Good and bad to ‘stripper’ go-fast Golfs

VW is building performance Golfs that strip out the fancy gear and simply focus on the grunt. So why is VW NZ so wary?


DOOR count and dollars will dictate whether Volkswagen here will introduce a new entry-level Golf GTI variant along with a pared-back version of the R hatch and wagon.

The brand’s New Zealand boss has confirmed interest in the new ‘stripper’ models, respectively called the ‘Original’ and ‘Grid Editions’, not least now that Australia has put its hand up for them – a move that makes establishing local supply all the easier.

“We’re having a good look at that area of the market,” admits Tom Ruddenklau.

However, he is holding off signing up for either just at the moment, because while the idea of offering cheaper editions of the popular performance models is not without some merit, it’s not necessarily in the best interests of the market, in part because those cars might muddy the waters for the mainstream Golf 7.5 in its Highline and R-Line specifications.

“I can see why Australia wants them, but their market condition is different to ours … they have a different approach to getting volume.”

Also against the GTi Original, pictured, is that it only formats for now in three-door form: A purist plus perhaps, but a turn-off for the GTi’s wider audience, which has shown emphatic preference for the five-door shape.

VW Australia has determined to add both variants because they are significantly cheaper than the full-blown variants that, in this market, respectively start at $58,990 and $69,490.

The derivatives have the same horsepower as the regular versions – meaning 169kW/350Nm for the GTi and 213kW/380Nm in R tune – and can be chosen with either a six-speed manual or seven-speed DSG dual-clutch transmission. The savings come from reduced equipment levels and a less plush trim.

That might sound attractive, but Ruddenklau says from a distributor point of view this can raise problems.

“You have to be careful not to have too much range complexity,” he cites. “We would like to keep things simple.”

Also, there’s no clear evidence that a cheaper GTi option might further elevate the status of a cult icon that already outsells its more powerful alternate by 60-40, given that the car in its current format sells really well, he adds.

There’s no suggestion, either, that local customers don’t appreciate the car being fully loaded with latest in technology, including accident-avoidance assists.

“I find it quite the opposite. The feedback we get is that ‘if you’re going to buy a Volkswagen, you want the good one’.”