Johannesburg - There's no nice way to say it. Volkswagen’s marketing claim that the Golf GTD offers “GTI performance from a diesel engine” is a no-go.

Even on paper, where VW’s quoted 0-100km/h figures read 6.4 seconds for the petrol-powered GTI and 7.4 for the 2-litre turbodiesel GTD, there’s a marked difference in performance levels so we’re not sure where this felonious tagline comes from. 

And then, to make matters worse, we put both cars against the clock with our satellite-based Vbox test equipment, and the gap widened even further.

At our test track the GTI clocked a best 0-100km/h sprint in 6.49 seconds, nearly matching the factory claims, while the best the GTD could muster was 8.36 seconds. 

Huge difference. Quarter mile times and 60-120km/h overtaking acceleration told much the same story, as shown in the chart below.

PERFORMANCE COMPARISON

Golf GTDGolf GTI
Price:R506 700R545 800
Engine2-litre turbodiesel2-litre turbopetrol
Power/Torque130kW/350Nm169kW/350Nm
0-100km/h (claimed):7.4 seconds6.4 seconds
0-100km/h (tested, Gauteng):8.36 seconds6.49 seconds
Quarter Mile:16.14 seconds14.63 seconds
60-120km/h:6.06 seconds4.98 seconds

What’s even more interesting is the GTD is detuned in our market with outputs of 130kW and 350Nm, versus 135 and 380 in European specification.

Perhaps the tagline “GTI appearance from a diesel” would be more appropriate. Other than the badges on the front, rear and sides of the two cars, and different 18-inch wheel designs they’re identical in looks. 

Same bumpers, same side skirts, same winged tailgate. “GTI handling from a diesel” would also work. The GTI and GTD get the same suspension setups, and both have optional adaptive shock absorbers priced the same at R12 699. 

The diesel engine’s a tad heavier, so it actually rides over bumps a little better, but the difference is almost indiscernible. 

The GTI also has a bit more engine braking effect, so flicking the downshift paddle in the six-speed DSG gearbox (also the same as the GTI) just ahead of turn-in unweights the rear axle just a touch more. 

Where the GTD does win one over on its turbopetrol counterpart is in efficiency. After a week-long test the GTD’s trip computer showed an average of 7 litres per 100km, even dipping to 6.9 just before our performance tests. 

The GTI on the other hand, was much thirstier and hovered around the 10l/100km mark during the week we drove it. It’s also cheaper. Before options the GTD’s priced at R506 700, so there’s nearly 40 grand savings to be had over the R545 800 GTI if ultimate performance is of lesser interest to you. 

The options lists, which include things like digital instrument clusters, fancier touchscreens and sound systems, and some driver aids, are also pretty much identical for GTD and GTI.

The GTD is slower in all measurements, that’s a fact. But that doesn’t mean it’s not nice to drive. 

It never feels inadequate in power, and a turbodiesel’s inherent ability to pull strongly from relatively low revs means this car casually gathers speed rather than wrenching it from the upper reaches of the tachometer. 

VERDICT

The GTI sells very well in our market, and it’s unlikely many members of this huge customer base will be swayed into the GTD based on false marketing pitches. 

Diesel-powered hot hatches simply don’t exist in our market, but even if it doesn’t kick as hard as the GTI, the GTD offers some decent pep for fans of oil burners. 

Yes, diesel enthusiasts still exist. I’m one of them. I’m disappointed in VW’s advertising strategy, not the car.

Drive360

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