Tag: Hothatch

Living with the legacy of a local legend – the VW Golf 8 GTI

It takes generations to build up a near-immortal legacy with an adoring customer base at the core. In Mzansi, there are staples for different types of mobility where everything else in the segment becomes an outlier. Our go-to bakkie is the Hilux while the Golf GTI is glorified in its hot hatch segment. We lived with the 8th generation of the beloved German derivative to see if the recipe has deviated from its predecessors.

Volkswagen may not have been the first automaker to culminate the recipe of the hot hatch many decades ago, but the Giugiaro penned GTI MK1 from 1975 was perhaps the most refined option to enter the mainstream market. It gained instant success for being sports-car fun with a supermarket price tag. By definition, the GTI is a fast Golf which is inherently an economy hatch built to appeal to the masses. While the sales of normal hatches dwindling in comparison to their SUV siblings on an annual basis, the hot hatch remains a symbol of success and prosperity in South Africa in a hotly contested market. None can portray this individually better than the GTI.

But is the new generation any good? If you are dreading reading an in-depth article with tabulated statistics about the performance and engine upgrades that have been implemented in the new model you will be relieved to know that the new GTI is much the same underneath as the 7th generation. That was launched in 2012 and that was a long time ago, so naturally technology has changed quite a bit. For context, we still had Blackberry as a primary cellular device when the Golf 7 GTI was launched. The trustworthy cast iron EA888 series motor resumes its service while our test car implemented the same 7-speed DSG as transmission from before. 

The 2.0l turbocharged engine now develops 180kW with a torque peak of 370Nm, an 11kW improvement in power over its predecessor. This means it has a claimed sprint to 100km/h from stationery in 6.4 seconds which is the same as its predecessor. So, where has almost a decade of development gone into? Well, Volkswagen are at the forefront of committing to future electrification, especially after the Dieselgate scandal and reprimand. This means that budget is being channelled into optimising the efficiency and longevity of their existing powertrain range as there is little interest in developing future internal combustion engines. 

In other words, the production of the 8th generation GTI has been streamlined and the build complexity has been reduced which in turn should keep true to its identity of affordable performance. A base spec GTI is priced from R669 300 while an endless list of additional features like IQ. Light, Harman Kardon Sound and a Tilting and sliding panoramic sunroof can push the price all the way up to R800k. Our test car was fortunately fitted with all of the niceties which do improve the lavish GTI experience. The price includes a 3 year/120 000km warranty, 5 year/90 000km service plan and a 12-year anti-corrosion warranty.

While performance has been slightly improved, more strict conditions over emissions have been implemented too. This means from both within and outside the cabin, the resounding and iconic VRR-PHA has been muted significantly. The entire exhaust system for that matter seems restricted by mandated filters and catalytic converters but that is nothing that entrepreneurial locals can’t resolve with a software update and enlarged downpipes. 

The underwhelming symphony is not where it ends unfortunately. It’s just not a very inspiring car to drive. Don’t get me wrong – it’s quick and has the ability to get you into a lot of trouble very quickly but it feels numb to experience, devoid of character and enthusiasm. What the experience does yield however is a forgiving hot hatch that does not have the exciting boy-racer torque steer of its competitors but a refined and comfortable drive that is more civilized for everyday use. It will also get you a lot of nods and looks from pedestrians and opportunistic souped-up cars yearning for a highway drag race while running your errands.

While this 8th generation is the most digitally advanced generation of GTI ever produced, much of the interior tech is swing and miss. They have done away with physical buttons and replaced almost every interface with touch capacitive functionality. While they instill a futuristic aesthetic to the cabin, they can be frustrating to interact with. There are buttons directly below the infotainment screen which make operation during driving near impossible without accidentally bumping the heat adjustment function and bringing up the climate control screen.

What we found particularly annoying was the heated steering button on the steering wheel, which is inconveniently placed where the palm of the hand meets the protrusion of the thumb. Regardless of how enthusiastically you yank the steering wheel, any movement seems to engage the haptic touch surface and render the steering wheel hotter than a mid-summer Pretoria day. You will be constantly fiddling with the haptic surface to view the drivers display in an attempt to disengage the untouchable steering wheel. 

While this is still in essence still as good as you expect a GTI to be, it will always be judged not only according to its competitors but also against what the nameplate signifies in terms of the previous generations. Look at the 8 GTI as a tech elevated, although slightly gimmicky version of its all-round fantastic predecessor. It does everything really well and makes important strides in refinement and technology over its predecessor, but it doesn’t give you the fizz the way previous generations have. If you are a diehard VW aficionado looking for more thrill, your money may be better spent on a low mileage 7.5 GTI TCR, or for an out of the box, fun, boy-racer inspired hot hatch then the BMW 128ti is also certainly worth a look!

Can the BMW 128ti usurp the Golf GTI from its throne?

We compare the facts and figures! 

We recently drove the new 128ti on its debut in Mzanzi towards the end of February, read about its road test here: https://themotorist.co.za/is-the-new-bmw-128ti-the-right-1/. Since BMW recently launched their new 1 series (F40 generation) hatchback in 2019 there has been speculation of a variant that would rival the likes of the local hot-hatch king: the Golf 8 GTI (which was locally delayed to the third quarter of 2021 because of a global shortage of semiconductor chips). The new Front Wheel Drive 128ti is what they brought to the party, but how does it stack up against the formidable GTI? 

The highly anticipated M135i was seemingly a bit of a let down to the automotive press (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Rkco-o600g), leaving much to be desired from its predecessor. However the 2-litre 4 pot 128ti could be the right variation for Bavarian die hards wanting a fun, affordable hatchback. While it rejects the norms of BMW’s typical hatch lineage, none of its forerunners have ever embraced the true recipe for a funky hot hatch, until now. That being said, any brand that spends time and budget developing an FWD hot hatch will stack it up directly against the GTI in the hopes of being a worthy adversary, so how does the BMW do:

BMW 128ti

2.0T 4cyl turbo, 195kW and 400Nm

0-100 6.3 seconds (claimed), 250km/h (limited)

5.7l/100km, 158g/km

1445kg

FWD, 8 speed automatic

R687 418

VW Golf 8 GTI DSG

2.0T 4cyl turbo, 180kW and 370Nm

0-100 6.4 seconds (claimed), 250km/h (limited)

6.2l/100km, 168g/km

1463kg

FWD, 7 speed dual clutch automatic

Pricing is TBC

While the numbers marginally favour the Bavarian hot hatch (on paper at least), the GTI will continue to enjoy its cult status in our local market. While we are yet to test the new Golf 8 which is expected to arrive very soon, our opinion is that the BMW may just be a more engaging and complete package to drive for enthusiasts. It is lighter, slightly more powerful and makes use of an engaging mechanical diff. Both are well specced with standard equipment already included at their base price points and both have top speeds limited at 250km/h. VW’s desirable cult following of this segment are where BMW would have fallen short, but shrewdly instilled a form of heritage by reinvigorating the Turismo Internazionale (TI) nameplate that was so prominent with the brands success in the late 1960’s.

BMW has taken a stride into a new direction with the 128ti, and by doing so they have leapfrogged some of the competition in the front-wheel drive hot hatch market. Until we can make direct comparisons between the two, we believe the GTI may have met its German match.

Is The New BMW 128ti The Right 1?

BMW has high hopes for their Golf GTI rivaling 128ti. Alex Shahini was at the launch in Johannesburg

Accessibility for a new, engaging and versatile car to drive can often leave consumers underwhelmed if it weren’t for the hot hatch segment. Churning out aggressively overstated and more rewarding runabout variants to their standard siblings, they have become the staple of young drivers enjoying exciting performance with the benefit of mass produced affordability. 

While the now defunct French 1973 Simca 1100TI can be given the credits of being the first traditional hot hatch, the one we all know and share a fascination towards was the Giugiaro-penned MK1 VW Golf GTI, debuting two years later. While half a century can separate us between those pioneering, fun filled vehicles – the recipe remains unchanged: take a mundane hatchback in the brand lineup, spice up performance, increase power ratings, throw in a few exciting looking exterior bits and make the cockpit feel like a boy racers dream. The new kid on the block, the BMW 128ti does exactly that and it is aiming straight down the barrel with the MK8 GTI squarely in its sights. 

It is worth noting that this is the Bavarian marque’s first real attempt at the hot hatch market. While we are in the midst of the hyper hatchback showdown, which BMW has previously dabbled in, they have never developed a typical hot hatch in the sense described previously. This has not been stated to downplay any shortfalls the 128ti may have but to also contextualize how BMW may have leapfrogged the competition. So, is it any good? 

Using the existing 1 Series bodywork and chassis as a starting point, the styling has transcended the soft looking F40 (not the Ferrari) generation into something that seems more potent and aggressive. While the new variant has lost some of the butch proportions of the F20/21 gen, it has improved in boot capacity (380l) and interior volume compliments of the transversally laid out 3 or 4-cylinder engines available in the range. 

While a colour blind person would struggle to find the differences between the 128ti and 118i M Sport Package, subtleties help to differentiate them. Red is the name of the game and it dominates details of both the exterior and interior. The 128ti decal at the bottom of the rear quarter panel, the front and rear bumper aero ducts are visually connected by a low slung side skirt, while the M-sport brake calipers are finished in the same shade of vermillion. Models specced in Melbourne Red or Misano Blue will lose these above mentioned exterior details by default. The rear end is completed with the same twin-exit diffuser found on the M135i. 


The sport cabin is comfortable and spacious, detailed with the same exterior red stitched onto the dashboard, seats and floor mats while the ‘ti’ moniker is boldly embroidered onto the centre storage armrest. The M sport colours exist in the form of a subtle line down each of the seatbelts. While the red detailing is abundant, it is chiefly there to signify that the 128ti is not simply another engine variant slotted between the 118i and xDrive M135i. It is there to reinvigorate the previously historic turizmo internazionale (ti) name first demonstrated on the classic 1960’s lines of the 2002ti. By doing so, BMW have seized the opportunity to create an attainable cult classic. 

While on the topic, the 2002ti was a machine suitable for the driving purist of the era, making use of the 02 platform to create something sportier and more engaging. The new iteration does the same, shedding 80 kilograms of weight from the M135i, incorporating a mechanical diff and doing away with xDrive and adaptive suspension. It has a more visceral and engaging sensation behind the wheel because of this, with distinctly firm steering and torque steer in sports mode while an adequately comfortable ride on the standard 18” rims without. The 2.0-liter TwinPower Turbo motor is detuned from the 135i to a respectable 180kW and 380Nm, sufficient on its FWD platform. The maximum torque output is available from as low as 1500 rpm while the 8-speed Steptronic sport transmission has violently appealing (to the boyracer in me) gear shifts in sport mode.

The traction control can annoyingly inhibit some of the torque and bog power in the lower gears, disengaging the ESC allows the mechanical diff to make easy work of sharp corners, with a dash of wheel spin going into 2nd and 3rd gear – enough to put a smile on the face. There are a few pitfalls, including a noisy radiator fan, visible exhaust backbox and the fact that BMW missed the opportunity to incorporate more of the original ti’s cues but the overall package remains good enough to take on the likes of the GTI and i30N.
While the newly released M135i completely missed the mark of the previous generations legacy (view the Nwamba brothers honest critique at the link), the 128ti with its competitive base price of R687 418 may just be the right 1.

A True Hot Hatch – Hyundai i30 N

We Drive the Hyundai i30 N

Rewind your mind to a little over a year ago. If someone told you that Hyundai are planning to release a hot hatch, but not just any hot hatch, a hot hatch that would bring the fight to every one of the great hatches we know and love, would you have believed them? Probably not. Welcome the Hyundai i30 N.

Hyundai i30 N South Africa

Hyundai i30 N on a abend

You see, performance hatches and Hyundai have never really belonged in the same sentence together, it’s kind of like Ben and Jerrys offering a zero-sugar ice-cream, one would think it’s going to be a bit “pap”.

However, Hyundai have been clever and found themselves a person who knows the in’s and out’s of this performancy kind of stuff. His name is Albert Biermann and he once headed up the BMW M Performance division. This is quite a statement from Hyundai, so how does the i3o N fair?

It Means Business

Glare at the Hyundai i30 N and you will get a deathly stare back, it looks mean from every angle. Sitting low, the artic blue paint reminds me that this colour has been discontinued, which means we needed to stay far away from bushes, curbs and anything untoward that could cause damage. My favourite angle? The rear. Its small wing and diffuser complement the wide stance, dual tailpipes and bright rear lights nicely. Hyundai are not playing around.

Hyundai i30 N South Africa

Rear light of the Hyundai i30 N

For those who don’t know, you may think it’s all show and no go, however, if you are even just so slightly interested in cars you will know that this is not the case.  285bhp (202kW)  and 400Nm on tap means theHyundai i30 N already shows the Golf GTI it’s mother on paper, but what about on the road?

What is it like to drive?

For me, a great hot hatch is one that makes you smile. After all, they are built to be fun right? A mixture of performance, response, chassis and sound are all major components they make up the perfect hatch. Quite frankly, the Hyundai i30 N delivers in all departments.

The wave of boost that hits in the lower RPM range Is addictive. I love the surge of power and boost that kicks in and doesn’t ever seem to fade out. Coupled with the heavy clutch and clunky, solid gearbox, the feeling can only be described as real. No other hot hatch sounds like this, the crackle and pops produced literally makes people walking on the side of the road to stop, turn around and put their hands in the air – sorry love, this is straight from the manufacturer.

Hyundai i30 N South Africa

Hyundai i30 N on a racetrack

The i30N also lives up to its nickname “Corner Rascal” . I was going to say the front end is to die for, but that’s probably an overstatement. It is wonderfully sharp and grippy and when partnered with the balanced chassis and limited slip diff, you’d have to be doing something wild to find understeer.  Hyundai didn’t lie when they told us this car is measured in BPM and not RPM – it really does get the blood pumping. Did I mention the noise?

A choice of 5 driving modes are available, you know, the usual Eco, Comfort, Sport that seem to come on most new vehicles nowadays, but, If you want to get straight to the main action then a simple press of the blue N button on the steering wheel will do the trick – I wonder what this is similar too, it’s at the back of my mind and I just can’t remember…

Steering Wheel of the Hyundai i30 N South Africa

Steering Wheel of the Hyundai i30 N

I digress,  The N will activate everything and anything that brings out the dark side of the Hyundai i30 N’s personality. Hit it again, and the system activates your custom N settings which are programmed through the main interface.  You will probably use this if you’re fussy like Richard, as he likes everything in sport apart from steering feel which MUST stay in comfort – lame.

Technology in the i30 N

I was quite taken aback when I found technology such as wireless charging, autonomous emergency braking, collision warning and a lane keep assist technology which works much more like semi-autonomous driving.  Rev matching is also a treat, making downshifts much more pleasant as well as sounding fantastic. If you’ve been driving long enough though, you can turn this off from the steering wheel and work your magic with the old heel and toe situation. Of course, Apple Carplay and Android Auto are also thrown into the mix to end of a great bunch of tech.

Hyundai i30 N Interior South Africa

Hyundai i30 N Interior

Does it lack anything?

Dampers. It lacks dampers. Yes, the ride is particularly firm but in all seriousness, it doesn’t really lack anything. You have everything you need and more in terms of tech and performance. If you are going to compare this against a Golf or other German hatchbacks, then it won’t give you the same premium feel and trims. It’s more plastically, and obviously not as comfortable. If your looking for a fast hatch which isn’t going to break your back then this probably isn’t the hatch for you. It’s not going to be great if you undertake a long commute on a daily basis either, but if you are looking for true hot hatch experience then you won’t go wrong with the Hyundai i30 N.

Hyundai i30 N South Africa

Sam Ayres with the Hyundai i30 N

How does it compare to other hatches?

I’ve not driven every hot hatch ever made, and there are a few new models that I still need to get behind the wheel of, such as the Megane R.S. However, from what I have driven, it definitely provides one of the rawest, fun and visceral driving experiences. I have spent many hours and corners behind the wheel of a GTI Clubsport, they both feature very positive front ends and similar driving traits, however, the Clubsport is DSG – which leads me onto think that a Clubsport S with a manual box, reduction in weight and increase in more power might just result in a driving experience that pips the i30N.  Either way,  I’m just going to have to wait to find out.

Learn More: https://www.hyundai.co.uk/new-cars/i30n