Hole in one
Boasting greener credentials, better onboard equipment and a World Car of the Year award, the Golf, now in its sixth generation, seems assured in its place as Volkswagen's global best-seller.
While it's instantly recognisable as a Golf, the MkVI has been given a sensitive makeover that marries styling cues from the new Scirocco - a sharpened prow, smoothed-out bonnet and tapering headlight clusters - with a Touareg-like rear aspect featuring a rear parking camera that pops out from under the VW badge.
Other standard exterior features include sharp 18-inch alloys, a chrome-trimmed front grille, foldable door mirrors with integrated turn signals, an electric tilt/slide glass sunroof, halogen headlights with range adjustment, front and rear fog lights and green heat-insulated glass all round.
The spec list is even more generous inside the cabin, where Volkswagen has taken pains to upgrade the equipment and finish to create a genuinely luxurious ambience.
Fully adjustable leather-trimmed front sports seats featuring lumbar support and VW's whiplash-optimised head restraint system complement an Audi-like matt-black dash that sports chrome highlights on key switches, while all the back-lit dials have an adjustable setting to make them easier to see in the dark.
There's more leather on the handbrake, gear lever and multi-functional steering wheel, which allows the driver to adjust the radio, CD, phone or central display with minimal fuss. Dual-zone climate control comes as standard, as does Volkswagen's top-of-the-line RCD 510 CD/MP3 system, with eight speakers, multimedia connections and a six-CD changer.
The central touch-screen display can switch between the audio system and the rear parking camera, which gives acoustic and visual signals to warn of obstacles front and rear. Power-assisted steering helps with low-speed manoeuvring, and electric windows and a windscreen-mounted rain sensor optimise visibility.
Not only has Volkswagen improved the aerodynamics of the Golf to increase fuel efficiency, the marque has also worked hard to reduce interior road noise inside the cabin. Its engineers have redesigned everything from the rubber windscreen seals to the wing mirrors - which have a rain channel that streams water away from the windows - to streamline the car.
The MkVI is also the safest Golf to date, with a seven-airbag system (including a driver's side knee bag), electronic stability program, anti-lock brakes, electronic brake-force distribution and a brake pad wear indicator as standard.
The result of Volkswagen's fettling is apparent on the road, where the Golf feels composed, remarkably hushed and a pleasant place to be - and it delivers a more spirited performance than the MkV.
The fantastic chassis has been borrowed whole from the outgoing model and Volkswagen has changed little other than lowering the three-point wishbones, retaining the sports suspension set-up with front suspension struts and anti-roll bars front and rear.
But the seven-speed DSG gearbox is the real star of the show. Acceleration is seamless and direct thanks to the dual clutch auto box, which preselects the next gear within a few hundredths of a second and does a great job of directing power from the new twin-charged direct petrol injection block without interrupting the power flow.
With the transmission set to sport mode, the GT was a blast on the winding roads out to Shek O, with plenty of low-gear torque on tap for overtaking. Add to the mix light, positive steering, bags of grip and a supple ride, and the Golf makes for an uncharacteristically enjoyable drive. It's impressive too, that Volkswagen has managed to increase the power and torque available while lowering fuel consumption by a significant degree.
The Golf has long been a local favourite and has enjoyed a healthy resale value, and the cleaner, safer and more luxurious sixth generation of this much-loved car suggests that success breeds success.
AT A GLANCE: VW Golf GT
What drives it?
A 1,390cc, in-line, four-cylinder, 160bhp, twin-charged engine linked to a seven-speed DSG automatic transmission.
How fast is it?
The GT makes 0-100km/h in eight seconds, with a top speed of 220km/h.
How safe is it?
The Golf GT has a Euro NCAP 5-star rating. Dual front and side airbags, an anti-lock braking system, electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist, straight-line stability control and hill hold control all come as standard.
How thirsty is it?
The Golf GT drinks six litres of fuel per 100km on a combined cycle.
How clean is it?
Euro V compliant, the Golf has a fug factor of 139g/km of carbon dioxide - the equivalent of 1.2 Toyota iQs.
HK$239,900 with a two-year warranty from Volkswagen Hong Kong (tel: 3698 9688).