New 2020 Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk8 to blast in with up to 280bhp

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Volkswagen is in the midst of a mass EV offensive, but the German firm hasn’t forgotten about one of its most legendary models, the Golf GTI. Engineers are busy applying the finishing touches to the next-generation hot hatchback ahead of its anticipated unveiling in the coming months.

The GTI has been around for more than four decades and will be entering its eighth generation; no other hot hatch has such a rich history. Throughout that time, the GTI has undergone endless modifications and upgrades, and the next model will be the most advanced and powerful ever.

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VW can’t afford to get the GTI wrong, because it’s a consistently strong seller; of the 182,000 Golfs sold in the UK in the past three years, nearly 10 per cent were GTIs. For the same reason VW will extend the line-up of performance-focused Golfs; the recently launched GTE plug-in hybrid now packs 242bhp, while a new touring car-inspired GTI TCR will become a regular fixture in the Golf Mk8 range. Recent spy shots have revealed the intense development testing cycle VW’s hot hatch has been undergoing for the past two years.

We know from the launch of the regular Mk8 Golf that the car’s overall proportions and size won’t change over today’s model, but the prototypes do reveal Volkswagen’s new styling approach for the GTI.

Our exclusive images reveal how we think the finished model will look when the wraps come off in the coming months. The face of the new GTI is lower and more aggressive than ever before, with winged LED headlamps that stretch down the flanks of the car. It’s also possible to pick out the extended front bumper, which features a new hexagonal grille with integrated foglights.

VW had flirted with the idea of fitting the GTI with a performance-based mild-hybrid system to strengthen the company’s push for electrification, but it’s now understood that the new hot hatch will stick with the same tried-and-tested formula seen in the Mk7. This will set the performance Golf apart from many of its VW Group stablemates – notably the next-generation Skoda Octavia vRS and Cupra Leon, which will both switch to hybrid power.

The Golf is therefore expected to use a development of the existing 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine, codenamed EA888.

Because the new GTE already matches the outgoing GTI’s output of 242bhp, VW will increase the car’s performance credentials so it can better compete with more powerful rivals such as the Honda Civic Type R and Renault Mégane R.S. Expect the GTI Performance variant to develop about 280bhp, while the lesser-powered entry-level model will offer a GTE-matching 242bhp.

Both versions will use the same chassis and suspension set-up, which comprises MacPherson struts at the front and a multi-link system at the rear. The GTI Performance edition will be offered with a mechanical limited-slip differential, while the entry model will make do with VW’s electronic diff. As before, a six-speed manual gearbox will be offered, with the option of a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.

One significant difference between the new GTI and the old one is the Mk8 will be available as a five-door only. VW’s stalwart has not been immune to declining sales of three-door variants – indeed, that style of GTI had already been dropped in some regions – but that configuration has now been removed from the line-up entirely.

We shouldn’t have too long to wait for the Mk8 GTI. Expect it to be revealed publicly by late spring, with the first UK deliveries by the autumn. There will be only a mild increase in price, so the regular non-Performance edition should cost from around £29,000.

GTI generations: how VW’s hot hatch icon has evolved over 45 years

New 2020 Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk8 to blast in with up to 280bhp

GTI MkI: The original hot hatch? This skunkworks project involved fewer than 10 VW employees, and wasn’t expected to exceed 5,000 sales. It was a smash hit.

GTI Mk2: A true mid-eighties classic, the second-gen GTI introduced 16-valve power for the first time – but stayed with carburettors instead of fuel injection.

GTI Mk3: No longer the beefiest Golf in the range (the VR6 outgunned it), the Mk3 GTI still packed 150bhp, thanks to a switch from 1.8 litres to 2.0 litres. It felt heavy, though. 

GTI Mk4: The over-engineered and weighty Mk4 Golf wasn’t the greatest base for making a hot hatchback. Even a turbocharged motor couldn’t save it.

GTI Mk5: Fifth-generation GTI was a stunning return to form, thanks to its punchy, rev-happy 2.0 turbo motor and an agile yet compliant chassis.

GTI Mk6: The last non-MQB GTI built on the Mk5’s strengths but added more power – up to 232bhp in the ‘Edition 35’ celebration version.

GTI Mk7: Outgoing GTI split into a range of its own, with standard and ‘Performance’ versions, plus more extreme Clubsport and TCR models.

Rivals: What VW’s new GTI needs to beat 

Ford Focus ST

New 2020 Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk8 to blast in with up to 280bhp

Power: 276bhp
0-62mph: 5.7 seconds
Price: from £32,495

The Focus has a reputation as the best-driving family hatchback, and that translates well into its ST version. It manages to mix raw pace and handling agility with a sophisticated ride, so it’ll be a key target for the VW.

Renault Mégane R.S.

New 2020 Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk8 to blast in with up to 280bhp

Power: 276bhp
0-62mph: 5.8 seconds
Price: from £27,995 

Another hot hatch icon, Renaultsport’s take on the Mégane has evolved into a car that offers shattering pace and track day-friendly handling – but its suspension does feel firmer than many of its rivals’.

Hyundai i30 N

New 2020 Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk8 to blast in with up to 280bhp

Power: 271bhp
0-62mph: 6.1 seconds
Price: from £25,995 

The i30 N is Hyundai’s first proper attempt at a hot hatchback – but you’d never know it. A gutsy turbo engine, oodles of driving modes and (in the right colour) understated styling make it a great left-field choice. 

Cupra Leon

New 2020 Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk8 to blast in with up to 280bhp

Power: 242bhp
0-62mph: 6.0 seconds
Price: TBC 

We’re weeks away from the reveal of the Mk3 SEAT Leon – but we already know that its Cupra performance version will use plug-in hybrid power to mix pace with the ability to run on electric power alone.

Do you think the new Volkswagen Golf GTI will be the best hot hatch money can buy? Let us know your thoughts below…