IT’S A BEST BUY BECAUSE:

No car can match the GTI’s compelling blend of affordability, daily-driver practicality, enthusiast-satisfying performance, and all-around refinement.

BUT…

Top-end models get a bit pricey for a compact car, and the automated-manual transmission’s responsiveness can be sluggish in stop-and-go driving.

WORTH NOTING:

The line-topping GTI Autobahn trim level comes standard with an exclusive feature that’s rare among sporty cars in its price class: an adaptive suspension damping system.

WHAT IS IT?

The Golf GTI is Volkswagen’s long-running “hot-hatch” performance compact. It’s essentially a hopped-up version of the mainstream VW Golf hatchback. The GTI is offered as a 4-door hatchback in base-level S, Sport (new for 2017), SE, or top-grade Autobahn trim levels. A 2-door hatchback is also available, but only in base S trim. The lone engine is a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder mated to either a 6-speed manual transmission or a 6-speed automated manual with steering-wheel paddles for manual shifting. In the base S models, the 2.0 is rated at 210 horsepower; in the rest of the GTI lineup, it’s rated at 220 hp. A Driver Assistance Package for SE models includes adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning and autonomous emergency braking, blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert. Autobahns come standard with the above equipment, and can be equipped with their own Driver Assistance Package that includes front and rear park assist, automatic high-beam control, and lane-departure warning.

WHAT’S NEW?

The Golf GTI lineup gains a performance/value-oriented trim level named Sport, and availability of the 2-door-hatchback body style is now restricted to the base S trim level. The previously optional Performance Package is now standard on all but S models; it includes upgraded brakes, an electronically controlled limited-slip differential, and the aforementioned horsepower bump from 210 to 220.

FUEL ECONOMY

The EPA estimates fuel economy at 24 mpg city/34 mpg highway with the manual transmission and 24/32 with the automated manual. In Consumer Guide® testing, a manual-transmission S model averaged 26.9 mpg in 55-percent city driving, and a manual-transmission SE averaged 22.1 mpg in 75-percent city driving. Premium-grade gas is recommended (and necessary to achieve VW’s official horsepower and torque figures), but the engine will also run on regular.

VALUE IN CLASS

The Golf GTI has long been a benchmark among sporty compact cars; it offers near premium-compact build quality and serious driving-enthusiast appeal. Plus, its hatchback body provides passenger comfort and cargo versatility that few sporty cars can match. Base prices are reasonable, but climb quickly as you move up the model roster. Still, even with somewhat lofty prices, you get what you pay for. The GTI is simply one of the most well-rounded, practical performance vehicles that money can buy.

BASE PRICE RANGE $24,995 – $34,095
BODY STYLES 2-Door Hatchback, 4-Door Hatchback
AVAILABLE ENGINES 210/220-Hp, Turbocharged 2.0-Liter 4-Cyl.
DRIVE WHEELS Front Wheel Drive
BUILT IN Germany
EPA FUEL-ECONOMY RANGE 25-34 MPG

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