the boot by pushing in the logo and pulling up in one swift motion, but it’s not electric so you actually have to lift the lid.
Inside, everything’s also really similar between the models. Obviously, the GTI has a couple of GTI badges here and there, but not as many as I expected. What will immediately catch your eye, however, is the digital cluster and head unit. It’s all screens in here, and to my horror, no physical buttons. Damn it VW, you really gotta do this to me? Right after I was done praising you about all the buttons in the Tiguan? COME ON.
In its place, you get a bunch of capacitive controls on the steering wheel and in the centre console. I think the touch controls on the wheel are still OK, because they’re properly contoured so you can still kinda feel what you’re pressing, and they also give you a small little vibration when you press them—like a smartphone. I also think it’s cool that you can adjust your media volume by sliding across the volume section under the screen or on your wheel.
Speaking of things I don’t like in the car though is the centre aisle. If you look really closely, you’ll see that there isn’t a proper shifter anymore. Instead, you get this little lump that you push and pull on, to change between the gears. I also think that the rest of the buttons on the console here don’t look nearly as premium as the ones on the Tiguan Allspace R-Line, and that’s kinda disappointing.
Still, as far as car digital dashes go, I think the screens VW have put in the new Golfs are solid. They’re not exactly the same as the one I reviewed in the Tiguan, but they’re also sharp, bright and pretty responsive. I’m not a fan of the big “home button” on the right of the screen because it looks like they got the design from a tablet from 2010. Digital dash aside, the rest of the interior is pretty nice, in classic VW fashion. The seats are nice and comfortable and the steering wheel is also well proportioned.
As far as performance goes, as I said earlier, I don’t have any spec sheet to share with you. But, reports indicate that the Golf R-Line will come with a 1.4L TSI engine while the GTI will sport a 2.0L TSI engine making about 240bhp. The interesting thing though, is the fact that the Golf R-Line will feature a regular 8-speed automatic transmission instead of VW’s staple DSG transmission. Depending on who you are, this could either be a good or bad thing, but to me, the DSG is so much of the VW experience that not having it feels kinda bad. The GTI, however, will retain the DSG transmission.
Finally, there’s the fact that both of these cars will be CKD models. This means that they will be locally assembled, but we don’t know how much they will cost just yet. This is still a pretty big deal especially for the GTI, because Malaysia is now one of only three places in the whole world where this high-performance hot-hatch is being assembled. And that’s something to be proud of.