On the equipment front, the GTD has gained numerous standard additions as part of the 2017 Golf range facelift. The outside has been given a light makeover, with new bumpers and LED rear lights clusters added to the package. As for the rest of the package, the GTD comes with the same equipment that is standard on the GT trimmed Golfs, which includes tinted rear windows, LED foglights, ambient interior lighting and Volkswagen Discover infotainment system complete with an 8.0in touchscreen display, sat nav, Bluetooth and USB connectivity, smartphone integration and access to Volkswagen's online services.
Added to the sportiest diesel in the Golf range is an aggressive looking bodykit, LED headlights, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control and 12.3in Volkswagen's Active Info Display, which is similar to Audi's Virtual Cockpit found orginally on the TT.
On the inside, there’s the usual obvious material quality to admire, as well as an appealing smattering of classic GTI trim additions: tartan cloth seats, a special steering wheel and instrument cluster, and the obligatory golf ball-themed gearlever.
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Underneath, you get lowered and stiffened sports suspension and an enhanced version of VW’s ‘XDS’ limited-slip diff-apeing traction control system, working here on all four wheels instead of just the front two, to reduce power-on understeer. You also get beefier brakes and the quickened, variable-ratio steering setup from the Golf GTI.
The four-cylinder engine is refined for a high-output diesel. More importantly, it’s responsive for an oil-burner and delivers a pretty potent turn of speed. The torquey dig you get as you flatten the accelerator comes promptly, and it’s hefty. The motor also seems happy enough to rev beyond 3500rpm, without rewriting the rulebook on the best way to get outright performance from a diesel: you're better off staying in the mid-range, in other words.
VW’s ‘progressive’ steering rack brings extra directness to the car’s handling mix at normal speeds, and as hard as we could push it on the road, and it doesn’t seem to add unwanted understeer off-centre. Chassis balance is good, albeit not great. Our test car – fitted with VW’s optional ACC adaptive dampers – rode fairly firmly at low speed, even in Comfort mode.
At cross-country pace, the chassis has a good breadth of ability, with the softer settings allowing better ride comfort and some body movement, and Sport tightening things up to a level of body control unknown even by the previous-generation Golf GTI.
But you still wouldn’t describe the car’s handling as exciting. The GTD continues to go about its business in an effective but slightly aloof way. It’s quick enough, but doesn’t grip or involve quite like a full-fat petrol hot hatch. It balances the wish for occasional thrills against the one for an easy, undemanding everyday drive. But again, that’s probably exactly as it should be.
As an alternative to a Ford Focus ST, it’s lacking edge. But next to a BMW 120d – a poverty-spec 320d Efficient Dynamics, even - it’s easy to see the equipment-rich, understated sporting appeal.