By on January 1, 2015

2015 volkswagen golf gti redThis is all very normal. I exited my driveway, turned left at the end of our cul-de-sac, then right onto our village’s main two-lane, low-speed thoroughfare, shifted into third and fourth, turned up the satellite radio’s volume, switched the driver’s heated seat on full blast, and finally came to a stop a few kilometres later at a red light.

I’m waiting for the light to turn green, thinking that I must remember my excuse (crackers and hummus?) for leaving the house at 9pm at the end of a busy day just so I could drive this bright red, 4-door, 6-speed manual, 210-horsepower, 2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI. But it’s an awfully normal car. It’s not barking or bellowing or champing at the bit. Any gear will do. It’s not announcing the roughness of our coastal roads. I can see out of it. It’s completely tractable. It’s just a Golf.

Only a few weeks prior, the 2015 Volkswagen Golf 1.8TSI left me impressed, led me to believe that it was a terrific foundation for a GTI, and generated many more smiles per mile than I anticipated. Now, in mid-December, a week-long Christmas present from Volkswagen Canada seemed very much to be that first car, but with plaid seats, an upgraded equipment list, an extra cog in the gearbox, bigger wheels, and slightly sportier exterior styling.

Yes, it’s all very normal, this seventh-generation GTI. When you want it to be.

And when you don’t, the 2015 GTI maintains its disdain for MazdaSpeed 3-like raw exuberance while expressing itself instead through polished, refined, measured, soul-stirring performance; conducting itself with the grace and poise one expects from a far pricier German performance car.

2015 volkswagen golf gti reviewPricier? In Canada, it’s not as though the 4-door GTI is among the most affordable hot hatches. In a sense, VW Canada charges CAD $4900 to double the number of entry points as the CAD $34,290 4-door GTI is only available in Autobahn trim. (The 2-door GTI Autobahn starts at CAD $33,390.) Fortunately, Volkswagen’s American clientele need only pay an extra $600 for the rear doors. In the U.S., the 6-speed dual-clutch automatic is an $1100 option. Our Canadian-spec 4-door Autobahn tester was optioned only with a CAD $695 technology package which included forward collision warning and sat-nav.

The cabin, replete with a properly large sunroof, dual-zone climate control, heated seats, 8-speaker Fender audio, and keyless access, creates an overall impression of solidity, high-grade material quality, and relative simplicity. I love the plaid seats; my Mazda 3-driving neighbour was disgusted by their retro vibe. The rearview camera is easily washed out and offers little assistance at night. The infotainment unit’s graphics and speed are comically outdated. A marginal increase in rear seat legroom would be welcome even at the expense of cargo capacity. And of course, seats folded, the GTI becomes a delivery van, with 53.7 cubic feet of cargo capacity. Volkswagen’s own Tiguan offers only 2.4 extra cubic feet of total cargo space.

2015 volkswagen golf gti redThe GTI’s knack for swallowing a new dishwasher during a Boxing Day sale or assisting with a cross-town move is appreciated all the more because it’s still a small car. Yes, Golfs have grown. A lot. But the new GTI is only 168 inches long. That’s 16 inches longer than a Mini Cooper S and 8 inches longer than a Ford Fiesta ST, but it’s 14 inches shorter than Volkswagen’s Jetta GLI and nearly two feet shorter than the Volkswagen Passat.

Consequently, the MK7 GTI feels delightfully small to toss down an empty rural road, but it has the decorum of a much larger car when traversing rough city streets and cruising down the highway on a long journey. Ride quality is firmer than what you’ll encounter in a conventional Golf, but only moderately so. Meanwhile, the degree of steering and handling sharpness acquired by the GTI in its transition out of the Golf’s cocoon is palpable the moment you apply a bit of pressure.

The regular Golf, remember, is a fun car to drive quickly. It’s like playing intramural basketball: watch me drop a couple three-pointers before clanging one off the front of the rim and I don’t care since we’re just messing around and we’re all enjoying ourselves at this pace aren’t we? The GTI locked in a college scholarship in its junior year of high school with a killer crossover, a deadly fadeaway jumper, a solid defensive game, plenty of offensive rebounds, and a few crowd-silencing dunks. All modestly celebrated, of course. It’s a GTI, after all. Mature, prudent, sophisticated.

2015 volkswagen golf gti interiorThis latest GTI masks its front-wheel-drive nature remarkably well by quelling understeer, remaining relatively neutral regardless of what kind of stupid mid-corner lift-off or downshift or sudden braking or surprised squirrel avoidance maneuver you throw at it. That’s in Normal mode.

Press a button beside the shifter to choose Sport settings and the car tenses up in all the right places. The electric-assist steering could still be a bit quicker to react, but that hardly noticeable deficiency may be due to the winter tires more than any of the GTI’s inherent trait.

That the new GTI could readily amaze with its on-road behaviour is a testament to both the quality of its Continental ContiWinterContacts and the car’s own beautifully modulated suspension setup. Sure, the Volkswagen GTI is blissfully dull and cordially mundane when you’re driving your mother-in-law’s aunt to church. But 258 lb-ft of always-on torque, a short-throw shifter and a clutch with a clear point of engagement (which may be too high for some) come together with a perfect driving position, small car tossability, sports car grip, and grand touring unflappability to create a car that you can use to scare your nephews.

mk7 golf gti plaid seatsBest of all, you can enjoy the GTI in between those two extremes. It’s not so fast that you can’t floor the throttle without breaking laws in 31 states. The turbo 2.0-litre’s growl is pleasant, but not attention-grabbing. 25 mpg (observed) in mostly city driving is more than tolerable for a car driven enthusiastically on more than three or seven occasions. The GTI is flexible enough to be left in third gear all day long. And there’s feedback from the chassis at six-tenths, so you don’t need to rent a track and drive flat-out in order to feel like you and the car belong together.

The GTI, perhaps now more than ever, overcomes class distinctions. This Mk7 GTI’s performance goes beyond what its specifications suggest. Both in terms of style and texture, the interior possesses the aura of a car priced in excess of $40,000. As befits its mission, the latest GTI caters to all the priorities of its targeted buyer, and it does so without compromising on one front or another. It is a performance car, and it is a small family car, and it is not less of a performance car because it’s a small family car, nor is it less of a small family car because it’s a performance car.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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220 Comments on “Capsule Review: 2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI...”


  • avatar

    I can’t simply enjoy a Sunday drive without being harrassed by these things…

  • avatar
    jrmason

    Just ignore them like they do you.

  • avatar
    petezeiss

    VW’a New Years Resolution:

    More dalliance with niche products, no new CUV.

    Showing the Scheiß-Ami we don’t need them.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    319583076’s 2015 prediction…

    “I predict this year will bring BTSR back to TTAC ”

    I’m rightfully spooked

  • avatar
    PriusV16

    Well-written and informative review whose observations and conclusions are in line with what practically all other GTI reviews out there say.

    Or, to sum it up….

    “Meet the new king…. same as the old king….” :-)

    Then again, many potential customers might be fooled by the Golf.

    How many will look at the Golf and think “Oh, compact car” without realising that it ISN’T your average compact car anymore, as stated in the review? That you CAN use it as a small-family car; that you CAN actually haul stuff around with it; that it DOESN’T feel and behave like a Tohondayomazdabarubishi?

    Getting that message out there is a real challenge for the marketing department, I guess.

    • 0 avatar
      elimgarak

      That’s not the challenge of marketing. The challenge of marketing is figuring out how to make up for the dealership network being dbags and the unreliability of VW’s.

      I have a great way to solve it – 10/100k warranty.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        Won’t do much to get around DBags who don’t honor warranties…

      • 0 avatar
        hreardon

        Agreed, elimgarak: if VW were serious about restoring American’s faith in the brand they need to do a heavy duty warranty. I think that many car buyers would be happy with a 5/60, but that doesn’t have quite the buzz and wow factor of being able to sell a 10 year / 100,000 comprehensive warranty.

        You can pickup the VW authorized (though not administered) extended warranty for around $1,400 which gets you a 7 / 70k policy which covers everything except for wear and tear. This tells me that we’re not talking massive dollars to up the warranty coverage. But then again, finances were never my specialty, this is why I have accountants… ;-)

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          If VW increased the warranty and reliability for the US market, they’d have to do that everywhere. It doesn’t seem worth it.

          • 0 avatar
            hybridkiller

            I don’t understand this notion that auto makers (VW et al) are somehow making a conscious decision NOT to turn out the most reliable vehicles they possibly can (within price point restraints). In today’s intensely competitive market? Are you kidding me?

            Why do you think military hardware is so obscenely expensive? It’s because mil spec demands such a high level of reliability.

            A car built to such standards would be economically DOA.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            There is mil spec everything. I found mil spec toilet paper to be less reliable than Charim.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            “There is mil spec everything. I found mil spec toilet paper to be less reliable than Charim.”

            It’s softer too, don’t want a paper burn there. Talk about being all butt-hurt

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I like Scott Ultra Strong, it doesn’t shred and is plenty soft!

            For paper towels, always Viva!

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            It’s totally a conscious decision. When reliability reaches the point the OEM determines is acceptable, they stop improving it.

        • 0 avatar
          Quentin

          My 2007 GTI had a 4yr/48k mi bumper to bumper warranty with a 5yr/60k mi powertrain warranty. The 2008 model had a 3yr/36k mi bumper to bumper and free maintenance for a year or two. I’d be surprised if they offered a longer warranty.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            The carefree maintenance was for 3/36K, until the 2014 model year. Now that is reduced to 2/24K. However, it amounts to 2 or 3 oil changes/service visits (one every 10K miles). VW makes sure they don’t cover the 40K mile required maintenance. If going to a dealership, with a DSG equipped vehicle, budget $600-$1200.

          • 0 avatar
            hybridkiller

            “If going to a dealership, with a DSG equipped vehicle, budget $600-$1200.”

            My dealer charges $289 plus tax for the DSG service. Plus they always send me a 10% off coupon every 10K.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            $289 is extremely cheap. the cheapest I found in the Detroit area was around $400. The “recommended” 40K service without the DSG service was $389.95. Even at $289.00, that is way more expensive than any service for the Focus ST.

          • 0 avatar
            Fordson

            The Focus ST with the automated manual? Oh, yeah…

            Or alternatively, how much is the 40k tranny service for a GTI with 6MT…like a Focus ST?

          • 0 avatar
            hybridkiller

            “Even at $289.00, that is way more expensive than any service for the Focus ST.”

            Assuming the Focus dual-clutcher is on par with the DSG – and let’s assume it is – I much prefer the more refined styling and driving dynamics of the Golf, the Focus is too boy-racerish for me.
            If $300-$400 every 40K miles is going to break you, then I wouldn’t recommend either car.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            The Focus ST is manual only, so I guess my point was sort of worthless…Haha.

            The VW DSG is better than the Ford/Getrag DCT. The Ford DCT is more comparable to the dry clutch DSG transmission though. The wet-DSG is buttery smooth, and fantastic transmission. I don’t like the added expenses, mostly because of VW dealerships. On the high end, t’s $110 worth of materials (retail), and it takes an hour to do. Service advisors charging $485 to do it should be jailed.

          • 0 avatar
            hybridkiller

            “Service advisors charging $485 to do it should be jailed.”

            I’m inclined to agree, but to me what’s even more galling is charging so much for the rest of the 40K service. On the TDI (other than the oil change) it’s just the fuel filter change – a $30 filter and maybe 10 minutes of labor.
            When they did mine I told them to charge me for the DSG and fuel filter only (I get lifetime free oil changes). They still did all the inspection checklist stuff because they said it’s included. I was OTD for ~$400.

            Guess I got a pretty good dealer (Lokey in Clearwater, FL)

    • 0 avatar
      hreardon

      It’s going to be an uphill battle here in the US where the CUV is king and the hatch is relegated to niche status. VW is selling a decent number of Golfs and GTIs here in the US but the numbers pale in comparison to the CRV, RAV4s and Escapes of the world.

    • 0 avatar
      Wheatridger

      Kudos to the first responder who actually wrote about the car, after several screens of pointless sniping.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        So, what do you think about the car? How about the plaid interior or the hefty entrance fee? Is it worth it, or are there other cars just as worthy for a lot less?

        … or would you rather just comment about the commenters?

  • avatar
    VW16v

    Brilliant car that makes Mazda, Honda, and Nissan executives very pissed off.

    • 0 avatar
      elimgarak

      VW can’t even compete with Subaru – Honda is not worried.

      • 0 avatar
        VW16v

        Subaru makes some of the best Japanese cars on the road. But as for competing. Subaru. Is hoping to reach global sales next year of 900,000 and Volkswagen already sold 7.4 million units not including heavy trucks as of this past November. Honda does not produce a product that can compete with the GTI, at least in the United States.

        • 0 avatar
          EAF

          Huh? Subaru makes terrible cars that are nominally less worse than the POS pictured here. You really should visit sites where actual 2015 GTI buyers share their ownership experiences. Those *threads* are not as pretty as these GTI plaid seats (sarcasm).

          • 0 avatar
            VW16v

            Millions of people are happy with their VW’s. Sure some VW’s have issues, as does Honda, Toyota, GM, etc. Blogs are made to whine about cars. Stating Subaru makes “Terrible” cars shows a cluelessness about automobiles all together.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            Point is Honda, Toyota, GM, etc, are cheap and easy to fix when they do break, but not nearly as often. But VWs turn into Porsches when it’s time to pay the repair bills.

          • 0 avatar
            jrmason

            Denver Mike has been breathing the mile high air too long and the apparant lack of oxygen is impeding his judgment.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            I’m just fascinated how such innocent looking cars can have scary monster repair bills. Parts/labour are up there with BMW, Porsche, Audi, etc. As they should be. I guess.

          • 0 avatar
            jrmason

            Labor at the local VW dealer is $98 an hour. Right in line with our Ford dealership which I’ve had the privelage of acquiring a folders worth of invoices from warranty work. Parts for my former pick up and the Wife’s Mountaineer have typically cost more than any vehicle we’ve owned, including the VW TDIs we’ve owned over the years.
            Have you ever owned any VW’s?

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            Dealer labour rates are only relevant if you ever have to go the skinkin’ place. When you do, it speaks nothing of hours involved and price of parts.

            The anecdotal only goes so far, but I’ve owned several Fords from new and never been to dealer service for anything, warranty or not. Zero.

            I’ve never owned a VW from new. I have friends and family for those mistakes. Ask me for their anecdotal… I dare ya!!

            Lots of reasons for buying the GTI, but if you expect excellent reliability or cheap to fix, hold on to your hat!

          • 0 avatar
            heavy handle

            DenverMike,

            I’ve only visited Denver a handful of times, but I find it very unlikely that you can’t find a single decent independent shop that specializes in VW.

            Mind you, it’s not as unlikely as your Fords that never need fixing, but it’s still very unlikely.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            By the same, picture anyone looking for an indi shop that specializes in Ford cars? Why does that sound strange? Hmmmm…

            But shops “specialize” for a reason. I personally know a shop owner that specializes in German cars, including VWs. One of the richest (selfmade) guys I know.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            And I know most indi shops won’t touch VWs. Likely learned the hard way and want to remain successful. If you do go to an indi VW specialist, don’t expect to not make his boat payment for him.

          • 0 avatar
            hybridkiller

            As reluctant as I am to wade into a nonsensical argument, I gotta call you out on that one. It’s (another) clear indication that you either don’t know what you’re talking about, or are just making it up as you go along (both of which seem to be SOP for you).

            Go to ANY VW enthusiast forum and you will find that indy VW mechs (the TDI guys call them “gurus”) are highly regarded and widely considered to be the cheapest option for those that can’t/don’t do their own wrenching.

            Dude, you really need to get out of your own head once in a while.

          • 0 avatar
            heavy handle

            DM,

            Shops specialize for one reason: efficiency. Stick to one brand and you can keep the most common parts in stock, as well as specialized fluids and service tools. Brand knowledge also improves your diagnostics time by an order of magnitude, and you learn a lot of shortcuts that give you a break on labor rates.

            I knew one guy who could change a 90’s Passat heater core in an afternoon. That’s a job nobody wants, but he’d figured-out how to remove the dash as one unit, which cut the hours from 16 to 4. Another guy did nothing but Subaru head gaskets for a few years. He’d have the engine out in 30 minutes flat. Most people try to do it with the engine in the car, which adds hours of cursing.

            So you’re right, most shops won’t touch VWs. That’s because they don’t know the product, and they know they won’t make any money. What you forgot to mention is that the same statement is true of all brands.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            As if there’s Hyundai specialists. Or Toyota specialist. Chrysler specialists? You’re kidding right? No, specialists pop up when there’s a specific need. When general indies refuse them. And I’m not talking the occasional discrentaled GM tech that opens his own GM only.

          • 0 avatar
            jrmason

            “Dealer labour rates are only relevant if you ever have to go the skinkin’ place. When you do, it speaks nothing of hours involved and price of parts.”

            You mean like the 5 weeks our Mountaineer sat at the dealership because the Ford monkeys couldn’t figure out there was a short in the wiring harness that kept cooking the AWD sensors and module? They had to get the engineers involved to figure that one out. Or the 5 times its been in for coil pack replacement, 2 more times for wheel bearings, a bad altenator, and 2 reflashes to get the media center functioning half way decent (it still sucks)? Theres more that Im forgetting, thats just off the top of my head. That was all before the 60k mile mark. I could tell you about my F250 they lemoned out that had even more repetitive problems than the Mountaineer, but I don’t want to bore you.

            “I have friends and family for those mistakes. Ask me for their anecdotal… I dare ya!!”

            No thanks, there’s too much second hand info on here as it is. “My aunts cousins sisters friend had a VW and it was a real POS!” Sound familiar? About 80% of the VW hammering on TTAC is nothing but regurgitated vile.

            As to your believed lack of Toyota or GM specialists, I encourage you to take any model vehicle that has been built within the last 6 to 8 years to a shop that doesn’t have the proper training, diagnostic equipment, and tools to competently repair said vehicle and let me know how that turns out for you. NEWS FLASH——Thats a specialist.

          • 0 avatar
            hybridkiller

            In 2013 Consumer Reports ranked Ford below (as in worse than) VW for overall brand reliability. So where’s the blitzkrieg of Ford hate? There must be more disgruntled Ford owners out there, yet they are strangely silent. Is there more than meets the eye to the Brotherhood Of VW HATE? Have they somehow managed to silence all the rest? Have they possibly taken control of the govt? Are the people who constantly drag out the same old 2nd and 3rd hand anecdotes just the tip of the iceberg?
            It’s all very troubling…

            ;-}

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I’ve never really liked the looks of the Golf/Rabbit, for the last 40 years.

    And having owned a VW once, I may never do it again. The Up! interests me, but it’s not available in the US.

    • 0 avatar
      EAF

      VW16v:

      [Auto manufacturer issues are not unique to Subaru.]
      [Subaru is an auto manufacturer.]
      [Therefore, Subaru is amongst the best.]

      I’m clueless? You fail to reason with honesty because you are an obvious “fanboy” whose emotions get the better of you. Your logic lends zero credence to empirical reliability data. In applying your rationale, polling Subaru ownership experience means absolutely nothing.

      Most of the issues associated with Subaru I have personally encountered having worked at several independent repair shops. The problems are more numerous than anything in a comparable Honda.

      Do you have a personal stake in the success of Subaru and VW?

  • avatar
    hreardon

    I’ve got a few hours behind the wheel of various 2015 GTIs – it’s a wonderful, playful, entertaining and grown up place to be. In many ways it is all the things that the new A3 sedan is not. I’d describe the new 2.0T A3 as a solid, confident cruiser that has about as much engagement as a Buick Regal/Verano. That’s not necessarily a slight on the A3, it’s a nice place to be, but if you’re looking for something that makes you want to drive – the A3 really isn’t where you want to be.

    Performance Package models, with the larger brakes, extra 10hp and front limited slip diff should start arriving at dealerships next week. The adaptive suspension will start arriving as well – and that’s the option I’m most interested in: the stock suspension is really well sorted, but for those of us who drive on what amounts to the surface of the moon, the ability to put the car into a significantly softer suspension setup is a welcome addition. I’ve spoken with several people who have driven the adaptive suspension GTI and they are pretty universal in their praise of it.

    MY2016 should see VW replace the 5.8″ touchscreen with the next generation unit that is now starting to make its way through the the lineup. It’s a 6.5″ unit with much higher resolution graphics and speed – a welcome upgrade. The existing unit isn’t *bad*, but it really does look out of place considering how well put together the rest of the package is.

    Now if only VW could manage to translate the magic of this car to the rest of the portfolio…

  • avatar
    Jeff Waingrow

    I’ve got 7,000 miles now on a virtual twin of this car, and I’d say that the review pretty much hits the key points, especially the car’s dual nature. No, it’s not a kid’s car anymore, but must it be? There are several of those already. It’s more like a small, frisky Audi at a pretty friendly price.

    • 0 avatar
      energetik9

      But honestly, now that it’s not a kids car anymore is the reason I actually like it.

      • 0 avatar
        hreardon

        Great point, energetik. VW toned down a lot of the boy-racer aspects of the car and upped the refinement enough where us adults can drive it without wincing. Ha.

        Personally, I think VW would be smart to play up that aspect of the car: it’s maturity and acceptance, especially considering the high trim models are going to push $35k.

    • 0 avatar
      KevinC

      The early GTIs were my “kids’ cars”. I bought one of the very first Mk1’s to hit the showrooms back in November ’82, after reading all the glowing reviews, and realizing that it pressed ALL my buttons. Owned a new one every generation through the Mk4’s. Then bought an ’04 R32. Owned a nice 2-liter Scirocco for 10 years along the way. Then moved on to BMW.

      My SO now has a ’15 Golf TDI, and it’s a phenomenal car. We’ve taken it on 2 long trips and I can’t imagine a better road trip car. She absolutely loves it, and would never have looked at a VW in the past. It has piqued my interest in the upcoming Golf R. I don’t want a ’15, which will have the same crappy infotainment head unit and the first 500 will all be blue and DSG. But an Oryx White ’16 with updated head unit and proper 3-pedal setup is mighty tempting. The fact that it’s less of a kids’ car nowadays (my perception as well) makes it viable for me again.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      I really, really, really like the new Golf GTI with manual trans, save for the plaid seats.

      I would probably like the base Golf with manual (if they still sell it like that) for around 17k post haggle more than the GTI at around 24k post haggle.

      Since I keep my new cars purchased for cash for a LONG time, I’d insist on a really long bumper to bumper warranty if I were to risk another VW purchase. They’ve been, without question, based on my, my family members’, my co-workers’ and friends’ ownership of them, the most trouble prone, frustrating vehicles to own/maintain by far.

      We live in very interesting times when a Golf GTI is around 25k, a Honda Accord in base but well equipped trim is around 21k, a Chrysler 300 with leather and a ton of goodies (base trim) can be had for around 27k, a Challenger with 400ish horsepower is around 36k OTD, and yet a terrible, cramped, POS Cadillac ATS is MSRP’d at around 42k (and the only marginally better CTS at 50k).

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      I really, really, really like the new Golf GTI with manual trans, save for the plaid seats.

      I would probably like the base Golf with manual (if they still sell it like that) for around 17k post haggle more than the GTI at around 24k post haggle.

      Since I keep my new cars purchased for cash for a LONG time, I’d insist on a really long bumper to bumper warranty if I were to risk another VW purchase. They’ve been, without question, based on my, my family members’, my co-workers’ and friends’ ownership of them, the most trouble prone, frustrating vehicles to own/maintain by far.

      We live in very interesting times when a Golf GTI is around 25k, a Honda Accord in base but well equipped trim is around 21k, a Chrysler 300 with leather and a ton of goodies (base trim) can be had for around 27k, a Challenger with 400ish horsepower is around 33k OTD, and yet a terrible, cramped, POS Cadillac ATS is MSRP’d at around 42k (and the only marginally better CTS at 50k).

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    Excellent, useful review Timothy!

  • avatar
    LeeK

    I drive a Mk VI GTI every day, and over the past five years it has had one problem that required a dealer visit under warranty to repair: a failed door lock switch. In 2014 my total maintenance costs included a new set of tires, an oil change, and new wiper blades. I’m averaging 30 MPG, I moved a huge amount of possessions in it across the country when I relocated to the Southwest, I regularly stuff the back with recycle material to take to the county dump, I cram 2 x 4s in the back with the hatch slightly open and drive slowly home from Home Depot, and when I feel frisky I zoom around the winding mountain roads here with confidence and appreciation for what an amazing vehicle this is.

    The Mk VII builds upon the excellence of the Mk VI: more power, more torque, better suspension, high quality interior components, an easy clutch, a brilliant DSG transmission if you want automation, and a pretty darn good factory audio system. I have no doubt when the time comes to sell my Mk VI, a Mk VII will be firmly in my sights.

    Thanks for the review, Tim.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      VW ownership seems to follow a binomial distribution:

      1. Those who drive 240k+ miles with minimal problems.
      2. Those who angrily trade before the warranty expires.

      And a smaller group exists, which hopes the early problems they experienced will heal themselves, but they never do.

      I’m glad your experience is going well so far.

      • 0 avatar

        2012 Tdi. 75,000 miles. Oil changes.
        38 mpg in all conditions.

        • 0 avatar
          Turbo Is Black Magic

          My past VW’s
          -2006 GTI 66,000 miles.Cam follower failure, coil packs, MAF sensor, oil consumption issues, intake valve carbon build up, 2 diverter valves, leaking valve cover gasket, DSG mechatronics failure.

          -2008 R32 112,000 miles. Mechatronics replaced under warranty, coil packs, fuel pump, cam follower.

          -2011 Golf TDI 83,000 miles. Had to change 1 $80.00 glow plug.

          -2012 GTI 64,000 miles. Zero issues ever.

          Current VW.
          -2015 GTI 6,000 happy miles. Hopefully more to come, VW seems to have improved a lot since the MK5 days

          • 0 avatar
            raresleeper

            Ahhh… you kept coming back for more!

            Owning a reliable VW is somewhat like playing the scratch off’s.

            I don’t like those odds, myself.

            Oh! Hehe… excuse me!!

            All hail VW!!!

        • 0 avatar
          bikephil

          38 MPG? Why pay 50% more for stinky diesel, higher maintenance costs and slow performance for this little bit of extra MPG?

        • 0 avatar
          bikephil

          38 MPG? That’s all? Why pay 50% more for stinky diesel, higher maintenance costs and slow performance for this little bit of MPG improvement?

          • 0 avatar
            hybridkiller

            I’m getting 38+ mpg with in-town driving, close to 50 hwy, so (for me) it’s more than a little improvement. And fuel prices where I’m at is about 20% difference, not 50%.

            Slow performance? You haven’t driven a modern CR turbo diesel have you… I wouldn’t necessarily call it a fast car, but slow it is not.

            I’m close to 50K on mine and the only diesel-related maintenance has been a $30 fuel filter (every 20K).

            I’m not in the habit of sniffing my motor fuels, gas OR diesel…

          • 0 avatar
            Quentin

            The Jetta TDI’s 9.5 seconds to 60 is right among the Corolla, Civic, Elantra etc. (I’m using CR data for these comparisons)

          • 0 avatar
            jrmason

            Which gassers can achieve anywhere close to 38mpg in real world mixed driving?
            Your assumptions of diesels are very skewed. Fuel cost are no where near 50%,more like half to a third if that claim, and overall cost of ownership on a per mile basis has always been substantially less for me. Aside from the various TDIs I’ve owned, I’ve also owned and accumulated over 400k miles on 2 diesel trucks, and they have been superior in every way compared to the big block and small block counterparts I’ve owned over the years.

      • 0 avatar
        KevinC

        For all the VW’s I’ve owned over the last 3+ decades and miles I’ve driven, I’ve had shockingly few issues. I know a lot of it is luck, but I never had a bad car. My Mk1 GTI was built like crap, as all the Westmoreland junk was, but it was dead-nuts reliable. As junky as the Mk3/Mk4’s were in many respects, I only had one issue – a bad window regulator, comically common – with either over a lot of years and miles. Yet the stories of lemons and horrendous experiences are so common. Go figure.

        • 0 avatar
          hybridkiller

          “The Jetta TDI’s 9.5 seconds to 60 is right among the Corolla, Civic, Elantra etc.”

          I’ve seen as low as 7.9 sec for MK6 Golf TDI (http://www.zeroto60times.com/vehicle-make/volkswagen-0-60-mph-times/)
          More typically I see something more like 8.1

          I’m not saying that’s fast, but the car definitely feels fast because of the ample torque. If you’ve never driven one you won’t quite understand what that means.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        Another binomial distribution with respect to the GTI:

        1. Those who love the plaid seats.
        2. Those (including me) who hate them with animal passion.

        I like the GTI a whole lot, provided that it’s in Autobahn form with acceptable black seats. But there are a few things that would keep me from pulling the trigger:

        a) years-old infotainment,
        b) a complete lack of any wish to roll the dice on reliability, and
        c) the asinine VW buying process, which would make it nearly impossible for me to get my preferred car (dark blue 4-door with Performance and Lighting Packs). Buying low-volume cars of many makes has become impossible. It seems like the only car I find remotely interesting that I could buy without spending hours on the phone and most likely traveling across the country is an Acura TLX, unless I want to catastrophically overspend to get a BMW at a reasonable equipment level.

      • 0 avatar
        jrmason

        Put me in the first category but add anywhere between 10k-100k miles on to your number. Times 4

        85 VW Golf diesel 5spd
        87 VW Jetta diesel 5spd
        99 VW Jetta TDI 5spd
        O1 VW Beetle TDI 5 SPD (current car, just completed a 400 mile round trip netting 53 mpg @72 mph)

        Nothing but routine maintenance on any of them. Both the late 80s Jetta and Golf experienced more than their share of glow plug issues, but from my experiences this was a wide spread issue with anything diesel. The IDI Fords, Detroit and Navistar were all problematic as well. Cummins was well ahead of the curve as usual with their grid heater set up. They may take a second or two longer to warm up but typically they will last the lifetime of the engine. Can’t say that about glow plugs to this day.

      • 0 avatar
        hybridkiller

        You’re forgetting one group:
        3. Those who spend a considerable amount of time on the internet insisting that any ownership experience that doesn’t support their own sentiment is an anomaly.

      • 0 avatar
        hybridkiller

        “VW ownership seems to follow a binomial distribution…”

        You’re forgetting another group:

        3. Those who spend an inordinate amount of time on the internet insisting any ownership experience that doesn’t reflect their particular sentiment is an anomaly.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          I’m the 4th kind:

          All of my VWs were reliable excpet for my R32. However, in all of them, once I got past 40K miles, weird things started to happen. Creaky suspension on Jettas, front subframe knock on Golfs, headliner droopiness abound, rubber door gaskets coming off, CD players eating CDs for awhile, then working again, etc. Never were the cars out of commission, but I always got the feeling that I was driving a time bomb.

    • 0 avatar

      Hey Leek. One if the issues i had with the Golf 4 was the seating. Too low. I understand this has been improved especially with the 6 and now 7. Do you agree? I never liked the looks of VWs much, but this one is looking much better. It is sleek and makes it look smaller than it actually is.

      As to drive of the cars available in NA i think only the Focus can touch it. The 3 is different and while good HyunKia products cant touch this in terms of engine and suspendion refinement. I think the Golf at least for now is king of midcompact hatches domething i wouldnt say it has been in a long while.

      • 0 avatar
        LeeK

        I do agree Marcelo, the seating position is higher in the V and the VI, reminding me of the Mk I that I owned in the 80s. I came from an E90 328i and one of the many things I didn’t like about the BMW was the extremely low slung seats that made getting into and out of the car an ordeal.

    • 0 avatar
      bk_moto

      I currently have a 2013 GTI (MkVI) base spec (the best one) with manual transmission. Coming up on 15,000 miles with zero issues. Car is a pleasure to drive in all respects and I even like the plaid seats. My only complaints are the poor fuel economy (EPA rated 21/31 which comports pretty closely with my actual mileage) which is pretty terrible for a car this size, however it is a heavy bastard. This is the MkVI so it’s the previous generation 2.0T. My understanding is that the new MkVII GTI is quite a bit lighter than the MkVI and that combined with the new engine improves fuel economy figures significantly. Obviously you don’t buy a GTI for the fuel economy numbers but the old ones are pretty dismal nonetheless.

      The driving experience is great, the interior seems to hail from a much more expensive car, there is lots of room in the rear seat area for passengers and of course the car becomes a small van with the rear seats folded down. It’s amazing how much stuff you can fit in there. The shape of the car with a relatively upright windscreen by modern standards and none of that sloping roofline BS that we see on so many modern hatches really makes the car incredibly useful for daily life in addition to being fun to drive.

      I have a company car that I use for work which is a 2012 Focus SE. I have about the same amount of miles in that car as I do in the GTI and the GTI is a superior car in every respect from driving experience to fit and finish to build quality to materials quality to general refinement. The Focus is by no means a bad car (expect for that terrible horrible no good DCT) but driving them back to back makes clear which is the better car.

      I have this car on a 3-year lease so I get to walk away from it. I wouldn’t mind keeping it, however, I won’t buy for the long term any car that has GDI (gasoline direct injection) without some system to mitigate carbon buildup. The idea that you have to strip the engine down and pull the head every 50K miles to have the carbon removed off the backs of the intake valves is so absurd that I won’t even consider it. This is not unique to VW/Audi GDI engines but you certainly hear about it a lot on those engines (perhaps because VW/Audi was one of the earliest adopters of the technology).

      Now manufacturers are looking at adding conventional port injection systems in addition to GDI systems to help mitigate this problem which is a whole other layer of complexity (and weight) and seems a rather inelegant solution to the problem.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Love those plaid interiors.

    Great to know the Golf is so useful. Too bad the experiment with naming it “Rabbit” again failed. I actually thought that was cute.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      That was such a catchy ad with whatever weird song, and the cars driving around like rabbits.

    • 0 avatar
      raresleeper

      +1 for the plaid team.

      Count me in. I love ’em.

      • 0 avatar

        I like them, too. The amount of negative comments on them here surprises me. And makes me understand better why makes offer only drab black and boring gray interiors.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          The negative comments don’t surprise me at all. There is nothing more average than the average American. Just look at the dreck that sells huge numbers in this country, both in content and especially in color scheme. Silver, white, or black with a beige, gray, or black interior. Blah on blah.

          • 0 avatar
            Ubermensch

            Hey, that’s not entirely true. Many of the B&B would love a car with a blue or red velour interior slathered with fake “plood.” Of course they would never buy it new. Unless one of the features is it comes off of the assembly line with 120k miles on the clock.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            You do realize that some people like the plaid so much that they have their roofs done as well

            http://www.golfmk6.com/forums/attachment.php?attachmentid=20443&d=1336748276[[IMG]http://www.golfmk6.com/forums/attachment.php?attachmentid=20447&d=1336753199

          • 0 avatar
            raresleeper

            That’s because plaid makes everything “faster”.

            Just ask the cast from the movie “Spaceballs”.

            They’ll tell you about those bad guys who have “gone the plaid”.

            Except maybe my old hand me down Pendleton. There ain’t nothing fast about that old bastard (which still smells of moth balls from being in grandpa’s metal tool cabinet).

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            Really? Plaid never struck me as being very aerodynamic, all those clashing threads crisscrossing each other just appear to increase drag ;-)

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    I’m wondering if the clutch engagement point could be adjusted, possibly at the slave cylinder end.

    I don’t care for the plaid seats at all. I had a 1987 GTI, the seats were kind of a stripey fade which I thought was much nicer. As far as I’m concerned plaid is for boxer shorts.

    GTI = Get Tickets In

    • 0 avatar
      EAF

      I’ve never altered pedal height in a VW, on other makes you can adjust at the clutch pedal assembly itself. More specifically, the rod that connects the clutch master cylinder to the clutch pedal is threaded allowing it to move in or out.

      The concern here is making 100% certain that adjustments do not cause any “dragging” during shifts. That is, when the clutch pedal is released there is no throw out bearing force on the pressure plate. Conversely, when the clutch pedal is depressed the result is a clutch disc that is completely disconnected.

  • avatar
    EAF

    Geo, thanks for turning me back onto the Forte5! I had completely forgotten that it existed! I don’t see many in this area. In a similar shape to this GTI only for less cash, more warranty and better equipped! $20K MSRP = bargain!

    I love the styling of the Kia, a 6 speed manual is available, just wonder as to why they didn’t use the 2.0 turbo as opposed to the 1.6 turbo.

    Civic SI? Forte5 SX? Fiesta ST? The plot thickens.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      I know most folks know me as a GM fan, but I try to pay attention to the stuff that’s out there. The Forte5 is close to the top of my short list of a possible next new car.

    • 0 avatar
      Brian P

      The Forte’s ride and handling are not a match for the Golf. Focus/Fiesta ST are very good, though …

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        I’ve got to believe for the $10 or $12K difference in price, the Kia handles just fine. Or at least the vast majority of drivers would ever notice…

        • 0 avatar
          whynot

          The Forte5 is no where near $10K-12K less than the GTI, unless you are comparing the base Kia to the GTI Autobahn (which nobody would ever cross-shop). The Base GTI is only 3-4K more than the base Forte5 SX, while the Golf S is only about $400 more than the Forte5 EX.

          The biggest problem I had with the Forte5 SX is the awful fuel economy is gets compared to its competitors, even considering it recommends regular fuel and not premium.

  • avatar
    energetik9

    I really like this car…that is all except the 1980’s plaid seats. I think you’d be hard pressed to find a better car in this price range when going for driver fun and bang for the buck. I know there is a significant price jump, but I’ve always like the R32 (or is it just the R now?)

    • 0 avatar
      LeeK

      It’s just R now. The MK V R32 had the narrow angle V6, good for 240 HP. The MK VI Golf R had a turbo 4 with 256 HP. The Golf VII R will have close to 300 HP, finally allowing it to compete with the WRX STi. All wheel drive is standard in all Rs. GTIs are front wheel drive only.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Does the R have some VW AWD system, or is it using an Audi one?

        The R/R32 has always seemed a bit scary to me in terms of “this is a special VW” type repairs.

        • 0 avatar
          LeeK

          It’s a Haldex unit, the same used in the Audis that have transverse mounted engines like the A3 and TT. Volvo uses it, as does the Tiguan and CC. In following R and R32 forums for a few years, I can’t remember much if any discussion on AWD system failures on these cars. Longitudinal engines in VWs (Touareg) and Audis (A4,5,6,7,8, and Q5,7) use Torsen’s system.

  • avatar
    djsyndrome

    I’m fighting with myself between this and a BRZ. On one hand this is far more practical and faster than the BRZ. On the other hand the Subaru will start every morning.

    Also: the Plaid would be great if the accent came in colors other than red. Imagine it in yellow!

    • 0 avatar
      petezeiss

      Some sensory stimuli make you puke. Immediate, involuntary brain-stem level response.

      Plaid and paisley when I see them.

      Diesel and No. 2 fuel oil when I smell them.

      Rap and female country singers when I hear them.

      It’s a dangerous environment out there.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        “female country singers”

        Even the hot ones?

      • 0 avatar
        jrmason

        You no like Dolly?

        How bout her twins?

      • 0 avatar
        petezeiss

        Maybe it’s because I see the real life consequences everywhere I go that the self-inflicted misery of those who follow the baby-makin’, work-it-girl, love-me-up-then-we’ll-worry-bout-the-rent ethos promulgated by those nasally examples of poor childhood nutrition and fundie religion goes a long way toward explaining the success of BHPH and title loan joints.

        Country music and especially its overly fecund female devotees are why I can never go completely racist. It’s only taken a couple of generations for the economically abandoned white working class to turn into jungle bunnies and country music has helped pave the way.

        Edit: I don’t mean to in any way exonerate the males of the class but no one expects anything of most males beyond f*cking and fighting. It’s the utter lack of self-protection and self-respect on the females’ part that totally dispirits me about my own people. Why my own peoples bees so stoopid?

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          So, you’re saying that all that cancels out Carrie Underwood/Faith Hill/Shania Twain hotness?

          No, no it doesn’t

        • 0 avatar
          jrmason

          You can blame Johnny Cash and Hank Williams for starting those trends sir!
          (Two of my favorite country singers of all time)

          BTW, I disagree with blaming the music for the way our culture has turned out. I listened to lots of music growing up with questionable content, but was brought up with good values and never went TOO far over the center line. Gotta live a little.

        • 0 avatar
          hybridkiller

          “… why I can never go completely racist.”

          “… my own people.”

          uh… I think you’re most of the way there.

        • 0 avatar
          an innocent man

          That’s judgmental to a degree I can’t even fathom. Wow. And “jungle bunnies?” Really? And “no one expects anything of most males…?” It must be horrible to go through life filled with such seething anger.

        • 0 avatar

          It took all of 19 hours for the first banning of 2015 to occur. Congrats, Petezeiss!

          • 0 avatar
            hybridkiller

            I’d like to propose the first annual TTAC Triple Crown Of Ignorance Award. For outstanding racism, sexism, and elitism – and all in a single post.

            And the winner is…

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          “Why my own peoples bees so stoopid?”

          I don’t know pete, how do smart educated people develop such a jaundice view of their fellow man?

          Bye, buddy :(

          • 0 avatar
            shaker

            Too bad – I found his posts pretty entertaining. I don’t agree with the wording with this one, though. Maybe “I worry that people of our society are willing to embrace stereotypical lifestyles which lead to misery and ruin, and I find this disturbing.”

            And it all started with plaid seat fabric. :-(

        • 0 avatar
          Dr. Claw

          What in the heck did I just read…

      • 0 avatar
        raresleeper

        Yeah… idk, man.

        There’s no shortage of good lookin’ female country singers these days.

        Pete, you poor soul. Are you having vision problems?

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      Two completely different cars to where your external conditions will decide which to buy. Do you *need* the practicality or not? Do you have ample twisty roads? I love(d) both, though. If we didn’t have 2 other vehicles that pretty easily carried the family, it would have been a battle between the GTI and the WRX. Having great roads here in WV is another advantage for the RWD option. I much preferred the GTI over the WRX except for a bad experience in an MKV GTI that kept gnawing at me. Since I didn’t have much in the way of practicality requirements and the roads here let me actually enjoy the RWD, the BRZ (FR-S, actually) won at the end of the day. It has been a blissful 5 months of ownership. When I made a similar comparison between the just-released NC Miata and MKV GTI in 2006, the only other car in the fleet was a MINI, so we needed some amount of practicality, so the GTI won that time.

    • 0 avatar
      Wheatridger

      Do you seriously fear that any brand-new 2015 model vehicle won’t reliably start every morning, and do so until the battery wears out? Dang, if I was that apprehensive, I wouldn’t leave the house.

      • 0 avatar
        raresleeper

        …and the crowd nods in unison…

      • 0 avatar
        Fordson

        I know…hyperbole can be done well, or it can…be not done well.

      • 0 avatar
        djsyndrome

        I fear as much since the last brand new 21st century VW I had died and then refused to restart several times, including while straddling light rail tracks with an oncoming train and a pregnant wife in the passenger seat.

        Sample size of one, sure, but the letters ‘VW’ never fail to elicit the stink eye from the missus.

        • 0 avatar
          hybridkiller

          I predict your post will attain legend status among the VW reliability police. You and your family will henceforth be the poster children for VW’s crimes against humanity.

          So let’s summarize:

          Lesson #1. Never, EVER buy a VW (again) because they suck (still)

          Lesson #2. Never, EVER willingly bring your car to a halt ON the RR tracks

          • 0 avatar
            jrmason

            Lesson#3 Don’t drive around crossing guards putting yourself and family in danger

            Lesson#4 If 3 doesn’t apply don’t make up stories in an effort to turn your opinion into a disillusioned truth.

          • 0 avatar
            hybridkiller

            hey, be nice now – this is the internet, and people can’t just make stuff up here…

            (I guess I had better add the SARCASM/ before some bonehead shows up to tell me how naive I am…)

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            *snicker* everyone knows you can’t put stuff on the internet that isn’t true, it’s illegal, just like TV

        • 0 avatar
          Nedmundo

          Our VW died while I was doing 65 mph in the left lane of Admiral Wilson Boulevard in Camden, New Jersey. If you know the area, you’ll know that’s not where you want to be stranded. It was a simple fix — a line had simply detached from the fuel pump — but that experience and several other issues with our Jetta GLX have made me extremely reluctant to consider another VW.

          The new GTI, however, might hit the mark so decisively that I’ll at least have to give it a test drive when the time comes. If the reliability continues improving, maybe I’d give it a go. Right now, however, I’d probably go with a Focus ST or WRX in this segment.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    I could be wrong but in the US I think you only get the plaid seats on the lower versions of the GTI, thought I read somewhere if you want the sunroof no plaid for you.

    • 0 avatar
      LeeK

      The Autobahn package provides black leather seats. The lower trims of the GTI in the US get the cloth plaid seating. I’ve always found the plaid to be curious, as the original Mk I Rabbit GTI had either red or dark blue interiors with a striped pattern. I’m not exact sure when a US customer could get a plaid pattern on the seats, but I first noticed it being heavily marketed as a GTI legacy in the 2006 Mk V.

      • 0 avatar
        th009

        The original Westmoreland GTI indeed had the striped seats. But the plaid seats have been available on nearly every other version, including the original Wolfsburg-built GTI, introduced in 1975. My brother’s 1980 Mk1 had plaid seats as well (grey and red pattern, if I recall correctly …).

      • 0 avatar
        Zoom

        In the US, S trim is plaid, SE and Autobahn are leather.

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        While I prefer the plaid to black leather, I wouldn’t say I love them; just preferable to turning the interior into a cave. Why doesn’t VW offer brown leather or a two-tone like what we saw in the 300 review? It’s too bad that you have to take black if you want certain optional features.

      • 0 avatar
        bk_moto

        The U.S. version of the Mk1 GTI was a poor imitation of the Euro version. At that time the cars were being built in Westmoreland and using local (i.e. USA) suppliers for interior materials which is why you see the same terrible US-style fabrics in those early ’80s VWs as you would have seen in early ’80s American cars.

        The US version of the Mk1 GTI was a watered down version of the Euro GTI. The Mk1 Euro GTI did indeed have plaid seats.

  • avatar
    TMA1

    I’m surprised to see so much hate for the plaid seats. In the US they’re only available on the lowest trim level. The leather seats are available for anyone who wants them (unless you’re Canadian, apparently).

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    So will the GTI have 250 hp by 2020?

    • 0 avatar
      TurboisBlackMagic

      The MK7 Dyno’s at 220HP and 266TQ… to the wheels. So it kinda has 250HP right now. VW seriously underrates power figures.

      http://vwboost.com/content.php?5283-HS-Tuning-2015-MKVII-Volkswagen-GTI-stock-and-APR-Stage-I-(plus-intake)-before-and-after-1-4-mile-and-dyno-resutls

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      Acceleration stats suggest it already does.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      Your just an ECU tune away from 300 HP easy. Yesterday I helped upgrade the intake on my brother’s Golf R running the APR Stage I kit. It embarrasses Camaros on the track and walks my 350Z with ease. People understatement what this car can do, especially with the R’s AWD and 14″ brakes. Its a serious track machine that is also a perfectly usable daily driver.

  • avatar
    Buckshot

    I don´t care much about the retro plaid, golfball gearstick and the outer design.
    But you can´t deny that it´s a capable car.

  • avatar
    Joss

    Please tell me GTI is avsilable in more than red, yellow, black & white.

    I would have taken orange with amber turn signals over red on plaid.

    I don’t think there’s yellow. How about gris & plaid for your 40k?

  • avatar

    I like the car, hated the writing style of this article. A clear and concise write up that efficiently conveys the author’s opinion is all tat is needed. This was not it.

    • 0 avatar
      petezeiss

      Yep, a lot more wind up than pitch to his writing style. Ronnie drowns you in a sea of tangents, Tim keeps you waiting till you have to use the john.

      But the way he presents sales data is much appreciated.

    • 0 avatar
      VW16v

      Confusing at times, and lack of knowledge. But, better then nothing when you love reading about cars.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Tim seems to alternate between being very head-on with sales data and occasional articles, and getting really flowery with reviews. There were too many unnecessary descriptors that didn’t add up to much at the end of the article, unfortunately.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Nice review, Tim. I think it is very well-written and links in nicely to the Golf reviews you recently penned. Those who want the most immediate impressions distilled down into only a few paragraphs at the expense of thoroughness can look to Car and Driver. They are excellent at it. I personally appreciated the extra detail, and I thought this review flowed well for its length.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Those…seats…are…hideous

  • avatar
    50merc

    “switched the driver’s heated seat on full blast” Is there a half-blast setting?

    • 0 avatar
      Turbo Is Black Magic

      There is 33% blast, 66% blast, and full blast.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Actually, the settings are 1/3 blast, 2/3 blast, and full blast. My ’02 Golf had 5spd butt heat, this is a step backwards.

      • 0 avatar
        shaker

        Isn’t that what Turbo just wrote? (the repeating decimals are assumed in both cases). :-)

        Regardless, heated *cloth* seats are a welcome thing if one doesn’t like leather!

        Even if they are plaid…

        Edit: 50merc: I got your “cheeky” inference, there. (sent via my “half-fast” Internet provider).

  • avatar
    natrat

    strange i just read a review of a car that apparently has no faults, must be 100% accurate cuz i read it on the internets

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    I also enjoyed my weekend behind the wheel of this great driver, but thinking about its long range reliability snapped me back into realizing I would actually never buy the thing!

    • 0 avatar
      Counterpoint

      So lease it instead.

      • 0 avatar
        hreardon

        Lease rates on the GTI are abysmal. You can pick up a decently equipped 328 for the numbers VW charges on an S model GTI.

        • 0 avatar
          hybridkiller

          “You can pick up a decently equipped 328 for the numbers VW charges on an S model GTI.”

          I always buy my cars outright so I know very little about leasing, but I’m guessing that even though the monthly payments may be similar, there would be a substantial difference on the back end of the deal, no?

          • 0 avatar
            bk_moto

            A big factor in the lease payment is the projected residual value at the end of the lease. VW’s are not known for their residual/resale value so that can make a lease unattractive unless the manufacturer’s credit arm elects to artificially prop up the residual value to keep the lease payment low.

            The back end of the deal should be irrelevant, you would never lease a car and then buy it out at the end of the lease (unless the car is worth so much more than the residual that you can buy it, flip it, and still make money). If you like the car and want to keep it forever, turn the lease car in at the end of the lease and buy the next one.

  • avatar
    TAP

    Nice review. You did mention the shortcomings of the camera, infotainment and rear seat room, so this GTI is certainly not without its faults.

    • 0 avatar
      hreardon

      I think the infotainment will be remedied with the model year changeover this summer: VW has announced their 2nd generation infotainment systems which replace the 1st gen models. In the case of the Golf and GTI this means it goes from a 5.8″ to 6.5″ screen with higher resolution and faster processor.

      VW’s modular approach applies to the infotainment systems as well (MIB) – the goal being that they can much more quickly update them. In the case of the Golf/GTI it means a two year cycle versus 5-7 year, which is a massive improvement for a company that took 20 years to figure out that Americans want big gulp cupholders in their cars.

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    “The rearview camera is easily washed out and offers little assistance at night.”

    wait. what?
    what does this mean?
    my mks rear cam is fab at night, wide and very bright…when it is really important. why would this one wash out and be useless at night?
    not sounding real good.

    • 0 avatar
      shaker

      Maybe there is a software issue that could be the cause of the camera issue (Edit: Problem).

      Since there is (to my knowledge) no aperture-gizmo that could fit in these tiny cameras, they rely on software to compensate for the difference between daylight and nighttime illumination levels (a way to electronically adjust the camera sensor array).

      The back-up camera in my Malibu works well in daylight (except when getting direct/reflected sunlight) and at night (the reverse lights give it about a 15 ft range).

  • avatar
    bufguy

    Love Veedubs…My 81 Scirocco still going stron

  • avatar
    baconator

    Just test-drove a manual-transmission GTI as well as a base “Launch Edition” with the 170hp AE888 / 5-speed manual. The GTI was exactly as fun as Tim Cain says. The base 1.8T felt more upscale than its $18k price tag, but strangely sluggish compared to my Passat with the same AE888 motor. The gap in acceleration between base Golf and GTI felt far larger than the 40-horsepower difference on paper; if it turns out that GTIs are 240-250 horses at the flywheel I would not be surprised.

    The GTI does feel very refined, to the point that it would be very hard to justify splashing out an additional $5-10k for the Audi A3. It’s not *quite* a GT car – it’s got some starch in its springs, and runs out of wheel travel with a loud crash if you’re really flooring it in a bumpy corner – but it’s comfortable enough for all-day road trips. I also thought the exhaust note was trying too hard. It’s not as loud as, say, a Fiat Abarth, but it’s got the Abarth’s hard-edge rasp to convince you that it’s really “sporty.” I’d also verify Tim Cain’s impression that the steering has some squishy imprecision, particularly just off-center. Other than those complaints, though, it was an easy car to get excited about, especially at a $25-$26k (USD) price point.

    This car will be the wife’s daily driver; we’re cross-shopping with Miata and BMW 228. The 228 turns out to be more difficult to find than an honest Congressman – two of five dealers we’ve contacted didnt even have one. I’m sure BMW will refer to this car five years from now as a “niche vehicle” for “enthusiasts,” but it’s hard to sell a car in big numbers if dealers aren’t even stocking them. The ones they *are* stocking are optioned to the gills, and that car makes much more sense at $33k than $43k. We may end up with a GTI by default.

    • 0 avatar
      natrat

      i tested out a base 228 and i was underwhelmed aside from the motor, but even that felt too smooth if thats possible. I suppose the sport variant would help but the steering ratio felt slow, not much feeling of connection to the road and it was floaty boaty.
      My gfs 06 gti with 48 k is experiencing the beginning of mechatronic failure that best case is 2500 bucks and worst case the tranny is going and game over so that does give me pause about jumping into a new vag product w/ dsg. The other issue is she doesnt need to be crashing over every pot hole on her trip to work and wrecking a wheel every few months so maybe something with more compliance is the answer but she loves the gti “module” as she calls it. So maybe the adaptive suspension

    • 0 avatar
      natrat

      gti with the adjustable suspension would be nice but getting close to golf R money, i tested out a 228 and it had nice smooth motor and slick 8 speed auto but it was floaty boaty w/ slow ratio steering so you would have to get the sports variant for an extra 5k or whatever

      • 0 avatar
        baconator

        The GTI we drove had the non-adjustable suspension, and I thought it was totally acceptable. It rides very well, and is probably stiff enough for autocross if you were just going for regional competition on street tires. I like the GTI at the $25k base price, not at the $32k price point of an “Autobahn” model.

        Sports package on a 228 is $2300 list, which seems worth it to get the vastly-better sport seats. That’s literally the only option on BMW’s list that strikes me as worth the money. I continue to be offended that metallic paint is free on a $15k car but somehow requires another $550 on a $30k car.

  • avatar
    John R

    Everytime I read something sbout one of these I am reminded how much car a person can buy for the cost of one of these.

    I get the appeal. It’s just not for me. Especially when there are other options out there with a proper drivetrain and more power for similar money.

    • 0 avatar
      energetik9

      Personally this car isn’ for me….but I do like it. I think the appeal here is that it is a good all around car for the dollar. Nothing outstanding, but good all around. That being said, I wold be very leery about reliability. I remember VW being rated poorly a few years ago and not sure that’s been remedied. If it were me, I would strongly look at a Mazda3, WRX, or a few others, but honestly, the only one I would probably buy would be the R if I were looking at a VW.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      I think the GTI is a lot of car for the money. At least in the US, you have to want a lot of options to break $30k. So for less than $30k, you get a quick, practical car that is road trip comfortable with an interior most reviewers claim wouldn’t embarrass a $40k car.

      What else can you get (new) for similar money that offers such superior value?

      I hope the “proper drivetrain and more power for similar money argument” isn’t the “why buy x when you can have a Mustang v6/ecoboost” reasoning…

    • 0 avatar
      davefromcalgary

      Given the transmission issues with the Verano, I have some regrets about not going with the GLI Edition 30 or the GTI.

    • 0 avatar
      05lgt

      John R, I’m right there with you. I went on Edmunds for some reference and found some other 6 speed manuals within 10% of average transaction price: at -10% is the Focus ST, at +10% is the Genesis Coupe, and just because someone feels it’s low class I have to point out the EcoBoost Mustang is within 5%. I’d stretch the budget and get the WRX though, the roads are rarely dry enough to get the most out of FWD here.

  • avatar
    A Caving Ape

    This thing is seriously testing my “only buy used for cash” policy.

    Fortunately, a few minutes with a VW salesman steered me right back out the door. Seriously, even Joe Craigslist down in Twohoursawayville who never picks up his phone and has a camera with six pixels is better at talking me into actually buying a car than anyone I’ve met at a dealership.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      And that’s before you even consider what you are buying. VW dealers are worse than those of just about any other make at forcing you to buy whatever configuration the dealer enjoys selling. In my area right now there’s exactly one four-door GTI Autobahn. It’s black with no Performance Pack but with the Lighting Pack. If you want another configuration, be prepared to travel — ain’t nobody going to help you get it.

    • 0 avatar
      hybridkiller

      This is a car primarily for people who, for whatever reason, have already decided they want a GTI before they even get to the dealership. For them, the only discussion with the salesman is, do you have one equipped the way I want at a price I’m willing to pay.

      These aren’t the droids you’re looking for…

      • 0 avatar
        hreardon

        This is a good point – and a big problem that VW has with the Golf brand in general. They’re moving a consistent number of these per month but VW has had a hard time expanding the appeal of the lineup.

        VW’s biggest problem is playing up the “hot hatch” moniker. They’d be wise to tone that down (the hoons who want a hot hatch already know about it), and instead play up the capabilities and ‘grown-upness’ of the GTI so as to attract the more affluent, older crowd (30-40 somethings).

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      “This thing is seriously testing my “only buy used for cash” policy.”

      To give you more new car buying fuel, I believe that if someone wants a GTI, they should always buy new. It can be difficult to find a responsible adult driven, service records complete, non-modified, GTI for sale used. It’s not impossible, but it can be difficult. I sold my quickly to an out of state buyer, for above book value, because of that.

      • 0 avatar
        hreardon

        Oustanding point, bball. Unless I knew the previous owner or he/she was a 40-something engineer with meticulous record keeping and obvious visible evidence that the car was kept in pristine condition I would steer clear of a used one.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          Especially a model with the DSG transmission. Lord knows if/when someone changed the fluid if they don’t have records. It’s very possible someone pulled the pin, and the used buyer is driving the grenade around town.

      • 0 avatar
        hybridkiller

        “It can be difficult to find a responsible adult driven, service records complete, non-modified, GTI for sale used.”

        This btw is the reason why VW is never going to offer that 100K factory warranty that so many people are suggesting they should.

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        I know some people claim they’ve had long term, rock solid reliability from VWs, and I don’t doubt that they’re actually out there (statistical flukes), but I’d not buy another VW that did not come with a genuine German, VW FACTORY trained mechanic/technician with a full set of tools & diagnostic equipment living in the trunk.

        • 0 avatar
          Fordson

          How’s he going to hold your hand and mop your brow from inside the trunk? The pass-through maybe?

          C’mon – this VW stuff gets kind of old after awhile.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      “Seriously, even Joe Craigslist down in Twohoursawayville who never picks up his phone and has a camera with six pixels is better at talking me into actually buying a car than anyone I’ve met at a dealership.”

      This is depressing because it’s probably true. Most people that spend the time to go to a dealer for a test drive want to like what they are driving. All the dealer staff has to do is not interfere, but somehow they manage.

  • avatar
    SilverCoupe

    When we test drove cars to replace my wife’s decade old WRX last year, what many people like about the GTI my wife did not – she thought it felt too large and grown up and refined, and not quirky enough. She ended up going with a 2012 Mini Cooper S (manual, of course) instead.

    The plaid seats remind me too much of my first car, a 1975 Scirocco. If a car is going to have the seats of a Scirocco, it should at least have the swoopier styling of one.

  • avatar
    wmba

    In Canada, the GTI is well-overpriced compared to the A3. I’m not sure why, but the 5 door Autobahn at $32,900, plus $1100 (!) for leather plus $1400 for DSG comes to $35,400, while the base A3 2.0t AWD is $36,100. It already has leather, DSG, ten extra horsepower and wheels that don’t cause me acute gastric pain to gaze upon. Satnav is a further $700 on the GTI.

    Rear seat room is pathetic in both, so that’s a wash. For $700 more to get AWD, it’s a no brainer, especially as the honking sound tube/speaker is missing from the A3, as are the two-dollar GTI sun visors. Of course, you also don’t get the underachieving rearview camera. Gasp, you have to actually look where you’re going.

    The only problem is trying to find such an A3. The dealer stock is loaded with up to 3 levels of LED bling and “aluminum” inlays.

    I much preferred driving the AWD A3 to the GTI six speed manual, which I found obstructive to find the 5/6 plane. Of course, having a smug salesman with me in the GTI who seemed to truly believe it was the world’s best car, versus being left alone in the A3 to get on with it might have had something to do with my perception.

    • 0 avatar
      hybridkiller

      That’s the problem with trying to do price comparisons between a “nicely equipped” model and a unicorn-like stripper model from a more upscale brand – it’s always an exercise in futility.

    • 0 avatar
      LeeK

      I really don’t understand the “pathetic” comment about rear seat room in the Golf. I’m 6’3″, my sons are 6’2″ and 6’4″ and with me driving they fit behind me with nary a complaint and a couple of inches of headroom to boot. I’ve had much worse in other vehicles I’ve owned and believe the Golf to be rather remarkable in its class. But of course, that is just my opinion.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        LeeK-

        You are 100% correct. While it is not a stretch limo back there, the Golf/GTI has more real world space than just about every car in it’s class. It’s better than some midsizers too (Chevy Malibu and Chrysler 200!).

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      “In Canada, the GTI is well-overpriced compared to the A3.”

      Given that they’re mechanical siblings I think the similar pricings reasonable, VW wouldn’t want the GTi outselling the A3.

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    There’s so much ill will towards VW here. You’d think that VW was the company that installed shrapnel-producing air bags in its cars (like BMW, Honda and Toyota), or lied about its fuel economy by 25% (Kia, Hyundai), or saw its products recalled more than 70 times in a year (GM). Instead, we all have to hear about about their old Dasher that rusted, or a window that fell down in some New Beetle fifteen years ago. Get over it! You’re not contributing anything new or meaningful or amusing, so let it go. If you want to pore over reliability reports, Mr. Koresh’s true delta site is a better place for that (with fine auto reviews, too).

    After sorting through all that random, repetitious noise, it’s good to see that some folks also appreciate a car suitable for all purposes, with comfort, speed and practicality. I’m on my fourth GTI of a lifetime, and ’09, and I just might keep it forever. It’s the last one with direct audio controls, was to operate on the fly. If I want “infotainment” or navigation, that’s what my iPhone’s for.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      There is a difference between ill will and suspecting impending doom.

      2009 is a good year for GTIs. You have the EA888 instead of the EA113. Many of the MKV issues were sorted out by then too. I wish you luck, but the subframe “thunk” and weird electrical gremlins were too much for me to continue to drive a GTI.

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    Thanks- I was aware of the merits of the TSI engine, and ’09 matched that up with the Premium 7 stereo, which sounds so much better than the Dynaudio in my ’13 Tiguan and skips the frustrating touchscreen for analog-style controls. That make it the sweet spot in used GTIs, for me. There’s nothing in the new ones I would miss, except possibly for the limited-slip differential and the enlarged sunroof. But the Mk V model marks a height of VW’s ambitions for the car; the MkVIs that replaced it were redesigned for cheaper production cost.

    And the plaid works just fine for me. I like a little color on the seats, where most of today;s cars are so drab. And I hate bright bling on the dash, where it’s dangerously distracting.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      I really like the MKV as well. It has everything I wanted but nothing I didn’t. The MKVI didn’t offer me anything better than the MKV either. Especially since the 2008.5 on MKVs have the same engine. I love the plaid and pity anyone who hates it.

      My wife and I had a MKV GTI and a Focus ST at the same time. As much as the two get compared, I find them to be two completely different cars. The GTI is a swiss army knife and the ST is a claw hammer. I wish I could build a FrankenFocus GTI.

  • avatar

    Love the car but not a big fan of the interior. I think its just a bit above average compares to other cars in the segment. VW is not at the cutting edge of interior appearance and quality with the Golf as they were a few years ago.

    Although the GTI has nice touches such as the plaid seats, the shifter and the steering wheel, I don’t see why no one comments on the econo dark gray dash and plastics that make up most of the interior (it’s not true black), also the faux gloss carbon fiber trim that is the basis of most of the driver’s side of the dash is truly cheap looking.

    Not to monition that trim offset where the AC controls area and the touch screen where the upper dash connects with the lower. There has got to be a more elegant way that this could have been done.

    You have to wonder if VW is dumbing down the VW interiors so as not to compete with Audi.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    Interesting. The VW dealer here in Las Vegas refuses to stock anything with a manual transmission. (Same with Subaru, FWIW.) Neither will they order you one, even with a fat deposit.

    I’m glad to see VW still has no control over its dealers.


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