When given the keys to Volkswagen’s diesel-powered hot hatchback, our Associate Editor deliberately spent his time driving around the whole of Singapore.
Photos: Joel Tam
In fact, it was one of those rare occasions where I even … well… volunteered to run errands. Now let me explain this sudden streak of enthusiasm; it’s simply because (cue drum roll) I’m freakishly determined to see for myself how far I can drive with a full tank of diesel. Plus I really want to feel just how powerful this diesel hot-hatch is...
The Golf GTD (‘D’ for diesel) is a really unique and interesting model in Singapore’s context.
If the highly popular Volkswagen Golf GTI and Golf R, with their 2.0-liter turbocharged engine is each capable of producing 210 bhp and 256 bhp respectively, the GTD will surely come across as the weakest – try 170 bhp.
However, unexpected greatness lies in the amount of torque – the Golf GTI can only churn out 280Nm, while the Golf R 330 Nm. But in the case of the GTD, it’s a highly respectable 350 Nm!
Undoubtedly, the technical aspect of the car is one of the most important. In almost all driving situations, the 16-valve four-cylinder turbo diesel engine offers the strength of a V8 sports car – a little lazy initially but once you hit that sweet spot, in the case of the GTD it’s before 2,500rpm, the world around you just turns into a blur.
The beauty of this turbo diesel engine is how it pulls to speed - strong from 1,500 rpm up to 5,000 rpm, with no sign of an asthma attack along the way. Ok, so the engine note can come across as “a lil’ clattery” when compared to its petrol derivative, but it’s still within acceptable level.
The GTD shares the venerable six-speed twin clutch DSG from its GTI brethren. I’m glad to report that this ‘box remains highly efficient throughout, from one all the way to six. Of course if you want to have a more satisfying drive, just swap your own gears via the paddle-shifter. By doing this, you can potentially forget the fact that it… is… a… diesel.
It is capable of attaining a maximum speed of 222 km/h, and can accelerate from standstill to 100 km/h in 8.1 seconds. Those numbers aside, here’s some food for thought: According to Volkswagen, the GTD’s fuel efficiency (combined) is merely 5.6-liters per 100 kilometers on average – compare that to the Golf GTI, which only manages 7.4-litres per 100km (combined). After a week of driving it, I managed – according to the onboard counter - 6.1-liters per 100 km. Not too bad, right?
Like the GTI, the GTD gets for itself VW’s Adaptive Chassis Control. With that, you get to choose between "Comfort" and "Sport", or you can just let it run on its own. Some might opine the addition of this feature is tacky, but look at it this way - at least you can set it to "Comfort" when driving with the kids or in-laws in tow, leave it to its own element when you can't be bothered and just want to get home with the missus, or simply set "Sport" to play street-racer. Of course, the GTD deserves to be driven in "Sport" - that's how you'll truly appreciate the car's handling prowess.
Visuals are also impressive. Given the 18- inch rims wrapped in 225/40 R-18 Dunlop SP Sport Maxx tyres, it somewhat demonstrates how this diesel variant is in no way inferior. The bumpers are as aggressive as the GTI’s here, thanks largely to the big and wide air-intake and the vertical foglamps. Its grill comes with chrome linings across, together with a subtle "GTD" badge - ok, so people walking by the car should be able to clearly know what they're looking at.
Inside, the GTD shares - largely - everything else with the GTI. Only major difference? The GTD gets white stitching on the flat-bottom, leathered steering wheel and a 5,000rpm redline on the rev counter (the GTI on the other hand gets red stitching and a 6,000rpm redline).
Controls and meters are clearly laid out and easily reached, build quality remains faultless, and despite being a 3-door variant as seen here, practicality rates highly even. Driver and front passenger get seats that are both huggable and supportive, but only the driver gets an electrically adjustable one. It can even accommodate up to three rear passengers who can still enjoy good leg and headroom.
At the end of the day, this Golf GTD is an ideal proposition if you travel long distances on a daily basis. It’s also fun to drive, and you don’t feel guilty driving hard down a straight road, or exploiting it along a series of bends. Thanks to cheaper diesel, it will also make the driver smile come refueling time.