The Golf 7.5 GTI; what are the differences?

The Devil is in the details.

The Golf 8 is around the corner, but VW has treated us with a revised Golf 7.5 GTI. I say treated, because that’s what it feels like from behind the wheel. I spend some time with the 7.5 GTI noting the key differences, and report on whether or not they are worth the extra R40 000 over the old GTI.


Inside, the big differences are quite obvious.  The revised centre touchscreen console is smoother and sleeker with no visible knobs. At around R18 000 it is very pricey indeed. Gesture control is included and works from side to side. Personally, up and down would have made way more sense, but this is the genesis of the technology, at least for VW and in a few generations time we’ll more than likely have a much more user-friendly version. Is it worth R18 000? Not for my money, no.

The active dash is a welcome upgrade from the old analogue system. Glare resistant and as good as any Audi system, this is something I wouldn’t want to live without. Other than that, the interior is familiar Golf, with some other smaller details like stitching and detailing changed for 7.5. Hardly noticeable, but it does make 7.5 feel newer and up to date on the inside.


Outside, the Santiago 19” wheels are an option. Previously these were only available with the performance pack. Suiting the car perfectly, they are a tad crashy over heavy bumps, but not enough to swap out for the 18s. LEDs are now standard all-round, with the rear, animated LEDs looking attractive and modern.  Up front, the bumper has been revised to look a little something like the Club Sport bumper, again a perfect complement to the rest of the exterior package. Overall the differences are small but obvious. 7.5 looks great and will continue to do so until the 8 arrives.

Engine and gearbox

Up 7kW from the old spec, the new tweaked and fettled engine peaks at 169kW. In Sport mode, the full 169kW can be exploited, as the chassis and suspension become taught. GTI is fitted with a 7-speed DSG gearbox that’s as flawless as it’s always been.  The electronic differential works well, making sure the car stays on line even under very hard cornering. When taking corners, I could feel the individual braking working to keep the nose tucked in at all times. This does come at the expense of some speed, as I could feel that the car slowed marginally to stay on line, a sacrifice I wasn’t always willing to make, but something one has to live with when driving a car with an electronic differential.  The bugbear is hardly noticeable though and the trade-off for living with a mechanical differential on a daily basis would more than likely be too big anyhow.


At the tested price of  just over R600 000 the GTI has park assist and adaptive cruise control, functions normally reserved for Audis, Volvos and other luxury car marques.  Because it’s such a small car, the park assist isn’t essential, but if like me you’re a tad lazy to park, it works much better than expected, and in some cases, much better than the systems found in pricier, bigger cars.

And herein lies the appeal of the GTI. From a fast blat around my favourite twisty mountain pass, to running errands with the seats folded down or being stuck in traffic, GTI is still the ultimate all-rounder. And with new features usually reserved for more expensive cars, 7.5 GTI remains great value if a multipurpose performance hatchback is what you’re after.

Road Tests

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