Saturday 5 September 2020 9:30 am

Mountune’s 385hp Volkswagen Golf GTI is a scorching hot hatchback

This, you will note, is not the new Golf GTI. You should have been reading about the Mk8 version of Volkswagen’s red-striped Wunderkind this week, but world events had other ideas.

Still, the Mk7 here is a worthy stand-in. The work of Essex-based Mountune, it’s both cheaper to buy and faster than the latest GTI. A lot faster, actually.

You probably associate Mountune with Ford, not Volkswagen. Formed in 1980, the company built its reputation modifying Cosworth engines for racing. More recently, it offers dealer-fit power upgrades for the Fiesta and Focus ST. Now, Mountune has set its sights on the enormous VW tuning scene, with a plethora of go-faster goodies for the Golf GTI and R. If you like your hatchbacks served extra-hot, keep reading…

Mountune’s Stage 1 package for the Mk7 Golf GTI reprogrammes the 2.0-litre engine’s electronic brain to unleash 310hp. That’s up from 222hp as standard and level-pegging with the Golf R: pretty impressive for £750. The car I’m driving, however, has the Stage 2+ kit, which bolts on a larger turbocharger for a mighty 385hp. It’s a considerable investment, at £2,475 fitted, but the result is a Golf that’s as powerful as a Porsche 992 Carrera – or indeed the Lamborghini Countach I had on my bedroom wall.

Volkswagen Golf GTI by Mountune
(Mountune)

There are a few caveats, though. First, you need to use pricier 98 or 99 RON super unleaded petrol. Second, for long-term reliability, Mountune recommends adding a freer-flowing induction system, turbo-back stainless steel exhaust and beefier intercooler. Factor in all of the above, plus the eminently sensible Mountune brake upgrade, and you can probably reckon on £5,000. That’s on top of £12,000 or more for a used Mk7 GTI. 

The other sticking point concerns performance. Unlike the four-wheel-drive Golf R, the GTI sends all its power through the front tyres. That means lots of frantic wheelspin and a 0-60mph time of 5.2 seconds with a manual gearbox – only 0.5 seconds quicker than the regular car. On paper, it looks underwhelming. And on damp tarmac, frankly, the steering needs a firm hand (preferably two hands). Accelerate hard and it scurries about like a puppy sniffing lamp posts in the park.

Once you’re rolling on dry roads, though, it all sharpens into focus. The Stage 2+ GTI is absurdly, hilariously quick in third and fourth gears, punching fiercely out of corners and blasting past unsuspecting Porsches. Peak torque of 376lb ft (vs. 258 lb ft in the standard car) doesn’t arrive until 5,500rpm, but turbo lag – a bugbear of many highly tuned engines – is rarely an issue. This is a controlled explosion rather than the delayed ker-blam of a cartoon TNT stick. It sounds much meatier with the induction and exhaust mods here, too.

Volkswagen Golf GTI by Mountune
(Volkswagen)

Living with the GTI for a week, what struck me was the overall rightness of the recipe. Yes, it leaves you breathless on a B-road, but it’s also well-built, comfortable and practical enough for family duties, with an upmarket image to boot. Mountune hasn’t diluted what makes the Golf so perennially popular, it simply adds a triple shot of tequila to the mix.

Still, that wild side is core to the GTI’s appeal. Handing Mountune £715 for a Stage 1 conversion on a Golf R yields nearly the same power (360hp), far superior traction and more real-world pace. Yet there’s something I love about the scrappier, more schizophrenic nature of this car. It reminds me of modified hot hatches from my misspent youth: flawed, but brimful of irrepressible character. And all for half the price of a new Mk8 GTI.

Tim Pitt works for Motoring Research

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