Until I drove up to the dealer, I couldn't quite believe there was
actually one sitting there - in the metal - registered and just
waiting for me to drive it :-) The people down at AutoSports
Prestige in Arncliffe, Sydney had advertised that they had a
demonstrator available in the Saturday paper and I didn't hesitate to
call them. A (very) short while later I was off to Arncliffe to see
what we could see.
I pulled up and there it was, with that unmistakable twin exhaust on
the left, and GTi180 badge on the right. My first impression was
"gee it looks good in the black" which got me thinking. So far I
have personally seen the 180 in 3 different colours - Aegean Blue,
Aden Red and Obsidian Black - and I've said that for all of them!
I'd have to go with popular opinion though and say the Blue is
definitely the best colour.
On the exterior side of things the car was turned out beautifully,
with colour coded bumpers and the new chrome-surrounded honeycomb
grill (standard on all GTis now, along with the large chrome Lion on
the tailgate) making a nice impression. I wasn't a big fan of the
carbon fibre look mirrors on the LHD RC cars I stumbled across at the
airport earlier this year, but I have to say, they look good in the
black :-) I've liked the 17" wheels since I first saw them, although
they appeared to be fitted to every 307 on the lot that day. The 15"
GTi wheels on my car have a much more exclusive clientele. If
anything, I'd say the ride height is a little higher than on my car,
making the ever increasing speed humps and various sloping driveways
not a problem for this GTi.
The cabin is very familiar (some would say this is not a good thing)
with everything in the same place as on current models, however there
is lots of "carbon print" plastic, ie. the centre console, door
handle surrounds, etc. plus there is the famous chrome glove box
handle (all of these items a feature of the current GTi I believe).
The seats are fantastic, but I think they would take some getting
used to on my part. The high, curling shoulders of the seats obscure
access to the seat belt when one is first reaching for it, and it
gives off a remote feeling of those very uncomfortable Integra Type R
seats - heavy bolstering in the thigh and around the ribs. Having
said that, they are very comfortable - and quite different to the
early 2000 model GTi seats. There are now curtain airbags on each A
pillar, and I also noted the larger tweeter panels that Van recently
discussed on http://206gti.net.
Firing up the engine, the first thing you notice is a significantly
louder exhaust note from that large back box between the rear wheels.
I'm not a fan of loud exhausts (which from what I can gather seem to
be mainly for attracting attention) and this one is not what I would
call obtrusive - just a lot different to my current GTi.
Slipping it into 1st gear reveals the next major difference. I've
had the Griffiths Engineering Quick Shift kit fitted for a while now
on my car, and it goes a long way towards improving the somewhat long
and wishy washy throw of the standard GTi gearbox. This throw is
much smoother than what I remember the standard GTi's shift to be
like, and a bit better in the throw department too. Unfortunately I
forgot to test whether the reportedly tall 1st gear was any good (it
should be good for 60km/h in 1st, according to reports so far) but
changing gears is definitely an improvement. The gear lever itself
seems to be a little shorter in height, but I can't be sure of that.
Pulling away from the curb and accelerating away reveals that it
doesn't seem to have the same low down torque of the 102 kw motor,
something that could be missed for those of us who spend a lot of
time commuting in peak hour traffic. Opening it up and letting it
prove itself however reveals the most wonderful surge in power from
somewhere near 5000 rpm and on. Further experimentation reveals that
this engine is most happy between 5-7000 rpm (attributable to the
variable valve timing on the new engine I guess). This seems to give
it a slightly more "Japanese" feel to power delivery, however I was
driving it with 3 people in the car (and none of them that light) and
at no time did I think it was lacking in power. This engine sings!
Apart from the vastly improved power delivery, it is evident that
this thing has excellent road holding ability, and fantastic brakes.
The improved rear suspension with those tie rods, coupled with the
wider rubber certainly impressed me on some of the twisty roads the
salesman had mapped out for me near the dealership. It displayed
none of the nervousness that my standard setup can sometimes display,
although the whole route seemed to be on freshly laid tar. It would
be very interesting to take this thing on the roads that I'm more
used to and see how it goes. The whole suspension thing seems
quieter, more settled and much more taut than my car's admittedly 3.5
yr old suspension. I could hear nothing from the Pirelli P7000s,
though I couldn't help but wonder how much they would cost to replace
This is a car that I would be very happy to own, and is quite an
improvement on my current 2000 model GTi. Keeping the engine revving
just a little higher than I'm used to results in the most wonderful
feelings of acceleration from this very eager machine. As per usual
it is very well appointed with creature comforts - although the
sunroof lovers amongst you may be disappointed to note that the sales
people told me there is no factory option on this one, supposedly for
"structural" reasons. Still, I'm willing to part with the necessary
items to obtain one at some point in the (hopefully) not too distant