By James Wong
In the movie My Dog Skip, a jack russell grows up with a boy, going through life’s ups and downs with him. It is sometimes annoying, sometimes nosey, but often the only friend he’s got. Skip taught the boy how to grow up to be a man of distinction. Dogs do that. But cars?
I got my MkV GTI in 2009. It was a car I wanted very much; I was then very influenced by friends who also liked Volkswagens and the GTI was, well, the do-all car for a young man. I thought then that I really couldn’t ask for anything more from a car, especially since I upgraded from a NA MX-5.
There were real ups and downs. When I first got it I was intoxicated with the power – turbocharged torque was really something else, after putting up with only 116bhp and less than 160Nm in my MX-5. Suddenly, I had 370Nm to play with and it probably was like what it felt when one was on high with drugs.
But then I got greedy. I upgraded parts of the car without much understanding, which shed many of the likeable qualities of the car and created a monster that I was forced to love. Soon, the love died very fast indeed.
Up until only recently I felt rather dissatisfied with the car. While initially I was dissatisfied because of the unwise modifications that I made, it then proceeded to the inherent ‘problem’ with the car: it was a FWD and I wanted something with a more playful rear end. That was something that the car couldn’t give, no matter how much money I threw at it.
I then went back to the basics. I removed all of the modifications that I made, restoring all handling back to default. I still had the AP Racing brakes and the ECU chip plus exhaust, but I was quite comfortable with those from the start.
Slowly, I began to love again. It is truly an impressive car. But the longing did not really come back until I left the country for 3 years. It was like how the boy left Skip at home when he went to university.
As I owned a variety of cars in the UK, I truly started to appreciate what an awesome car the GTI is. The Mk2 GTI I had certainly kindled some similar thoughts about what an all-rounder GTIs are. The MR2 really brought home the fact that having 5 seats is a practicality you simply cannot do away with if you only have just one car. And the Clio RS, my current car, taught me that a singular purpose in a car is great – but only if you have access to that singular purpose all the time. And the fact of the matter is, you usually don’t. The Clio RS excels on B roads and the track but in not much else. Is it a keeper? I am not so sure.
What I am sure is that the GTI is good on the road, good on the track, good on the B road, good on the alpine pass, good on the motorway, good in the city. While never dominating any category, it does everything well. When it comes to putting your money down on a car to own, there are really not many better propositions than a Golf GTI.
Now that the Mk7 is out, I am so proud that I own the Mk5. It is everything a car should be, and a car for all. It has taught me lots, then. Much like Skip.