The Volkswagen Golf GTI is arguably one of the most iconic cars of all time. And now there’s a new one, based on the latest – eighth – generation of the immensely popular VW family hatchback. 

However, before it has even been delivered to showrooms or turned a wheel in anger, there is some disappointment – especially for hardened hot hatch fans. That’s because it has only been given 15bhp extra power over the outgoing Golf GTI.

That makes the once all-conquering Golf GTI the weakling hot hatch compared to the main competition in 2020. 

Figure of 8: This is the eighth generation of the Volkswagen Golf GTI, released this week

Figure of 8: This is the eighth generation of the Volkswagen Golf GTI, released this week

The latest example, which was officially unveiled last night, is powered by a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, turbocharged injection petrol powerplant. 

As already mentioned, it produces 242bhp, which is just 7 per cent more than the old one. 

Maximum torque is also up marginally to 370Nm – 20Nm more than the Golf GTI Performance Package version of the outgoing car. 

Drive will be sent to the front wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, while a seven-speed dual-clutch DSG transmission will be an optional extra – at a premium, of course.

Top speed hasn’t been confirmed, though is almost certainly going to toe the official VW line of being limited to 155mph. 

Acceleration times have also yet to be disclosed, but we expect the extra drip of potency to shave a few hundredths off the previous GTI’s zero to 62mph sprint taking 6.4 seconds.

Not much has changed on the styling front - or in terms of performance figures

Not much has changed on the styling front – or in terms of performance figures

VW says the new Golf GTI produces 242bhp - up 15bhp (or 7%) on the outgoing Mk7 Golf GTI Performance Package

VW says the new Golf GTI produces 242bhp – up 15bhp (or 7%) on the outgoing Mk7 Golf GTI Performance Package 

The original Mk1 VW Golf (left) arrived in 1975
Some 45 years and seven generations later, we have the latest example available this year

The original Mk1 VW Golf (left) arrived in 1975. Some 45 years and seven generations later, we have the latest example available this year

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While these stats signal progression against the outgoing GTI, it does mean the iconic VW has fallen way behind all of its rivals in the hot hatch arms race.

How the new Golf GTI compares to other hot hatches in the 2020 power rankings 

Mercedes-AMG A45S: 415bhp

Audi RS3: 395bhp

BMW M140i: 335bhp

Honda Civic Type R: 316bhp

Audi S3: 296bhp

Ford Focus ST: 276bhp 

Renault Megane RS: 276bhp

Hyundai i30N Performance: 267bhp

Cupra Leon: 242bhp 

Volkswagen Golf Mk8 GTI: 242bhp 

The 242bhp quoted by Volkswagen this week is 173bhp shy of the Mercedes-AMG A45S, the most powerful hatch currently on sale.

That’s some gulf in performance. In fact, it’s the difference of a standard Volkswagen Golf 1.5-litre petrol, so essentially more than subtracting another Golf from the power equation.

And it’s not just the Mercedes that puts the VW’s figures to shame.

Sister brand Audi has two hot hatchbacks with more performance: the RS3’s engine produces a massive 395bhp; while the detuned S3 – a like-for-like option with the Golf GTI – has 296bhp, some 54 horses more than the Volkswagen.

In fact, every popular hot hatchback on the market is hotter than the Mk8 Golf.

That includes the BMW M140i (335bhp), Honda Civic Type R (316bhp), Ford Focus ST (276bhp), Renault Megane R.S. (276bhp) and Hyundai i30N Performance (267bhp). 

The new Cupra Leon – the sister car to the Golf GTI – has an equaling 242bhp.

Of course there is such a thing as too much power, though the statistics definitely mean that if you play a game of hot hatch Top Trumps, you really won’t want the Golf GTI in your hand.

The Mercedes-AMG A45S is the most potent hot hatch, with an output of 415bhp

Honda's Civic Type R now boasts 316bhp

The Mercedes-AMG A45S (left) is the most potent hot hatch, with an output of 415bhp. Honda’s Civic Type R also outguns the Golf GTI with 316bhp

The latest VW Golf GTI, which was officially unveiled last night, is powered by a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, turbocharged injection petrol powerplant

The latest VW Golf GTI, which was officially unveiled last night, is powered by a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, turbocharged injection petrol powerplant 

Performance VW fans will now have to wait to see if the German brand offers up hardened Clubsport and TCR versions, like it did with the previous-generation Golf GTI. 

And an all-wheel drive Golf R – due at a later date – will also have more competitive performance stats.

Those fans who remain unflustered by the comparative lack of power will now be hoping the new Golf GTI excites in other departments, such as handling.

VW hasn’t given much away about this yet, but has confirmed it will benefit from a raft of safety and assistance features.

That including the latest version of the brand’s Travel Assist semi-autonomous driving technology, which automatically accelerates, slows and steers the hatchback on motorways and dual carriageways at licence-losing speeds of up to 130mph. 

In terms of styling, the Golf GTI has an exclusive diamond-cut alloy wheel design

In terms of styling, the Golf GTI has an exclusive diamond-cut alloy wheel design

Inside, the car has a new larger touchscreen and plenty of red accents throughout to showcase its hot hatch bloodline

Inside, the car has a new larger touchscreen and plenty of red accents throughout to showcase its hot hatch bloodline 

And, as has been the tradition with all seven Golf GTIs before it, Volkswagen offers it with cloth tartan seats

And, as has been the tradition with all seven Golf GTIs before it, Volkswagen offers it with cloth tartan seats

Where the Golf GTI certainly won’t set pulses racing is the styling, which is as understated and evolutionary as car design can get.

It keeps the iconic red pinstripe across the front, though now incorporated into the updated light and grille design that appears to have slipped down the nose of the Golf.

There’s a new front bumper with a honeycomb-style grating, which has the option of chequered-flag-style fog lights beaming through the gaps, and a GTI-exclusive set of five-spoke diamond-cut alloy wheels available in three sizes from 17- to massive 19-inch rims.

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Inside, the traditions remain with the tartan cloth seats, though with the addition of red accents all round to differentiate the GTI from the also-released GTD diesel and GTE plug-in hybrid. 

Volkswagen also unveiled the new Golf GTD - a 2.0-litre turbo diesel packing 197bhp

Volkswagen also unveiled the new Golf GTD – a 2.0-litre turbo diesel packing 197bhp

The German car maker said the GTD has one of the cleanest oil-burner engines in the world

The German car maker said the GTD has one of the cleanest oil-burner engines in the world

Revealed alongside the Golf GTI and GTD is this plug-in hybrid GTE model - a continuation of a warm hybrid that VW offered in the last generation of the Golf

Revealed alongside the Golf GTI and GTD is this plug-in hybrid GTE model – a continuation of a warm hybrid that VW offered in the last generation of the Golf

The GTE has a GTI-matching 242bhp but can also be driven for up to a claimed 37 miles in electric-only mode - given that the owner charges the 13kWh battery every night

The GTE has a GTI-matching 242bhp but can also be driven for up to a claimed 37 miles in electric-only mode – given that the owner charges the 13kWh battery every night

The GTD diesel, which Volkswagen claims uses one of the cleanest oil-burner engines in the world, is also a 2.0-litre turbo packing 197bhp.

The GTE is more potent, with a GTI-matching 242bhp output though with a slight increase in torque from the combination of a 1.4-litre turbo petrol engine and a supplementary 13kWh battery and electric motor.

The GTE also has an EV driving mode, which has a claimed range of 37 miles – an ideal amount for everyday journeys, granted you plug it in to charge every night.

Prices have yet to be confirmed, though are likely to be announced around the Geneva Motor Show next month – granted the Swiss authorities allow the show to go ahead given mounting concerns about the spread of coronavirus.

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