Volkswagen Golf GTI Battles GTD and R Siblings on Track for an Unexpected Result

The hot hatch segment is more hotly debated than ever, and Volkswagen has no fewer than three contenders in it - that is if we don't count the wonderful Golf GTI Clubsport as well, which we really should (plus the GTE hybrid, maybe).
Volkswagen Golf R on track 9 photos
Photo: YouTube screenshot
VW Golf hot hatch contest: GTI vs. GTD vs. RVW Golf hot hatch contest: GTI vs. GTD vs. RVW Golf hot hatch contest: GTI vs. GTD vs. RVW Golf hot hatch contest: GTI vs. GTD vs. RVW Golf hot hatch contest: GTI vs. GTD vs. RVW Golf hot hatch contest: GTI vs. GTD vs. RVW Golf hot hatch contest: GTI vs. GTD vs. RVW Golf hot hatch contest: GTI vs. GTD vs. R
Renault, Ford, and Honda are also gunning for the title of the world's fastest hot hatch, as is SEAT's MQB-based Leon Cupra, but this clip here is all about the Golfs. All three of them have benefitted from the recent facelift (or whatever the hell that was), which means it's the perfect time to compare some hot laps on an equally hot South African track.

First up is the Volkswagen Golf GTI. All three cars use two-liter engines, with the GTI and the R actually sharing the same block. Gone are the days when the R meant there was a three-liter V6 unit under the hood, but that doesn't mean there still isn't a great power gap between the two.

The GTI has a peak power of 230 hp, but it reaches it from much lower RPMs than the R's 310 hp. In terms of torque, the figures are a lot closer: 350 Nm (258 lb-ft) for the GTI and 400 Nm (295 lb-ft) for the R. However, it's enough to put 1.8 seconds between the two in their respective 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) sprint times as the GTI takes 6.4 seconds while the R needs 4.6 seconds.

Diesel's not dead (yet)

The GTD comes second. As it gets on the track, you can already hear that diesel rattle that so many people feel has no place on a racing circuit. But the GTD is part of that rare breed of cars that can really go light on the fuel consumption when driven reasonably, but also turn into a bit of a hot hatch when pushed hard.

But we can't fool anyone. Despite having the same torque figures as the GTI, it only comes with 184 hp and an extra 30 kilograms (66 lb). Unless the Holy Spirit decides to intervene, it's bound to come up last. The only question is how far behind?

Finally, the top model of the Golf range enters the scene. The R has received a little buff, which - coupled with the fact it's the only four-wheel-drive car here - should give it more than enough resources to smoke the competition. Like the GTD, that was a given from the start, but how much faster is the fastest Golf 'round a track?

According to the guys at, not fast enough, and we tend to agree with them. With just three seconds off the GTI's time on a 3.1 km-long track (1.92 miles), it does little to justify the extra money from a rational stand point. In fact, by being eight seconds slower than the R and five slower than the GTI, the GTD is the one making the most sense. That is if you can live with the fact you're driving a diesel Volkswagen - which, if you're based in Europe, you probably can.

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About the author: Vlad Mitrache
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"Boy meets car, boy loves car, boy gets journalism degree and starts job writing and editing at a car magazine" - 5/5. (Vlad Mitrache if he was a movie)
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