Wednesday, 17 March 2010

What's (not) so great about VW Mk6 Golf GTI

A lot of superlative pluses have been showered on the sixth incarnation of Volkswagen's iconic GTI thus far. Name me one absolutely bad test review and I shall buy you a dinner of your choice.

So is this about to change here: the dark & ugly side of the Mk6 GTI be dissected upon and laid bare for all to feast? Forget the bland, allegedly less-sporty styling (I like it) - some say more matured, discreet and understated versus the Mk5 (that's why I dig it) - what you are about to read below may make you cringe like you do towards those MPs who have suddenly gone 'independent'...

First, the price increase: from RM198k to RM211k. It's a new generation you might argue. Well, most Mk5 owners might say it is more of just a re-skin exercise ala Audi A4's B6 to B7 generations. With the RM13,000 increase you'd be getting:

1. Only 17" alloys
2. Lack of sunroof
3. No Tyre Pressure Monitoring system
4. RCD 310 CD-Radio which leaves a lot to be desired (very mediocre audio quality, absence of in-dash CD changer, no USB port and no touch screen interface...) Mk5 all came standard with in-dash 6-CD changing headunit
5. No scuff plates
6. Smallish wing mirrors with quite horrendous lateral blind spots
7. No rear LED lights
8. No daytime running lights (just pushing luck a little further here)
9. No memory function for the one-&-only electric seat i.e. the driver's
10. Drabby colour choices. The tester in Candy White (CW) is so Mark5! (For a fact, CW looks stunning on the Mk5, lesser so on the Mk6)
11. Lack of red-thread stitchings on seats to match parking brake lever, gear-knob and leather steering rim

To make things worse:

1. The Mk6' roof noise is absolutely appalling in our thunderstorm rain pelting the tinny-sounding metal sheet over your head. Absolutely disconcerting! (think: Honda City/Civic, Toyota Vios/Altis/Camry)

2. Some plastic part is of sub-standard quality e.g. the rear luggage cover suspension hook which can be easily fractured Day-2 into ownership (RH) and seemingly even the 5-years warranty doesn't cover it!

3. There IS turbo lag when you drive in 'D' with the compressor wheel seemingly off-boost when you're doing anything below 2,000rpm. Yes, the brochure states that max. torque of 280Nm start twisting from a low 1,700rpm...perhaps the tachometer reading has gone off scale or something.

4. You can almost never drive with the DCC in anything other than 'Auto'. In 'Comfort' your rear occupants will go all dizzy & car-sick on B-roads. In 'Sport' it will rattle your brain so bad that you may leak CSF through your nostrils should you brake too hard on those grabby rotors' calipers!

5.You can't really do mid-sweeping-corner lane-change-overtaking-maneuver (especially to outer arc) as fluidly and confidently like you do in a RWD vehicle. I certainly didn't sense the XDS - VW's electronic-braking pseudo-LSD thingy helping out here.

6. Slow traffic crawl with the DSG gears swapping from 'D2' to 'D1' can be a bit of a judder should you be hesitant in braking to a slowdown/complete stop. Yes, the DSG isn't perfect yet. Surprising indeed.

So, for those of you who'd still like a Mk6 GTI you can call your own, better have an extra RM25k to upgrade that ICE system to RCD510 or RNS510 (with GPS) plus change of speakers, upsized 18" alloys (Scirocco's Interlagos alloys looks yummy), soundproof your roof with extra-extra thick padding, change the wing mirrors to Passat CC's or Eos', APR ECU remap (to be done discreetly of course) in due time - hopefully this will cure the turbo-lag and the perceived drivetrain lethargy. And not forgetting the more aptly-matching Golf-R's rear-LED lights with alien-like 'written' characters akin to the Na'vi tribe's in Avatar.

So much for the Mk6 Golf GTI's "No enhancements needed" tagline from VW Group Malaysia, eh?

To be absolutely fair, the Mk6 handles tighter than how most wives keep tab on their husband's whereabouts and/or finances. The level of grip is phenomenal with tightness into and out of corner that defies belief. Body control isn't just taut, it's damn bloody tied down! Solid. Rock steady. Enabling a tracking of corners that will awe most of us, if not all those with a keen sporty driving instinct. The steering though a bit artificial (with DCC et al) in feedback and feel, is quick, weighs just about-okay and sharply accurate. Well, the steering wheel itself with red stitching, aluminium bits, micro-pocked leather sections and flat-bottom passes off like an expensive Sport option from the boys at AMG, M-division or Dr Ing HcF Porsche.

The brakes though snatchy and quite hard to modulate initially - like the Audi A4 TFSI (B7) - are very clinical in scrubbing off speed, hence reassuring for late braking into corners. While those lovely bucket seats will keep you snugly planted whatever your lateral, accelerating and decelerating antics are.

Though lower-end power delivery can be a tad lumpy in regular 'D' drive mode with an equally woolly throttle response below 2000rpm. Snap the DSG lever into 'S' and with a relentless assault on the rubber- studded-aluminium-plated gas pedal, the GTI will slingshot towards the horizon with a mettle, not unlike a junior version of a BMW 335i coupe. With much plantedness and feel the need-for-more-speed since not much can be felt anyway. Yes, in a Mk6 GTI high velocity is deceptive. Very much so and you get accustomed to it very quickly. That's the very reason why the aftermarket tuners are having a field day remapping/reflashing the new EA888's ECU as we speak.

For the record, Vmax of the Mk6 GTI is an indicative 248km/h, tried and tested on a private stretch of road, and this is stock standard performance. Average fuel consumption that ranges from 8.2l/100km for cool, sedate, long-distance driving to a high of 13.5l/100km for those speed demon blasts! For that, it takes a very well engineered car to stay calm & composed, plus that fuel efficient. With that, I guess I'd still not have to buy anyone their preferred meal off a restaurant's evening menu.


BMW.Toyota said...

YAY! That's what I like about your review: HONESTY! No one will put down a VW MK6 Golf GTI, most will just accept it as good coz it's a bloody Golf GTI!

TDB said...

I guess it was honest... but more than slightly whinny. Many of the complaints listed are minor, even trivial details. The cargo hook broke boo hoo! Come on.

Personally, I say good riddance to daytime running lights and tire pressure monitoring system. DRLs only make people lazy so they don’t turn on their lights when they need to (taillights are important too!)... and the TPMS on my mk5 always said my pressure was low during winter, even after inflating to 42 psi! No, I did not drive at this PSI but I was proving a point by overinflating to see if the TPMS low tire pressure warning would turn off. It did not.

For one, the mention of turbo boost below 2000 rpm made me laugh. What do you want a big-block V8? What are you doing doddling along below 2000 rpm anyways Grandma?? That’s a surefire way to junk up your valves with deposits if you do it often. Look it up. The FSI and TSI engines are known to have this issue. Low load / Low rpm cruising will make it worse.

Did you honestly try to compare a FWD car to a RWD car? Obviously handling is not going to be as fluid. It’s a totally different drivetrain configuration. Apples and oranges. XDS is a gimmick. Its not going to make it drive like RWD... because that’s simply impossible for a FWD car.

The roof is not that tinny, and mk5s had this issue as well to be fair about it...

18’s are optional, not sure about where you live. I see more mk6 GTIs on 18s than 17s around me.

The DSG trans has been improved, but more work could be done, sure... VW is working on it. They still have the best dual-clutch trans this side of Ferrari. You’re going to have the same problem hunting between 1st and 2nd with a manual as well, but YOU control when to change. Crawling is still not fun no matter what trans you have. But I do have to ask if you have such issues with DSG at slow speeds and low rpms why not GET A MANUAL?! It is a GTI after all. A manual transmission is much more fitting for its character and intended purpose.

drlong said...


Thanks for taking the time to comment.
It's very heartening that you love your Mk5 GTI to bits but I much suspect that you may actually own a VW dealership from wherever you may be residing.
You have grossly misunderstood parts of my write-up especially about the DSG. It isn't about hunting between D2 and D1. It's the crawling in speed range from 8km/h to 2 km/h in 2nd gear that is really juddering and annoying.
No other Mk6 GTI in the owners' club in Malaysia have this issue. I am still trying to resolve this issue with VW Group Msia.

Oh please...Don't even start lecturing me about the different cars since I have a 997 and an FD2-R Civic Type-R as well. I bought the Mk6 GTI for my missus.

You can be a blind diehard about the GTI but you couldn't be serious about it being as faultless as you have preached it to be.

Level with do work for Volkswagen don't you? If not, I salute you for your undying protective instinct for the GTI badge and/or brand.

c said...

i enjoyed reading your honest review very much..Thank you drlong!

c said...

Found a news about VW recalling some of the models including GTI due to a problem with DSG

Js said...


based on ur review,the dsg shldnt affect the current 2011 models right?by the way, i just want to know about the maintenance about the golf gti.overall,i guess the gti is a good car :D since u've own one i would like to hear some of your opinions towards the gti.

drlong said...

Hi Js,

Thanks for leaving a comment.
The Mk6 GTI is indeed a nice performance hatchback.

My only nagging complaint is VGM (VW Group Msia) has served to bastardise the real McCoy GTI with the Golf 1.4 TSI as a mainstream high-volume seller. A look at the 1.4's latest LED (DRL) headlight serves a crude reminder that premium paying (RM211k) GTI owners are not being appreciated.

Go on buy your Mk6 GTI the DSG is fine, but may not be so (? less durable) in the 1.4 TSI which is a cheaper dry-clutch unit.

TDB said...

Wow! I just stumbled back upon this page and saw this.

You really made me laugh there drlong! No, I do not work for VW. Are you serious? I have just owned a slew of them. Yes, I am a fan. No, I do not work in the auto industry in any way. Far from it. Frankly, what I do does not matter here. What I am is a reasonably intelligent grown adult that can write and debate and talk through many subjects. Allow me to retort to your response to me...

The mk5 is far from my first or only car, but it seems you assume so. If you think I only have experience with VWs you would be wrong again. I'm not going to waste time and get into some macho-fest comparing what I have or have had in the past to your list. It doesn't matter to this discussion.

So let’s get back on topic shall we?? OK.

I never said the mk5 was perfect friend. Did you really read *and absorb* my post? I responded to your article and your complaints pretty specifically.

You said you want DRLs and TPMS back... I said good riddance. I don't want them. They're not needed and TPMS never worked that well on the mk5 anyways. So this would be pointing out a FLAW in the mk5, not claiming it’s perfect.

You complained of perceived sluggishness at extremely low RPM. I responded that this is an unreasonable and unrealistic desire. NO 4 cylinder gasoline engine has really abundant torque below 1800 rpms, turbo or not! (Maybe a turbo diesel, but that’s very different.) It’s really basic simple engine concepts here... hear me out...

How can you possibly breathe in enough air, inject enough gas, burn it and expel it fast enough... all while below 1800 rpm, with a small 2Liter engine... and somehow put out More Than 280 ft/lb of torque???

(280 is what the TSI engine in the US market Mk6 GTI puts out at 1800 rpm - at stock boost levels. I won’t get into numbers for modified engines b/c it will make this far too confusing.)

The answer is: you can NOT. It’s not possible.
The only way would be with a much larger engine with larger bore and stroke and larger combustion chambers to suck, ignite, and blow more at low RPM as I described above. That’s what big V8s are for. Maybe that’s what you need? I don’t know. Please keep the comparison apple and apples, not apples to oranges. That’s all I asked.

The fact of the matter is, both the mk5 and mk6 GTI have some of the best low end torque of any similar sized gas engine on the market. It's something these engines are known for. This is not my opinion... Read just about ANY car magazine review... *For their size/displacement* they have terrific low end and midrange grunt. (This is achieved in part by the small stock K03 turbo used. When modifying these engines for more output this small turbo becomes a bottleneck and must be swapped for a larger turbo to breathe more in the higher RPMs. I know a thing or two - see! Trust me.)

TDB said...

part2 -

Maybe it is the strength of the midrange RPM pull that makes it *feel* sluggish at lower RPM to you??? If so, that is a deceiving perception that does not match with reality. If you look up some dyno charts for these engines you will clearly see what I am talking about.

In my last comment, I took issue with your trying to compare a GTI to any RWD car. That is simply foolish. Even the epic DC2 chassis Integra type R will never truly handle like a RWD car. Not possible. The transitional response and grip will never be at the same level. The front wheels have to do too much. Don't assume I am an idiot please.

Next I addressed your tinny roof complaint. I only said it’s not *that* bad... and mk5s have this issue too. Again, this is pointing out a FLAW with the Mk5, NOT making it out to be perfect like you claim. If you are going to compare the two compare them accurately. This was not a big change between 5th and 6th gen as I see it. If we disagree so be it. I still see it as a small flaw for the price of the vehicle. It’s a VW Golf, not an S-class Benz buddy... What did you expect?

You said nothing of my wheel statement so I'll move on...

Next DSG... I said "the DSG trans has been improved". This clearly implies it was deficient in the previous generation! You cannot improve something that is already perfect! So again, I fail to see how I said the mk5 gen was perfect?

And I still stand by my statements that the DSG trans is the best in the price range. The best in the world? No. For what it is, DSG is quite good. That said, VW and Audi technicians will be the first to tell you there have been revisions to improve DSG... and there will be more! I'm sure they will sort it all out with time though. Just make sure you keep yours current with your tech/dealer. The computer needs the most current software.

In my previous response I clearly said if you want PERFECT shifting AND control of engine RPMs you must buy a manual trans! It really is that simple. Though DSG is good, it is far from a psychic mindreader. If you want it to be 100% perfect what YOU want, 100% of the time, then YOU should be in control, not some computer! Manual transmissions are for this very sort of thing. I shouldn't really have to elaborate and explain this to you. you clearly should (and probably do) know already.

Asking an automatic to drive flawlessly below 2000 RPMs at low throttle is a lot harder to achieve than people may think. That is not really how the car is supposed to be driven except maybe in 5th or 6th gear. Stop driving like a grandma hahahaha. And please don't put DSG up on a pedestal and expect it to be 100% perfect. NO automatic transmission in the world is perfect. Period. Dual-clutch types included. It's a bloody $25,000 VW man, what did you really expect?? It sounds like you have unrealistic, overly picky expectations. Maybe you need to save your money and buy a BMW?

After pointing out all these FLAWS in the DSG trans and the Mk5 platform in particular... How can you possibly say I am "a blind diehard about the GTI” that “couldn't be serious about it being as faultless as you have preached it to be."????????

I never claimed it to be faultless chief. That is false.

I have no "undying protective instinct for the GTI badge and/or brand" as you said. Yes, I like VWs and cars in general, but I’m not stupid or blind or sheltered. I’ve been around a lot of cars for a long time. If I’m lucky this will continue. :)

I guess maybe you got offended for some reason and did not take the time to really read my comment and think about it. It’s too bad, cause we are both obviously car enthusiasts and I was simply trying to add to the discussion.

I never said the mk5 is better than mk6 or that either is perfect. Enjoy your VW.

That is all.
As you were sir.

drlong said...

Hey TDB,

Thanks for your return to my blog.
I am happy that you have taken the time to dissect this Mk6 GTI review of mine.

Just fyi, if you have taken the time to read all of my other car reviews, I had taken a different skew on things to exaggerate a bit more on the weaknesses of the latest GTI 'tested' here since I actually went out and bought one for my wife.

I have gotten to sample the Audi Q5 2.0 TFSI and Audi A5 2.0 TFSI and I found that their EA888s were less "sluggish"...perhaps it was the higher torque available resulting from a different, more "premium" (Audi) state of tune - especially in the latter.

In short, I found VW claims of full 280Nm peak torque with that "plateau" of max torque from just 1700rpm (versus 1800rpm in Mk5) a load of bull. The butt-o-meter tells otherwise, maybe circa 2500rpm? Another motoring pal of mine having a Mk6 GTI (as well as an R35 GT-R) attested to this as well.

Yes, I do enjoy my Benz and occasionally drive like a grandma in the Merc because it's great for wafting. So do not hit below the belt regarding my driving style in the GTI.

I just took out the new Renault Sport Megane RS250 recently and it was awesome! Busy with 6-speed manual stick shifter et al but very involving.

BMW? Oh...the typical stereotyping vs its arch-rival Mercedes. Let's not get into that.

Above it all, thanks for sharing your valuable knowledge, opinions and comments. I hope to see you around here again soon.

d said...

dear doc,
i think ur the best person taht can give me the best advice as of now..i've got 2 little daughters, n currently searching for a practical, yet fun car..currently owning a small local car only..
sadly my budget doent allow me to acquire every car that meets my every desire like u..
both vw gti and the fd2r are both in my list, but;
1. i was turned off by the rather too hard a suspension on the fd2r making it unbearable for day to day drive..
2. whilst gti is a great car, is it not just too small for me and my family?and are u saying that mk5 is better than mk6 overall?
3. suggested e90 325 by a friend, but i can only afford a 2nd hand/recond ones..
4. mazda 3 mps seems to have a good engine, but too ugly for my liking..

i know ppl would say that it depends on what i want blah blah, to be honest i want a bit of all..performace, comfort, and reasonable what do you think doc?

drlong said...

Hi d,

Thanks for your confidence in me but really, I may not be the best person to tell you what you should buy.

If space is a consideration, do have a 2nd look at the Peugeot 3008 or the 5008. Both are reasonably peppy with good low-end torque being turbo + direct injection. Forget the 308 Turbo: go read my latest test report why is that so.

If you are on a tighter budget and wants a GTI, perhaps shortlist the new Polo GTI for a closer look and test drive. Though it's a tad small, being a B-segment hatch, it is a great buy seeing that it's quicker on all fronts then the Golf 1.4 TSI and even matching the Mk6 Golf GTI doing century sprints!

No I do not think the Mk5 GTI is better than the current Mk6. Perhaps just the Mk5 GTI's more premium rear axle (suspension) set-up.

Hope this helps!

drlong said...

With regards to E46 325i, its 6-pot is a gem but needs rev to deliver meaningful grunt since it is an N/A engine. Be wary about maintenance costs for 5 years old cars or older units.

I had sampled the Mazda 3 MPS over a weekend last month but sadly I lost my DSLR camera. It's lovely but the clutch is a bit heavy for town driving, especially 'painful' in traffic jams.
Torque steer may seem bad at first but as you get used to it, the MPS is zippy, fun and involving. Ride comfort is way better than FD2R.

Happy motoring dude!

Marvin Tan said...

Hi Doc,

This may be a rather old post of yours but i stumble upon it when im doing my research on the MK6 GTi. I do enjoy reading your blog mainly coz of how blunt and honest your are with your own opinion on the car. Which is a good thing.

Fact of the the matter is, i am actually considering to buy a 2nd hand MK6 GTi. A 2010 model. Of course with warranty left until 2015 and the usual 2nd hand car purchase condition (low milage, good condition, etc etc).

After reading your post, i would really like to know, is the car any good? I mean, seeing that you have so many cons to point out. And you still purchased it. Could you please tell me how is it to own the car? From maintenance to everyday drive to fun to practicality? Most importantly, is it a car worth owning? I would truly appreciate to hear your blunt and honest opinion on this matter.

Thank you.

drlong said...

Hi Marvin,

I had gotten really busy after my 4th kid and also with my skin clinic et al. Hence the "death" of my blog circa 2011 after the last Pajero Sport piece.

Coincidentally, I may sell off my wife's Mk6 GTI about this time, if there is a decent offer to commensurate with its low mileage, 32k kms and near-mint stock condition. It is MY2010, regd 2010.

Just fyi, this review was meant to be an off-beat piece with humour- intent exaggerations of the Mk6' cons after being nit-picked under a magnifying glass (mostly). I just got tired of waxing lyrical at all the Teutonic makes!

PM me at
Will be more than happy to share my ownership experience with you. Or perhaps let you take over my Mk6 GTI.

Thank you for visiting my blog.