By on December 30, 2015

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As my personal GTI is powered by gasoline, you might think this will be the first Volkswagen story you have read in the past three months that doesn’t mention Dieselgate.

You’d be wrong.

When Volkswagen admitted that their emission rigging scandal went beyond diesels — that there were “irregularities” with the reported CO2 emissions on some of their gas-powered vehicles in Europe — I became somewhat nervous. After all, my six-speed manual GTI zips to 60 mph in 5.75 seconds, hits 106 mph in third gear, has a 152 mph top speed, and yet gets over 30 mpg. Is that actually possible in a car with a 210 horsepower motor and clean exhaust? I feared that I would receive a letter like this from Volkswagen:

Your 2015 GTI has been identified as one needing minor modifications to its engine and emission system to meet EPA and CARB standards. Some owners may notice a small decrease in performance after the turbocharger is removed, but you will get to keep the cool wheels and GTI badges so no one will notice. Until your appointment, please do not allow your car to idle for prolonged periods of time near small children or pets.

It’s no fun being a Volkswagen car owner right now. I’ve had two friends look at my car and say, “That ain’t a diesel, is it? HAR-HAR!” But, then again, I’m in the auto journo biz and devour every story about the scandal. Perhaps most Volkswagen owners with gas engines have no such cares.

This 2015 two-door “S” model is the least expensive GTI available with an MSRP of $25,605. If you want leather, sunroof or navigation, you have to opt for the Autobahn model — then the price tops $30,000. In the odd world of Volkswagen option and trim packages, only the base model includes the cool cloth tartan plaid interior, one of the GTI’s signature features.

I hate to sound like all other auto writers slobbering over the GTI, but the little 210 horsepower hatchback is an amazing combination of performance and practicality. My wife and I have done 800-mile days in the car in total comfort with nary a complaint from our backs. With the rear seats folded down, we can haul almost anything our mid-sized SUV can, so we no longer have to drive to Lowe’s while staring at a fuel economy display reporting 17 mpg. Racing up and down the curvy Catalina Highway on Mount Lemmon in the GTI is a hoot, even when the hatch is stuffed with gardening implements.

mk7 golf gti plaid seats

The stick shift GTI is EPA rated at 25 mpg city and 34 mpg highway. After 10,150 miles, we’ve averaged 31.1 mpg with 70 percent of our driving spent on the highway, typically at 5 to 10 mph over the speed limit. In 100-percent local driving, we see around 27 mpg.

In my first long-term report, I noted some clunkiness in the transmission. Coming out of a Honda S2000, I knew no other gearbox could measure up to its slick six-speed manual, but there was definitely something wrong with the GTI’s 5-to-6 shifts. Fortunately, the transmission must have just needed breaking in because the issue disappeared at around 5,000 miles. The recalcitrant driver’s seat belt also seemed to fix itself.

Living in Tucson with its terrible roads, I thought we would see some pothole-induced squeaks and rattles by now, but the GTI is as solid as Day One. There are some minor imperfections in the paint and the car does seem much more susceptible to picking up paint chips than our other vehicles, however.

There is a fly in the infotainment: The iPod interface often has a mind of its own. Initially, I had zero connectivity and had to replace the dead proprietary VW MDI cable. Now it defaults to the first song alphabetically in the device upon restarting the system, no matter what song was playing when I last turned it off. I have thus had to listen to the first few bars of “Adios Mexico” about a hundred times. Bluetooth connectivity works flawlessly on all of our phones and devices.

For the recently released 2016 GTI, Volkswagen may have fixed this issue with the addition of an all-new infotainment center with universal USB connectivity along with a larger 6.5-inch touchscreen and standard rearview camera. Another change for 2016 is an upgrade to the optional Driver Assistance Package to include blind spot monitoring and parking assist. VW increased 2016 GTI pricing from between $90 and $210, depending on trim. It’s also pledged to increase availability of the hot hatch in 2016.

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In November, Volkswagen offered its U.S. dealers a $2,000 “Don’t Panic, This Will All Blow Over” loyalty incentive on all models. Even though the GTI was in short supply, Volkswagen dealers were selling out of fear at the time and most therefore passed the trunk money directly to their eligible customers. You could find 2015 “S” models like mine with an MSRP of $25,605 being advertised in the low $22,000 range, a tremendous deal. (Though, here in Arizona, the actual asking price would be about $2,000 higher after adding the $499 documentation fee, a “Desert Protection Package,” nitrogen-infused tires and other useless items designed to clog up the negotiation process. Perhaps one positive side of the emission scandal may be that some crappy Volkswagen dealers will go away.)

You might think that the bad publicity combined with the incentive offer would suppress the resale value of GTIs — but that doesn’t appear to be the case. A look at Autotrader shows that mine would likely fetch around $21,000. That’s not too shabby after eight months and 10,000 miles. Recent Manheim wholesale auction reports show 2015 GTIs in above average condition are bringing between $19,800 and $24,570, the higher priced ones being the upscale SE and Autobahn editions.

As Volkswagen suffers, the GTI keeps soldering along as one of the best, all-around sporty car values out there. It would be a shame if the company’s current crisis would somehow impact the content or future of this fun vehicle.

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71 Comments on “2015 Volkswagen GTI Long-Term Update: 10,150 Miles of Fun...”


  • avatar
    whynot

    I really wish VW made an S w/ sunroof trim in the US for the GTI like they do with the standard Golf, or I suppose an SE with plaid seats. The fairly large sunroof (for a compact) really brightens/opens up the interior, and of course if you go for the GTI you got to get the plaid seats.

  • avatar
    JMII

    With an APR tune these cars are insanely fast and as mentioned they are already really quick as is. My brother’s Golf R and another GTI at the track have various APR mods and they easily leave my 350Z way behind. It is a tad embarrassing when your RWD sports car is eaten up by a 4 seat FWD grocery getter hatchback.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      You don’t even have to get that sporty. I still vividly remember getting caught out by an Avalon in a 2 to 1 lane stoplight sprint in my 04 6MT Touring. VWs don’t sound anywhere near as good though.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    I like the GTI but would have to cover those plaid “kilt” seats with something solid.

    If the new Golf in all of its iterations proves relatively reliable, especially over the long term, it could usher in a new era for VW America, even with ongoing diesel-gate.

    The GTJ has little competition.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      I dig the plaid seats, but just get leather instead.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      No way, gotta have the plaid seats if you have a GTI…heritage!

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      I too hate the plaid seats and would buy an Autobahn.

      The GTI occupies the same place in my car thinking that the Infiniti G37 used to. It’s a capable and versatile car that checks a lot of boxes, but for some reason it just doesn’t quite inspire me to WANT it. With my habit of tight parking, I probably should have bought a new GTI instead of a 7-year-old, 199-inch Lexus barge for about the same price. And I’ve thought of buying a GTI in the past too. I just don’t want it enough, and I’m not even quite sure why.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Good to hear another positive report on this car. It drives well, commutes well, has heavenly seats and a reasonable asking price. The only thing holding it back is long-term reliability and it will be some time before a verdict can be rendered on that. Even as a VW owner with 73K trouble free miles on his car, VW’s reliability reputation is the specter I cannot quite ignore in order to turn my Sportwagen in sooner than I should for a new GTI. That, and the used car field has some strong late model temptations for new GTI money.

    • 0 avatar
      Fred

      That is basically what happened to me and old A3. Even tho I had few problems the fear of future troubles and the expensive timing belt change had me trading in at 100,000 miles.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        I’ll probably be out of the Sportwagen right around 100K as well. Partly because of maintenance concerns beyond that mileage (who knows how these hold up after 100K), and partly because 8 years of the same car will have me craving some variety. After 5 1/2 years, the latter is already becoming an issue and I’m having to exert some self-control for the sake of financial prudence.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          It really is around 5-6 years, isn’t it? That always seems to be when I get the itch to buy something new as my primary personal car.

          1992
          1998
          2003
          2009
          2015

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            It’s mildly frustrating since a 5 year trade-in cycle on a new car hits you pretty hard on the depreciation. If I want to scratch the Five Year Itch, I would have to find a 5-6 yr old car and keep it until year 10 or 11. Not sure I’d trust a 10-year old GTI. But Infiniti G37 or Lexus IS350? That might work.

            Hmm, I may now have to build a spreadsheet to see how those costs pan out…

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Now you’re seeing part of why my most recent purchase for this role was a low-mile 2008 LS460…

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @dal

            You’ve got to roll it for ten, IMO. Just have several different cars and turn them over at different times.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      Autoblog has had dropping out AC, interior sqeaks and parts falling off, along with the rodents that love the plastic sheething that covers the electric wiring. They enjoy the car too.

    • 0 avatar
      snakebit

      My only reservation about Golfs and GTIs is the high amount of wind and road noise at highway speed. I’ve had late model Mustangs and dear-departed XR4Ti with cloth seats, and would have no problem longterm with the plaid GTI upholstery as far as wear or comfort. Moneywise, at purchase time, I’d ask myself what pre-owned 3-Series coupe could I get for the same or near money at the new GTI. I have no longevity issues with VW, anymore than Europeans do, and they buy them in droves.

      • 0 avatar
        hreardon

        Surprised to hear your comment on wind and road noise, snakebit. While the GTI isn’t as quiet as our new Grand Cherokee at highway speeds, I find it to be very well insulated from wind and road noise overall. Certainly far, far better than my wife’s previous 2012 CRV which I found to be annoyingly loud on the highway. Also better than the Outback we recently drove as well.

        • 0 avatar
          30-mile fetch

          This comment surprised me too. They aren’t luxury car quiet, but for the price range and vehicle class they are quite good. Road noise has driven me away from a number of cars like Honda and Mazda, but I find these VWs very acceptable.

          • 0 avatar
            hreardon

            In fact, I have a decibel meter app on my phone and I recorded some numbers from several cars I had extensive seat time in this year. The GTI averages 73db at 65mph, a Q5 2.0T that I had as a rental earlier this year was 71db, 2015 A4 2.0T Quattro was 72db and our JGC Altitude with big honkin’ tires comes in at 68db.

            Granted, not exactly a scientific study, but it bears out my original hunch that the Q5 and A4 didn’t seem to be much quieter than the new GTI.

          • 0 avatar
            snakebit

            Part of my experience with and dislike for the road noise is a 600 mile round trip I have to take 4 times a year to Montreal from the States, when while it’s not really loud, but present and a little annoying to hear. Not so much wind noise as tire noise from the car and ambient noise from adjacent cars on the highway. To be sure, it won’t stop me from shopping for a new GTI next year, because there are several very nice features I like that the present car has that I expect the new model will have, as well. But I am comparing the noise level I find in our current GTI to one BMW coupe in the driveway that is quiet even though it has frameless front windows.

      • 0 avatar
        Steve Lynch

        There is some road noise on my GTI, but wind noise is minimal, probably in part due to having no sunroof. All sunroofs emit some wind noise, even on our very quiet ML350.

  • avatar
    nels0300

    I’ve always wanted a GTI or GLI and almost pulled the trigger, but a rear facing child seat didn’t fit behind me in the driver’s seat.

    Even after reading the VW forums with all of the carbon build up, water pump leaks/failures, I ALMOST took the plunge.

    Curious to see if they did anything to address the carbon build up, I guess time will tell.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      Child seat didn’t fit in the GLI either? The GLI would be more tempting if it preserved the interior polish of the GTI, but I thought it felt cheap enough inside to be a turnoff. Considering it is a FWD sedan with handling that doesn’t seem to approach the new GTI, your SE V6 Camry is honestly a better option in a lot of ways.

      • 0 avatar
        nels0300

        It barely fit in the GLI and I really wanted the GTI because I like hatchbacks. Like you, I also found the interior to be better.

        The Camry wasn’t even on my radar because I didn’t think you could get a new V6 Camry for $25K (what I was going to spend on the GTI). When I found out how much cash Toyota was putting on Camry hoods, I checked it out.

        Both the GLI and GTI look better, inside and out, and drive better than the Camry, but I’m at least not paranoid about the Camry. I’m really not a fan of the Camry’s interior, especially compared to even the GLI.

        I’ve been following VWs since I was in college and almost ended up with a 2001 Jetta 1.8T as my first new car. Got a Protege instead because I wasn’t ready to buy the idea that “VWs are so much better now” (yes, people were saying this back in 2001). We all know how that turned out.

        I still like VWs and probably would’ve owned a few by now had they been at least average in reliability.

        • 0 avatar
          Wheatridger

          That’s a sad tale, nels. You came to the brink, looked and looked again, and just couldn’t take the leap.

          Aren’t there worse things in life than paying $500-1000 per year in car maintenance? Like sitting in an interior you don’t like, and wondering about other cars that drive better, but you couldn’t risk ownint.

          I know how fine my GTI feels and and how perfect the interior, the driving position and handling are. I also know how it can cost me — I just spent $650 to have the intake cleaned from severe carbon deposits. That’s a bummer, but it’s also about half of what I saved by not needing a timing belt change, my usual 80K expense. Now seven model years old, my MkV drives like new, and I’d happily drive it for another 80K.

          If you can’t stand repairs (or you can’t find a trusty independent VW service expert), just buy new, in warranty. You pay twice as much in depreciation as I will in repairs, but that’s the foolproof choice.

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            You may have missed the part about a child seat not fitting behind the driver. Been there, done that, it makes driving the car hell and is not an acceptable compromise.

            Otherwise, he purchased a nearly bulletproof rocketship sedan with an outstanding V6 powertrain, a chassis that is no GTI but handles better than most will admit, and confidence that his car is statistically less likely to burden his busy daily life as a working parent with maintenance and repair needs.

            Sometimes clouds have silver linings.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            If you can’t fit a car seat, you can’t be my car. I’m surprised a GTI doesn’t fit a car seat though. I can get one in a Mustang.

          • 0 avatar
            nels0300

            Well, the rear facing car seat didn’t fit without the front seat moved up too much. 30 mile sums it up well below. I’m sure I’ll look at VW again when the Camry gets replaced.

            Who knows, maybe dieselgate will end up being a good thing and the shakeup will change the culture to the point where problems like carbon build up, water pump issues, etc. don’t go ignored for years and years.

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      I think they fixed the carbon buildup on the 2.0 a year or so ago, but not on the new 1.8 or 1.4. Buyers of the mainstream models deserve carbon buildup.

      • 0 avatar
        Wheatridger

        The carbon problem is a bummer because it’s novel, caused by the DI engines that most every maker is using now. I’m not aware of the relative rates of carbon cleanings needed by other brands, but I’ve read of Hondas and MINIs being affected, too.

        But how big is the problem in context? Every VW, Audi, SAAB, Subaru or NSU I’ve owned has needed a major engine job at 80-100,000 miles. The NSU, like its Beetle ancestors, needed an engine replacement ($900). My Squareback needed rebuilding (around $700). The SAAB blew a head gasket, ($1500, with TB job). And every one of them needed its timing belt replaced, for about a grand.

        Last month, my friendly local indy VW expert scoured away the second-worst case of carbon buildup from my ’09 GTI, at 90,000 miles. The bill came to $700. That’s well in line with those previous turn-of-the-odometer charges, and with this car, no TB job is necessary.

        So carbon buildup isn’t the worst catastrophe. Now my car gets about three mpg more in highway cruise, and the misfires and hesitation at low throttle/cold engine are gone. Even if I keep the car to have it cleaned again at 180,000K, it’ll be a good investment.

  • avatar
    deanst

    I really don’t understand the popularity of the color white. Perhaps if you’re getting a panel van or a Toyota, but for a sporty car? Or is it just a southern U.S. thing?

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      Because heat, and racecar.

      • 0 avatar
        snakebit

        Why white? Because this car is driven in the sunbelt(Tucson, AZ) and it’s hot much of the year, and white demonstrably reflects, not absorbs the heat, the same reason Florida and California have a preponderance of white cars, many with full aftermarket window tinting.

        Steve Lynch, I have a question. Why do buyers continue to accept paying(in your example) a $499 ‘documentation’fee. Many would not accept the old additional dealer markup fee above MSRP, but willingly accept what amounts to the same thing under a new name. That is pure profit, no cost to the dealer, for something that’s built already into the price of the car, especially when the buyer pays the marked price of the new or used car. I have told sales managers I’d walk away at the beginning of the negotiation, before seeing a purchase agreement, if it appeared and remained on the agreement. In one case, it was scratched off, in one case it never appeared at all, and in the third case it did appear on the agreement and the sales manager refused to lift the fee after a heated debate(and at the posted price the dealer asked for) and I walked out. People, check with your state office of consumer affairs. In most states, a documentation fee is legal to charge only when the buyer accepts it, but there is otherwise no state law mandating the charge.

        • 0 avatar
          Steve Lynch

          As probably 90% of car buyers pay it nationwide, I would say it is because most people don’t know and/or don’t care, unlike you and I. Many states regulate the max amount that can be charged, I believe the max in California is $79.

          The explanations dealers use in unregulated states like AZ and Nevada are such BS, two common examples:

          “Everyone pays it, when Mr. (Name of Dealer Principal) buys a car, he pays it!”

          “By law every customer has to pay the exact same amount, or there would be a class action lawsuit.”

          I think there has been enough backlash that more states will start limiting or eliminating the fee.

          • 0 avatar
            snakebit

            Very close to the excuse that the sales manager gave me, “if we don’t charge you, then we have to refund the fee we charged everyone else” And dealers want to know why they rank lower in popularity than lawyers and dentists. They can’t help but constantly shoot themselves in the foot.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Jim Click doesn’t pay that $hit. I bet he doesn’t have the pay for the “Desert Protection Package” either. I hate the Desert Protection Package so much. Why do they have to make it so hard to buy a car in Arizona?

    • 0 avatar
      Steve Lynch

      Because Arizona.

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      I opted for my white car because it shows off the design lines well, is easy to keep clean, and is a timeless color. Exterior trim has a lot to do with how well white wears on a design….

    • 0 avatar
      mchan1

      1. Heat

      2. It’s ‘different’ than the average colors typically seen in the N.E. area like black, grey, blue or silver.
      – It’s nice when you can pick out your car in a parking lot of dark colored cars.

      3. White looks cool depending on the auto and model.
      – It basically looks good and easier to spot at night.
      – People can spot your car more easily when driving.

      4. Makes a vehicle look clean esp. with a beige interior.
      – White may make dirt show off more easily but so what? It looks good [though it sometimes depends on the make/model of a vehicle] ;)

  • avatar
    deanst

    Why does the interior pic look like a 4 door GTI, while the exterior shots show a 2 door?

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Good question as to whether the emissions scandal extends to gas powered VWs as well…which gives me pause, because I’ve been considering a Golf (the plummeting resale values are making me wonder about a lightly used one, which makes make wonder if I’m only mildly crazy, or have gone full Dark Side of the Moon).

    I can’t spring for the GTI model, but the base 1.8T is plenty quick.

  • avatar
    gkbmini

    I leased my 4 door GTI S a few days before Steve’s first column regarding his GTI. Everything Steve has reported is spot-on. 10K miles and no problems and loving it!

    Wanted a GTI since the first time I saw a Mark I as a teenager. Never bought one for various reasons: couldn’t afford it, couldn’t afford the insurance, didn’t trust VW reliability, the Mark III was introduced, thought I need a larger vehicle.

    Finally reached a point in life were I thought “why not.” The three year lease solves the long term reliability concern for me.

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    Thanks for the update on resale. With the ongoing scandal that’s my big concern with any VW right now. Hopefully the GTI can weather the storm, both in resale and in not being part of the cheating (the performance/efficiency ratio does seem a bit too good to be true, doesn’t it?).

  • avatar
    TOTitan

    As soon as dieselgate broke I found a dealer who was willing to give me a fair trade in value my 12 Sportwagen tdi and give me a decent deal on a 16 Sportwagen SE tsi. Its a great handling, solidly built car. After installing a Neuspeed power module the 1.8 turbo motor makes an honest 200 hp and 250 ft lbs of torque, which is just about perfect for a small wagon. So far no rattles or issues of any kind have occured. It fits into my fleet perfectly as we use it for general running around and can save the torque monster 335d for road trips.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    “Coming out of a Honda S2000, I knew no other gearbox could measure up to its slick six-speed manual…”

    Ha-ha. And Mazda? Are there any better gear boxes than Mazda?

  • avatar
    Davekaybsc

    $320 a month for a base, $22K Golf 1.8T S with zero down, or $329 a month for a $35K BMW 320i with $2750 down. Gee, why is it that VW can’t sell cars in the US? I just.. can’t… figure it out.

  • avatar
    Jeff Waingrow

    I’ve got 17,000 miles on my 2015 base 4-door with stick. No problems whatever, and rock solid. Zero squeaks or rattles or buzzes. I’d say that this is a completely delightful car to drive under virtually any circumstance. Gas mileage is excellent too. I think Steve pretty well summed up all the positives.

  • avatar
    JohnTT

    I am enjoying my Volkswagen and will continued to buy them.

  • avatar
    Hoog23

    I’ve bought two used ’15 GTI’s at non-VW dealers. Both were listed and priced as base S (GTI) models. First one was a Loaded SE and 2nd one a loaded Autobahn with the Performance Package and the adjustable suspension. When I found the Autobahn I was actually getting ready to buy a manual R that I found in stock but just couldn’t justify the price difference. Luckily I was able sell the SE quickly to another enthusiast for pretty much what I paid for it. The adjustable suspension makes a world of difference for me but in sport mode still isn’t as stiff as the standard suspension.

  • avatar
    hreardon

    I’ve had a ’16 Autobahn Performance with adaptive suspension for a little over a month. I haven’t had a car that put a smile on my face like this since my ’04 R32, and the GTI is lightyears better than the R32 in every manner except for the exhaust note.

    The adaptive suspension was a must for my area and I will admit that it’s very subtle. On a 10-15 minute test drive you’re likely not to notice much of a difference. However, drive the same pothole infested commuter roads that you would in daily driving and the change-up between “comfort” and “sport” becomes both welcome and apparent.

    I’m continually impressed with how compliant the suspension is and how sharp this car is on turn-ins: flat cornering, great sense of ‘push’ through the corners (for a FWD car) thanks to the differential, and yet the suspension is never harsh or uncomfortable except for the worst of roads (and we have plenty of those around here).

    Little things like the lighting package that illuminates corners when turning are very welcome, and the updated infotainment system is a huge step up from the 2015 version.

    All in all, it really is a goldilocks car. I’m very happy so far with mine. The A3/S3 offers the better badge, arguably better build and warranty; but the reality is that the GTI has loads more charisma and charm whereas the A3/S3 feel sterile in comparison.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      The Mk4 R32s made the noise of the Gods. Even the Mk5 R32 made a glorious noise. I don’t think they can be replicated by a 2.0T. However, like you said, the current 2.0T GTI drives better.

      • 0 avatar
        hreardon

        Yep. To this day I miss the exhaust note on that R32. It was a great overall vehicle, but the abysmal mileage and two-door made it less than practical for me. The GTI is a far better overall vehicle. Drove the new Golf R, and while nice, the extra ponies don’t do much for me, I’d be buying it for the all wheel drive system. At that point, I’m moving up to an S3, which is in far greater supply and with discounts is very close to the MSRP most dealers are charging for Golf Rs.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          I miss my MK5 R32 for the most part. I loved that it was basically a heavy GT cruiser in a Golf body. So comfortable on long trips even if the gas mileage wasn’t great.

  • avatar
    EAF

    If I did not HAVE to plow through snow during NYC winter months, I would absolutely be daily driving an S2000. LOVE them!

    Steve, at 10k on your ea888, keep an eye on the rear main seal.

  • avatar
    Joss

    I heard base 170 even with DSG is plenty fine for most urban driving. Civic 1.4 in the 180’s? Bet few deals there…

  • avatar
    seth1065

    great review, waiting to see what VW will do if anything for TDI owners, if they offered me a sweet trade in on my 11 TDI wagon I would be sorely tempted to get a 4 door GTI, while I love the plaid I would have to have a sunroof more so I guess an 4 door SE. If VW does nothing my car is paid off so I will just keep planing on the miles and saving cash.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    I was really impressed by the MK7 Golf rental I had (to the point that I requested it again when I needed another rental- someone had crashed it!), but I don’t know that I could get a GTI over a Civic Si. The Golf was competent and surprisingly quick, in the way something like an S-Class is. It got up but it wasn’t engaging, which would be a problem for me. I enjoyed the Golf and that TSI motor but I was glad to get into my little SOHC Civic. 8th gen Civic was too fatiguing and demanding but I feel like the 9th gen will strike the right balance with that 2.4. With mild mods it can be as quick as the GTI, and with more extreme mods like spherical bearings for control arms and the shifter it can be downright thrilling. Mechanical LSD is no charge either. It won’t win any bench racing specs but if my Civic vs the Golf is any indication it would be a more engaging drive- for better or worse.

    Hard to argue with a car that can beat a 350Z in a straight line, haul stuff like an SUV and get like 29 MPG combined though.

  • avatar
    XR4Ti

    Long time reader, first time poster here.

    I just purchased a 4-door manual GTI-S as my first new car. I’m in my late twenties and commute 80 miles daily. For the $22.2k I paid with current incentives, nothing I drove could touch the experience this car offers. The suspension is firm but compliant; the styling is sporty but mature; the engine still amazes me with its power and flexibility. I love the seats and ergonomically correct dash — no gimmicks, just good usability and excellent sight lines for a modern small car. The Mazda3 felt like a windowless cave in comparison.

    VW’s persistent reliability issues were on my mind when I made the decision to buy a GTI. I’m used to Hondas and Toyotas and have hated previous (mostly GM) cars that have nickel-and-dimed me. I frankly wasn’t willing to spend $30k+ to roll the dice. But at $22k and change, I’m still a couple thousand ahead compared to the Mazda 3s which was my number two choice. Some of the money I saved is going into an extended warranty, and the rest I will put away for unexpected repairs.

    So my fingers are crossed. But even if the car ends up breaking, at least I will have enjoyed the 2+ hours a day I had spent in it. I don’t think I would be able to say the same of the $19,000-no-budge-price Civic LX 6-speed I drove right before buying the VW.

  • avatar
    johnny_5.0

    Nice timing. I just traded in my Mustang for a GTI tonight. Blasphemy! On a side note, Android Auto is friggin’ great.

  • avatar
    AK

    Good post. Keep doing them please.

    I bought a 15 Focus ST this past March and the GTI was my runner up. Love the ST but I also like reading the ownership experience of the car I also considered.

  • avatar
    Quentin

    “hits 106 mph in third gear”

    Seems like an odd brag. A high speed in 3rd gear just means that the gearing is tall and that isn’t good for sporty driving. On a track it would likely mean that you’ll likely need a heck of a straight stretch to make it into 4th.

  • avatar
    Alexdi

    I’m in the market for a replacement for my ’10 Maxima. So far, I’ve tested the Accord V6 coupe, the WRX, and the GTI Performance, all stick. Focus ST was a possibility, but they didn’t have one on the lot.

    The GTI is it. If anyone else is also in the market, here’s why:

    Accord:

    An anodyne grand-tourer. Very competent until about 8/10, but doesn’t want to play.

    Good–

    Comfortable. Wide seats, soft cushions. Some useful features (e.g., memory seats, lane-change camera) that aren’t available on the others at this price. Interior finish is typical for the price class; it’s not punching above its weight like the GTI (or below it with the WRX).

    Power to spare from a smooth and linear engine. More than enough for any normal use. Second-gear rush is addicting. Minimal torque steer. The stick is low-effort with fairly smooth engagement and a forgiving clutch. Very smooth ride. Relatively flat handling in the twisties.

    Bad–

    Only available as a coupe. Makes it impractical and space-compromised for no good reason. (The sedan looks better to me.)

    Feels big, wide, and front-heavy. Sightlines and visibility are acceptable given the various cameras, but not great. Seating is low, but the car feels tall at the same time, particularly in turns. Not enough bolstering for the pace.

    Steering is always light and has no feedback. There’s no limited-slip diff: in a straight line in the dry, it’ll cut power from wheelspin on the 1-2 shift. Gearbox gates feel a bit mushy. I didn’t have much urge to play with the car after the novelty of the big six wore off.

    WRX:

    Focused and fun. Cheap interior and rough edges keep it from greatness.

    Good–

    The car is a hoot.

    Feels low, corners flat and taut, terrific sightlines, piles of traction. Limit handling is controlled with effective, yet unobtrusive brake-steer. Better with the ESC on than off. Good steering feedback. Engine is very impressive. Big power off the line and noticeable pull even in sixth on the freeway. It makes you drive like an idiot.

    When you’re not, the ride is on the border of what’s acceptable for a daily, but still acceptable. Adequately smooth on the freeway for distance driving. Rear seats are surprisingly comfortable. Front seats are hard with decent lumbar and very good lateral support. Has a trunk passthrough. Looks hot in person.

    Bad–

    Interior looks and feels cut-rate. Missing common features unless you opt for the highest trim. Some rattles (e.g., from the upgraded factor subwoofer) right off the lot. Touchscreen is sluggish and minimalist. Wind and road noise at speed are high. Not a lot of suspension travel for speed bumps and the like.

    Gearbox is old-school. Clutch engagement is very difficult to get right without bucking. Rev-matching needs to be perfect. After two hours in the driver’s seat, getting a smooth shift was still grounds for comment. First is geared short, but it won’t start in second, so there’s a lot of shifting in traffic.

    Engine hates low RPMs. It’ll vibrate a lot from a low pull at 1500 RPM. It also hangs revs after you let off the gas, which makes rev-matching even harder.

    GTI:

    James bond. Good at everything, if you can fit in the seats.

    Good–

    Kitted out perfectly. Everything relevant (except the Performance Pack) is in the base model. Interior quality is better than my Maxima, interior design much better. Fold-flat rear seats. Height-adjustable armrest. Great visibility.

    Fairly powerful engine. Lots of fun, and paired to a limited-slip that feels like it’ll take a lot more power. Gearbox is one of the best available. Super-easy rev-matching. Gearing is tall enough to make first useful. The DSG has no appeal at all after this.

    Smooth ride with flat handling. Feels small and light and fun. Sharp reflexes. Less wind noise than the WRX.

    Bad–

    Seats are hard and a little narrow for my 6’1 170 frame. The seat design is the same on all trim levels, so you can’t option yourself into something different.

    Undertuned. Chips add 75 WHP and 100 torque immediately. But then again, the stock clutch won’t take the extra.

    Two-second turbo lag on the freeway. More than the WRX; I wonder what the other journos are talking about?

    —-

    I was originally set on the WRX. I tried the VW last year with the DSG and didn’t like it. Didn’t feel special, but my expectations were very high and I’d just come from an E90 335i. The 6-speed and PP change the game entirely– they make the car wildly fun around town with none of the one-wheel burnouts that I find so bothersome in the Maxima and Accord.

    The WRX is even more fun, or would be if the stick wasn’t such a bear. The friend who owns it has had at least a dozen sticks and still has trouble with this one after 2000. But when he’s driving the thing in anger and ignoring the little bucks, it’s such a wild ride. Better than the GTI, yeah, but not by leaps, and not enough to make up for all the other stuff.


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