IT’S A BEST BUY BECAUSE:
No car can match the GTI’s compelling blend of daily-driver practicality, enthusiast-satisfying performance, and all-around refinement.
Prices are a bit steep for a compact car, and the automated-manual transmission’s responsiveness can be sluggish in stop-and-go driving.
The GTI offers an adaptive suspension damping system—a rare feature among sporty cars in its price class. It’s included on Autobahn models.
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 S, SE, or Autobahn trim levels. The lone engine is a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder that makes 228 horsepower and can be mated to either a 6-speed manual transmission or a 7-speed automated manual that includes steering-wheel paddles for manual shifting. Forward collision warning and mitigation and a blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert are standard features. The Autobahn model adds features such as front and rear park assist, automatic high-beam control, and lane-departure warning.
There are no significant changes for 2021, the last model year for the seventh-generation Golf GTI. The eighth-generation model is on sale in Europe now, and is slated to come to the U.S. as a 2022 model.
EPA fuel-economy estimates are 24 mpg city/32 mpg highway with the manual transmission and 25/31 with the automated manual. 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 a bit steep compared to the sporty versions of other mainstream-brand compact cars, but you get what you pay for. The GTI is simply one of the most well-rounded, practical performance vehicles that money can buy… but first-on-the-block types might want to wait and see if the new-generation 2022 model is even better.