My Car Darren Jardine's city runabout has a wild side on the open road, which has set him back in speeding fines.
Motocross biker finds his Volkswagen Golf GTI comparably fast and nimble
As an accomplished motocross biker, Darren Jardine thinks in power curves, knowing expertly how much thrust is needed at any given moment, and how long to stay on the throttle for a perfect sweep. Naturally, this translates to any other vehicle he drives, but his instinct can land him in expensive trouble.
"My Golf GTI was just becoming too expensive," he recalls. "The way it drives, with all the power it has available, was causing me to pay too much in speeding fines. It felt like every time I went out in it, I was being flashed, even though it didn't feel like I was going too fast.
"That's the thing about the Golf. The power is always there, and it's so smooth and responsive and almost effortless.
"It's a small car that is also quite light, so the power is readily available all the time. You just touch the throttle and it picks up, no trouble. It's similar in many ways to a motocross bike."
Having bought the Mk5 GTI at the start of 2008, Jardine, a South African designer, says he has had no regrets - apart from a cold feeling the day he brought it back from the showroom. Before making his purchase, he had also been seriously considering a Seat Leon Cupra, which although it was based on its Golf stablemate's platform and made use of the same 147hp, 2.0L TFSI engine, it weighed in at a lot less dirhams.
But in the end, he plumped for the Volkswagen at Dh107,000. "When I got home, I just sat in the driver's seat and asked myself what I'd done. I couldn't believe that I'd just paid all this money for a car that I could have got much more cheaply with a Seat badge. Why had I been such an idiot?"
But this sentiment didn't last for long. "The next day, I got in and drove off - and I haven't looked back. Straight away, I loved this car - then I knew I'd made the right choice - and I love it every bit as much today.
"The trouble was, for the first year, I had to spend so much money on speeding tickets. The car has a split personality and I would drive it to the max. In city traffic, it's easy to drive, but then, when I got the chance of some open road, I would really open it up. In sport mode, it just stays in gear until you red line it - a bit like racing a go-kart. It's extremely grippy.
"But these days, I don't take it to the extreme because speeding tickets are so expensive now. I still get some revs out of it but I stay within the limit.
Driving the Golf is like being part of a club, Jardine said. "You really notice others on the road, and you look at their colour and anything the owner has added on to it.
"At traffic lights, if you're standing next to another one, you tend to look at the driver and give him a nod, like you're an old friend. As owners, I guess we are pretty like-minded."
The GTI replaced Jardine's Freelander - the forerunner of the Land Rover LR2 - a car he enjoyed at the time, but he now says he could no longer conceive of going back to a small SUV.
"Compared to the Golf, it was like a bus. If I were to change my car now, it would probably be for a Mk6 GTI, but I don't feel like I need to change it yet. Quite often I get people asking how much it would take for me to sell the car, but I'm not ready for that.
"I've thought about the faster Golf R32 but I don't think I would need that as I've got the perfect powerband with the GTI. Sometimes, if I'm going through a tunnel, I roll down the window to hear the boom of the engine and it's great.
"Now I've had it for a few years, I really get the power curve. And now it doesn't cost me as much to drive."