Talk about horsepower. You only have to stroke the gas pedal of the Volkswagen Golf GT and you're off through the gate like Medic Power. Most 1.4-litre cars need some whip for such pace along the Tai Tam Road, but the GT is eager on the outside and so responsive in the final stretch to the Shek O turn that I'm beginning to wonder whether this griffin's better value than its GTi stablemate at Hong Kong speeds. GTi fans might disagree, yet they may also be the first to admit that the Golf GT is a further symptom of climate change in car design. Rising fuel prices, concerns about global warming, and increasing taxes on fuel consumption and emissions in key markets have forced marques to make cleaner and faster engines. Porsche, for instance, has just added 50 horsepower to its new 3.6-litre GT2, yet improved its fuel efficiency by 15 per cent, to 12.5 litres per 100km. Marques such as Renault have also learned how to downsize this more fuel-efficient spark into smaller engines. BMW and PSA Peugeot collaborated to design a scaled-down 1.6-litre turbo Peugeot 207 GT that can sprint to 100km/h in 8.3 seconds and sip but 8.9 litres of petrol over 100km for a spew of just 166 grams of CO2 per kilometre. Now VW has shrunk its petrol engines too, by corralling 170 horses into its block, courtesy of a TSI fuel-injection system that squirts and burns fuel so efficiently that some writers say it could compete with the diesels that dominate in Europe. The GT engine's secret is the combination of a supercharger for low revs and a turbocharger that kicks in at about 3,500rpm. It works well on the south side. A new charge pressure dial on the dashboard tells you how much turbo oomph you've got, but that seems to be a gimmick in Hong Kong's push and go. Anoraks might listen hard for the whine of the supercharger giving way to the whoosh of the turbo, but the transition's smooth and I don't feel any lag from the latter. Some western critics say the car hesitates at low revs in traffic, but the GT's as good as gold in Hong Kong's crawl. Put your foot down further and the GT flies. Its little block wasn't named the 2006 International Engine of the Year for nothing, and VW's sprint claim of 100km/h in 7.7 seconds seem about right - a second faster to 100km/h than its 150hp, two-litre predecessor - thanks to a DSG gearbox. It changes gear faster than most people can and makes you seem a better driver, but its sure-fire smoothness could rob you of the pleasure of shifting to the sound of the VW's precocious little engine. Even so, the GT is a hottie for HK$249,000, with a top speed of 219km/h, a spew of 175gpk and a moderate thirst, at 9.6 litres per 100km in town. When carsguide.news.com.au took a GT on a 500km run from Sydney to the Blue Mountains, the GT ran at a combined 8.4l/100km. But if the GT's rather too fast for the law on the Shek O Road, it's also worryingly quick for GTi fans. The two-litre, 200hp GTi (from HK$293,000) corners better and speeds with less noise, but the GT spurts so well to the beach that the girlfriends of boy racers might question whether lover-boy's GTi is really worth that extra HK$44,000 for zipping between buses. After all, the DSG version of the GTi is only four-fifths of a second faster to 100km/h, at 6.9 seconds, thirstier at a combined 8.0 litres for 100km, and has more CO2 spew at 192gpk. Consider, too, the speed of traffic and increasing vigilance of Hong Kong's Finest on our happy grunting grounds, and the GTi seems a higher tax-bracketed drive with a marginal edge on the GT. Unfortunately for girlfriends, lover boy is unlikely to swap his GTi's black honeycombed grille and fat, flat steering wheel for the GT's mumsy finish. VW seems to have been careful not to threaten its GTi business by giving the GT a Jetta-like, V-shaped chromed grille and side skirts in the body colour to distinguish it from the GTi's black rubber. The GT alludes to sport, with suspension 15mm lower, 17-inch ClassiXs alloys with plus-sized 225 tyres and twin exhausts, and a 'GT' inscription on the grille and boot, but its design won't scare a Mini, and the test car didn't raise a stare from the law in Chai Wan. The car is airy inside with a sunroof, though. You get the standard Golf and Jetta's three-point leather steering wheel, a functional instrument panel and comfy, cleanable leather seats. There's also 350 litres of boot space in an interior that seems designed by accountants, despite the odd flash of 'black onyx', faux silver and aluminium finish. The Volvo C30 feels more inviting to bigger people and dogs and the Peugeot 207 GT sportier. But the GT has performed well in Europe's New Car Assessment Programme, with five stars for adult protection (with 33 points), four for children (37 points) and a rare three (19 points) for pedestrian protection. This matches the Peugeot 207 and surpasses the 2007 Mini and Mercedes-Benz A-Class (both with five, three and two stars) and Volvo C30 (with five, four and one stars and 34-38-9 points) in the three protection categories. The Golf GT also has a hill-hold control and a mystery button, a 'W' switch for a 'winter driving program' said to prevent wheelspin on ice and which might also help in a flood. The test car's multi-function display is hard to read without glasses and even more so in the sun, but the car's zip and handling could tempt families out of their supersized sports utility vehicles and half-empty people movers. The gentle-looking GT won't tempt a fragile-egoed boy racer out of his pumped-up GTi, but his dad might see the logic of its scaled-down engine in the 26km/h crawl of our traffic and delight in outsprinting an unsuspecting GTi at the lights. If you believe in horses for courses, you may agree that the GT is the Golf to have in Happy Valley.