Volkswagen's Golf GTI gets more oomph after a mid-life facelift
Still a hoot The Golf GTI has a new face, which includes the GTI red line running into the headlamp housing. Inside, the infotainment touchscreen is friendlier and more logical. ST PHOTOS: KEVIN LIM

Car model names have become long, senseless and confusing. That there are easily twice as many models today than, say, 20 years ago makes things worse.

For that, you just have to love a car like the VW Golf GTI. The hot hatch has not changed its name since it was launched 41 years ago.

No alpha-numerical gibberish. No confounding upper-lower case. No engine variants or power variants. No Black editions.

Just GTI.

And the purity of that name is reflected in what the car has stood for since 1976 - driving fun, practicality, comfort and accessibility. The values have not changed, although at $180,000 or so, accessibility is a moot point.

Like its lesser cousins in the seventh-generation Golf stable, the GTI has just undergone a mid-life makeover. But unlike its lesser cousins, the makeover includes a slight performance enhancement. The car now has 230hp arriving at 4,700rpm, compared with 220hp at 4,500rpm before.

Torque value remains unchanged at 350Nm from 1,500rpm. The car has shaved 0.1 seconds off its century sprint time to clock 6.4 seconds. And top velocity has been raised to 248kmh, from 244kmh.

Now, in this day and age, those numbers may not light up the night sky, but they are still respectable. And paired with a chassis which has proven its worth, they make for a lively performance you can enjoy in any situation.

The GTI is not a hardened athlete like the Golf R. Its suspension, steering and transmission mapping are still tuned for a decent dose of comfort.

In the first 4,000rpm, it is brisk but not bristling. Drive it harder though and the car peels off its veneer of civility to deliver fist-clenching acceleration and a rousing repertoire of pop, crackle and boom.

In this phase, you might wish the car was sprung a little firmer and its steering a little heftier (even in Sport mode). But given that there are not many occasions when you can drive like that without risking your licence, any trade-off is largely inconsequential.

For sure, the GTI's set-up is beyond reproach the other 95 per cent of the time. True to its original intent.

Now, for the other changes to the car. Upfront, you will see a new face, with tweaks made to the bumper assembly and, most prominently, the headlights, which are full LED. The GTI red line now runs into the headlamp housing, which is a brilliant idea.

Inside, the GTI gets the "virtual cockpit" first seen in Audis. The most useful aspect of this feature is you can have the navigation map in the digital instrument binnacle - right in your line of sight.

The car's infotainment touchscreen is friendlier and more logical. The system, with gesture control, can be connected to a wide range of phone apps. Now, rear occupants can also control the audio and navigate information with their phone.

The facelifted GTI gets additional safety features such as blind-spot sensor and rear-traffic alert.

In short, the mid-life car now has more oomph, more tech, and looks better.