By on November 20, 2017

2018 Volkswagen GTI

The formula for the Volkswagen Golf GTI is simple; take a good car, add horsepower, add styling flourishes, and make something special. For the past 35 years in the United States, the GTI has done this more often than not.

Sure, there may have been some misses in there, but for over a decade now, it has been all hits. The 2018 GTI continues this trend. Even though it’s just a refresh of the seventh-generation GTI we first saw in 2015, the coming model year’s changes make the vehicle better in almost every way. The GTI is currently the best new car available in these United States of America that can be purchased for an MSRP of under $30,000.

That may be a bold statement, but it isn’t without merit.

The GTI simply does everything well. It’s like that pair of Allen Edmonds that goes with everything, looks good, is made well, can be used every day, and never goes out of style. Competitors don’t have the history, aren’t made as well, and have styling that won’t age as gracefully. There are things some models can do better than the GTI but, overall, none are as great.

2018 Volkswagen GTI

Walking up to the 2018 GTI, you’ll instantly recognize its pedigree. With new LED fog and brake lights, the night signature is changed, but the shape remains the same. LED headlights with adaptive front beams adorn higher trims. A bright red horizontal strip visually connects the headlights to a revised grille and bumper. Those reworked fascias carry a strong character line that travels along the side and all the way back to the taillight clusters.

In addition to the red highlight on the grille, the 2018 Golf GTI boasts several other visual differences from its conventional Golf brethren. The lower front fascia incorporates standard LED fog lights housed within a series of horizontal strakes on either side of a unique mesh-pattern grille. Red-painted brake calipers peek behind bespoke GTI wheels and subtle side skirts help to give the GTI a sportier appearance. Around back, bright exhaust tips sit on either side of a unique rear diffuser, while a roof spoiler further differentiates the car.

The GTI is still powered by Volkswagen’s turbocharged 2.0-liter direct-injected four-cylinder engine. The EA888 engine family, which debuted in 2008, has been steadily refined over the last decade. In all versions of the 2018 GTI, the engine produces 220 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. It is complemented by a standard six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed DSG automatic that requires a $1,100 markup on any trim.

2018 Volkswagen GTI

This engine is strong, and power is available early and often. It has a smoothness many other four-cylinders simply do not possess. Paired with the manual transmission, it feels like a seamless extension of the driver’s right hand. Despite the six-speed manual’s tall gearing, torque is always readily available  — a driver can almost reach freeway speeds in second gear. Switching between second and third gear on the twisty roads of rural Michigan proved a downright enjoyable task.

Navigating those roads is made more enjoyable by the GTI’s firm chassis, which can easily be labelled “word class.” Riding 0.6 inches lower than the standard Golf, the GTI’s steering is precise, the suspension firm yet comfortable, and body roll is minimal. Somehow the GTI manages to take to spirited driving with aplomb while remaining a comfortable vehicle with a compliant ride. The GTI’s suspension definitely punches above its price range.

2018 Volkswagen GTI

The interior of the GTI continues to be one of the model’s strong points — spacious and practical, while retaining a touch of Euro elegance. Our tester, which carried an MSRP of $31,165 (plus an $850 destination charge) came equipped with Volkswagen’s 8-inch touchscreen, leather, keyless access with push-button start, and a sunroof. Unlike some competitors, the seats are well bolstered but comfortable, and the seat track is long enough to provide legroom for almost every driver (I’m looking at you, Ford Focus ST).

Still, while our tester topped $31,000, it doesn’t have to be that way. Since Volkswagen offers the same horsepower and both transmissions in all GTI trims, you won’t feel like you’re missing anything by going slightly downmarket. As far as I’m concerned, Clark plaid cloth seats are mandatory for a GTI. They look great and are heated. The combination of plaid seats and sunroof also makes a triumphant return in 2018, and comes standard on the $30,470 2018 GTI SE. The base GTI drops the sunroof, LED headlights, blind-spot monitoring, and replaces the 8-inch infotainment screen with a 6.5-inch version. At an MSRP of $26,415, it is truly a performance bargain.

The 2018 Volkswagen GTI continues Volkswagens tradition of offering a performance car with working-class roots for a reasonable price. This new model takes the seventh-generation model’s formula for success, refines it, and makes it better. So is there a downside?

The only possible drawbacks with the GTI is the price and Volkswagen’s enduring quality concerns. Both the Honda Civic Si and Ford Focus ST are cheaper than the GTI. The Subaru WRX is a little more expensive, but it comes with all-wheel drive. All are competitive vehicles, but the GTI feels more premium and refined. It is the best daily driver of the bunch.

2018 Volkswagen GTI

As for quality issues, the platform the GTI rides on, MQB, has been in production for five years. Hopefully, that’s enough time to get any issues worked out. Most reliability surveys have shown recent GTIs to have average reliability. Luckily for 2018 buyers, all GTIs are now backed by Volkswagen’s People First Warranty, offering comprehensive coverage for six years or 72,000 miles (whichever comes first). Anyone on the fence about a GTI has six years, or 72,000 miles, to decide if it’s a quality product.

The GTI continues to be a fantastic car simply because it does all things well. It possesses a distinctly premium feel while remaining practical and fun to drive. There is no catch. For the price, there is also no equal.

[Images: ©2017 Adam Tonge/The Truth About Cars]

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108 Comments on “2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI First Drive – Nothing to Anger the Faithful...”


  • avatar
    tylanner

    Indeed, at $30,000, it is the perfect compromise.

  • avatar
    pinkslip

    The MQB platform is a good one and the GTI seems to be bridging the gap to the Audi A3 very nicely. I bet the longer VW warranty will significantly impact Audi’s A3 and Q3 model sales.

    I’ll be that guy:

    “word-class.”

    “The the only possible…”

    Proof-reading remarks aside, it was a good read.

  • avatar
    Jacob

    How is the rear headroom? The new Honda civic was designed so that only children or adults with no necks can ride in the rear.

  • avatar
    TDIandThen....

    “Anyone on the fence about a GTI has six years, or 72,000 miles, to decide if it’s a quality product.”*

    *except in Canada…we’re still stuck with the junior 4-year warranty at this point according to my dealer. VW is too popular here I surmise.

    Nice review, thanks TTAC, and I agree. Maybe all future GTI reviews should come with a paragraph on the Golf R, if only to highlight the price/value point of the GTI and why they sell so well.

    • 0 avatar
      Kenn

      “Anyone on the fence…” “Luckily for 2018 buyers, all GTIs are now backed by Volkswagen’s People First Warranty, offering comprehensive coverage for six years or 72,000 miles…”

      Is it only myself who has had perpetually bad luck trying to get warranty service over the course of owning multiple brands from various dealers?
      I take warranty plans with more than a grain of salt anymore, having had too many frustrating experiences with dealers who apparently have an aversion to filling any service bay with anything other than a “paying customer.” From minor annoyances to more-disturbing problems, I’ve heard a plethora of excuses to obstruct or deny the application of warranty coverage, and I’d guess many, if not most, of us have heard them as well. A reviewer on a site called, “The Truth About Cars” should be sensitive to this before gushing about how wonderful a particular warranty is.

      • 0 avatar
        KevinC

        I own a ’16 Golf R, a fantastic car by any measure.. the GTI turned up to 11. I have owned VW’s on and off for decades and for ages, experienced exactly what you are describing. But my nearest VW dealership is a new shop that’s only 2-3 years old, and I’ve been in there 3 times for service/warranty stuff, and have had Lexus-like service and treatment. My car’s only defect from the factory was a slightly warped A-pillar cover on the driver’s side. They ordered a replacement without hassle. A week or so after it was replaced I noticed that the new one had a very small defect in the cover material, way down in the corner where only the driver can see it. Still it annoyed me. Alerted my service advisor by email and he immediately ordered me another replacement. Had it swapped out at a 9am appointment and said I’d wait. They had it fixed, washed, and back to me in 45 minutes. I was floored. I peeked into the service area and the bays were all occupied and they were quite busy. These guys give new Jettas as loaner cars when requested and even have all their maintenance prices posted on a large “menu”, with comparisons to what some other places charge for the same services, and they are VERY competitive. All-in-all, a model for what all VW dealerships (or any brand for that matter) ought to be doing.

      • 0 avatar
        Adam Tonge

        I can’t make your dealer do a repair, but the 2018 GTI’s warranty is much better than the competition. I can dig into the warranty more.

        So far, the Mk7 GTI has had average reliability. I wouldn’t expect that to get worse for 2018.

        • 0 avatar
          tonycd

          My question about this car remains unchanged: Has VW implemented the fix for the DI engine’s carbon problems?

          Lexus had fixed the direct injection carbon buildup problem by using both port injection and direct injection. The former washes away the deposits from the latter before they can build up.

          VW knows this and implements this solution on Audi models, but not on most VWs (specifically not on the 1.8T). Audi uses it on their version of the 2.0T, but I don’t recall whether the VW version receives it. No carbon fix, no sale.

          • 0 avatar
            Adam Tonge

            Neither the GTI or Golf R have the dual injection system. VW’s dual injection EA888 primarily exists for Euro emissions purposes.

        • 0 avatar
          Kenn

          It’s not about you “making your dealer do a repair.” It’s about recognizing (as a “journalist”) the fact that the warranty – no matter how long it is supposedly in effect – is meaningless if dealers are unwilling to perform warranty work. I’m aware that auto reviewers typically aren’t bothered by having to actually own their own cars for daily transport, with the prevalence of press fleet loaners, so maybe you’ve never had to deal with this problem, but I have, much more often than not, and simply don’t appreciate a writer conveying enthusiasm for what is often nothing more than a sales tool, revealed only after the vehicle is now yours. Mentioning the warranty coverage is enough.

          • 0 avatar
            Adam Tonge

            I’m not dismissing your criticism. It is valid if dealers refuse to do warranty work.

            I will manage my enthusiasm for warranties in the future. I find it to be a positive change for VW. Ford, for example, would charge $1000+ for a $0 deductible warranty for 6 years and 75K miles from new. If I was on the fence about VW, it may push me from lease to buy.

            Now, I should look into more specifics of the warranty. If something happens, do you get a loaner? How do they determine if its a covered repair? I’ll admit that I am not educated on the percentage of warranty work VW dealers are unwilling to perform.

            Full disclosure about this review and me as a reviewer:

            I own two cars. I do not currently have a press loaner and do not rely on one for daily transportation.

            Volkswagen provided me with time to drive various Golfs on a recent Wednesday (that I used a PTO day from my day job to attend), and provided me a light lunch. I drove there (100 miles round trip) in my 2013 Ford that has 69,000 miles.

          • 0 avatar
            Wheatridger

            Did you trying going to another dealer? There are six in my region, plus independents.

        • 0 avatar
          Kenn

          Thanks for your reply, Adam. I’m quite sensitive about talk of lengthy warranties because of the many times that a dealer has sought to avoid performing warranty work for me, for a newly purchased car, with their standard list of excuses, sometimes ending up with my living with the problem until I trade the car in (when I can no longer stand it).

          Thanks for revealing that you don’t simply rely on press fleet cars, indicating that you must also deal with ownership concerns, unlike auto journalists at major publications getting the keys to an endless supply of new cars every week.

        • 0 avatar
          theBrandler

          Yes, but how about valuing a car that doesn’t need to use the warranty? German cars are great…til they break. There’s a reason a Honda Civic Si depreciates so slowly and GTIs and Rs drop like a rock. They just aren’t reliable. The self reported problems with these cars is off the charts.

          A car should not be credited one iota for being great when it’s brand new. It should be credited for being great when it performs reliably for years on end with nothing but basic maintenance.

      • 0 avatar
        dmcconnell

        The dealer gets paid by the manufacturer for the warranty work.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      Corey wrote that “[L]uckily for 2018 buyers, all GTIs are now backed by Volkswagen’s People First Warranty, offering comprehensive coverage for six years or 72,000 miles (whichever comes first). Anyone on the fence about a GTI has six years, or 72,000 miles, to decide if it’s a quality product.”

      This is a mischaracterization.

      Anyone on the fence about a GTI (or other Volkswagen regarding quality/reliability) –

      does NOT have six years, or 72,000 miles, *to decide if [the GTI) is a quality product (this insinuates that they can simply return the GTI within 6 years or 72,000 miles and get a refund, in full or large part, if quality/reliability/durability issues become prominent and frequent,

      THEY HAVE SIX YEARS, OR 72,000 MILES, TO HAVE WARRANTY COVERAGE PAY FOR CERTAIN REPAIRS THAT BECOME NECESSARY, OR WARRANTED (pun intended).

      These things are worlds apart.

  • avatar
    Jacob

    Does this GTI come with a pre-recorded engine sound? Are there now configurable engine sound themes?

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    When I first drove this car, I figured I’d like the manual better, but as time has gone on, I have grown to really like the DSG.

    Yes, that’s heretical, but it’s also quicker than the manual, and it also offers a sport launch program.

    Did you get to try one out, Adam? Nice job on the review, by the way.

    (And by way of comparison, I tried out a Civic Si this weekend…it has a brilliant manual shifter, but in every other way, it’s notably inferior to a GTI.)

    • 0 avatar
      Adam Tonge

      I didn’t because I spent so much time in the manual GTI. For this event, I made it a point to drive as many manual transmission vehicles that I could. That ended up being four cars; GTI, Golf R, Golf, and Sportwagen.

      I did a few laps of the 20 mile or so road circuit, that VW set up, in the GTI manual. We can call it beginners oversight for not jumping in the DSG equipped GTI. I’ve owned one, so I am comfortable saying that it is an upgrade in some ways. At $1100, it is a relatively cheap option for a very good transmission.

      • 0 avatar
        Wheatridger

        The DSG gives you the rev control of a manual, with added speed and convenience. Flappy paddles are great! What you lose is the inconvenience of a clutch in traffic. Mine was wonderful, like something out of an expensive racing car… which it was.

  • avatar
    ra_pro

    Very good car but R is still significantly better (thought at 10k premium). This is a excellent sporty car, R is a sports car but. These 2 are the best cars in terms of driving dynamics that are still reasonably priced under 60k.

    • 0 avatar
      hreardon

      ra_pro –

      I agree that the R is a better car in many regards, it’s just that the premium is pretty stiff. I’ve got a good amount of seat time in the R as well and each time I drive it I question my GTI purchase.

    • 0 avatar
      la834

      Any mention of the “10k premium” for the R needs to note that the R is equipped much like a top-line GTI (Autobahn with option groups) making the price gap when similarly equipped smaller. The R also includes the thusfar exclusive (in North America) digital instrument panel.

      • 0 avatar
        johnny_5.0

        Any mention of the premium for a Golf R should also mention that you will be paying MSRP, while GTIs have been readily available in many areas with steep discounts. Out the door transaction price differences of ~$15k between a well equipped GTI SE and R are nothing to sweep under the rug. An “even better GTI” makes the R a wonderful car, but let’s not pretend the price gap is small.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      If you can do the R, might as well go full c*ck out with the RS3.

    • 0 avatar
      blppt

      I dunno, every review I’ve ever read about the R is that despite the AWD and uplevel motor, they always prefer the driving dynamics of the GTI. I’m pretty sure its not just about the price difference, they just prefer the way the GTI feels, that the R feels too “buttoned down” or whatever.

  • avatar
    hreardon

    I’m two years and about 20,000 miles in on a ’16 GTI Autobahn 6MT and couldn’t be happier. Without a doubt, the best car I’ve owned in 25 years of car buying. Only unexpected shop visit was for a recall on the fuel pump, but otherwise the only quirk has been a loose sub-frame bolt that was tightened up at the 10,000 mile service.

    I’ll echo the sentiment on the transmissions: the manual is okay, but definitely not VW’s best work. I did purchase the manual, but having seat time in the DSG equipped models, I would be seriously tempted to go that route next time.

    The big question enthusiasts have to ask themselves is if the Golf R is worth the premium (and dealer unwillingness to discount) over the GTI. I’ve driven the ’16 R and it really is greater than the sum of its parts – a definite notch above the GTI, but $40k is a lot of coin, even though it doesn’t really feel like gouging in the R.

    During the selection process I test drove an A3, S3, and B8 A4 Sport. And then, I drove the GTI. Where the Audis all left me feeling comfortable but sterile, the GTI made me smile and it simply won me over. I have tried multiple times to convince myself into the Audi, but the GTI is just so much more engaging.

    Can’t say I’m a big fan of the headlights and lower fascia on the refresh, I actually think they’re a step back compared to the pre-facelift models. Everything else is a solid improvement.

    • 0 avatar
      Adam Tonge

      Those subframe bolts! My MkV GTI had a subframe bolt issue. I think it was stretched out. They were replaced by Passat bolts or some sort of upgraded bolts.

      • 0 avatar
        squelchy451

        The mkv and mkvi had the same subframe issue. They used thinner shear bolts that somehow made it safer during crashes but woudl allow the subframe to shift about. I like the MQB cars. I’ve had a chance to drive/ride in several of them and always impressed by how well-sorted it feels. The stock GTI suspension is one of the best compromises between comfort and stiffness, almost makes me regret going with Bilstein and Eibach springs. Gave up a lot of comfort for a bit of performance that I’ll only appreciate 10% of the time

    • 0 avatar
      jeanbaptiste

      I am also a ’16 GTI owner also with 20,000 miles. Problem free until about 1 week ago when the clutch started going out. We will see if VW is going to stick by their product or not. I would also be tempted to do a DSG next time. Just to avoid this clutch.

      • 0 avatar
        hreardon

        Clutch has been a frequent point of complaint on forums, especially for anyone modding and adding horsepower. I haven’t been thrilled with the stock clutch or shifter on the GTI, but there are some very easy mods that can be done to improve the feel.

    • 0 avatar

      Good to hear about the positives here. I’m about 6 weeks into ownership of my ’17 GTI SE w/ DSG and so far it’s an outstanding car. My only complaint is that at 6′ 1″ I really wish the seat cushion could adjust the angle because I don’t have a ton of thigh support without having to lower the seat. Other than that (which isn’t insignificant) I’m really happy with my purchase.

      I actually quite like the new headlights where the red stripe wraps around the bulb housings and I wish mine came with the bigger screen and better warranty but I knew those were coming and got too good of a deal with the year end close-outs to wait.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    I am like a hop skip and jump from running down to the VW dealer and trading in my Civic and G37 for a GTI. If I can get a decent deal on one with the DSG+LSD I might jump. I feel like people are buying them again though so the dealers probably won’t bite. Gotta see what my equity is looking like too.

  • avatar
    LeeK

    I just turned over my 2010 GTI with Autobahn package (leather seats, HIDs, Dynaudio sound system) and DSG to my son to use as his daily driver. In seven years and 75,000 miles, I experienced three issues, all minor. First, the driver’s door locking mechanism quit and was replaced under warranty, At 60,000 miles I got a hard check engine light and VW replaced a sensor in the intake manifold for free under a hidden warranty program. Lastly at 70,000 miles, the TPMS system erroneously showed low tire pressure and the monitoring control module was replaced at my expense, but the dealer knocked off a significant amount of money due to me being a loyal customer.

    I’ve owned a Mk I Rabbit GTI, a Mk V GTI, a Mk V R32, and finally this MK VI. Not all have been flawless in ownership (the R32 had an unresolved issue with the evaporative canister emissions system), but the combination of everyday usability and performance that exceeds what 95% of drivers can possibly experience, all at an amazingly reasonable price makes the GTI one of the best deals going today. The reputation it has earned, now with a six year warranty makes this a no-brainer recommendation to anyone interested in the pleasures of driving.

  • avatar
    deanst

    I want a golf or gti with cloth seats, 6 speed manual and sunroof. Right now that means that instead of adding a few options to a base golf at $20,000 (in Canada), I must go all the way up to a gti autobahn at $36,000. VW option packaging is a mystery to me.

    • 0 avatar
      Adam Tonge

      The 2018 should fix that. It does in the US. You’ll be at tick over $30K here. Hopefully that means the same for Canada.

      • 0 avatar
        JuniperBug

        $30k USD at current exchange rates comes out to about $38k CAD. At the moment, it’s cheaper to buy a GTI in the Great White North – at least until sales taxes are added.

        • 0 avatar
          TDIandThen....

          I’ve priced the same GTI and you’re right on both counts – $38k Canadian pesos plus taxes. The R is just about $10k more (taxes in) and I think worth it, but there’s no sunroof or cloth seats.

      • 0 avatar
        la834

        Canadian VW buyers have been lucky compared to Yanks regarding VW’s ever stricter option packaging, with several models or option combinations unique to Canada (i.e. wider manual transmission availability in standard Golfs).

    • 0 avatar
      IHateCars

      deanst….if you’re willing to forgo the sunroof, a 2018 GTI in that spec will be $30 595 CAD plus PDI/taxes.

  • avatar
    la834

    Canadian VW buyers have been lucky compared to Yanks regarding VW’s ever stricter option packaging, with several models or option combinations unique to Canada (i.e. wider manual transmission availability in standard Golfs).

  • avatar
    la834

    Three questions/comments:

    – For those that have driven both at night, is the illumination from the new LED headlights better or worse than the previous optional HID/Xenon setup?
    – Do the LED-equipped Golfs still include cornering lamps that point sideways and illuminate when a turn is indicated? I love that all-too-rare feature.
    – I’ll never forgive VW for cheapening out their gloveboxes last year. Yes, VW, we noticed the new ones have hard plastic inside rather than the nice, padded, suede-like rattle-reducing material you used to splurge on.

    • 0 avatar
      jdiaz34

      I hated the HID’s on my MkV GTI. Sharp upper cutoff and they never seemed to have a long enough throw, yet people were constantly flashing their brights at me. The Mk7 seems better in this regard.

      I agree on the cornering lamps. They are quite handy.

      And +1 on the glove boxes. I honestly thought about swapping the glovebox from my 2015 TDI Sportwagen with the 2017 GTI glovebox before we turned the TDI back in.

  • avatar
    EndlessAdventure

    Are you in the U.S.? Did VW give you a 2018 to review? Still waiting on their release. But if they are giving out testers to review that is a good sign we are close to release.

    • 0 avatar
      Adam Tonge

      I am in the Detroit area and this was a 2018. When I talked to a dealership, they said the 2018 Golfs had been delayed by 60-90 days. I don’t know when they were originally supposed to hit dealers thought.

  • avatar
    Nick_515

    I want one of these so bad. I don’t care for plaid particularly, but heated cloth seats and manual is all i need (with or sans sunroof). Hopefully my life situation will allow to get one in the summer of 2019. Maybe prices will come down a bit by then, and I’ll know more about my next five years.

  • avatar
    Jeff Waingrow

    Adam. are the color choices any different from last year’s? I’d probably trade in my 2015 if there was some decent new color.

    • 0 avatar
      Adam Tonge

      They are basically the same. I think there may be some slight changes, but don’t expect anything shocking.

      Personally, I’d like some Focus ST/RS like colors.

    • 0 avatar
      TDIandThen....

      Canadian dealers have a program now where for a mere C$3000 extra you can have your Golf factory-painted in any colour you desire. I assume this is offered in the US, but when we assume….

  • avatar
    Lichtronamo

    I had a 2011 GTI MkVI and now have a 2015 GTI MkVII. I loved my MkVI, but the MkVII is better in every way. Was just in for the 90,000 mile service – only one mechanical issue during my ownership experience. Looking for the MkVII.5 to hit dealerships and move to a new version of the same car: Black with 6spd. manual. Like the author, the return of the heated clark plaid/sunroof combo is welcome. Autonews says the MkVIII is a 2020 model, so the timing sequence is right!

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    On reliability– It just tickles me, as we used to say down South, when I hear people fretting over the potential repair risks of a brand new car with a full six-year warranty. I could expect that level of caution from, say, Prius buyers- but from the bold souls who dare to actually use the performance advantage of a Golf R over a GTI, I expect more courage, more daring, more insousance, as they say in France.

  • avatar
    ToddAtlasF1

    Somehow it makes sense that the people who don’t see the ridiculousness of calling the GTI the best $30K car spend most of their time worrying about colors and trimmings.

  • avatar
    ToddAtlasF1

    Somehow it makes perfect sense that the people who don’t see the ridiculousness of calling a VW the best $30K car direct most of their attention to colors and trimmings.

  • avatar
    swiftfox4

    Would have loved to stay with VW after I turned in my manual TDI but going from one of the last of the German-made to Mexican-made, with lower reliability than before, I had to go with the Mazda CX-5 on reliability and quality. People ask me if I like the CX-5, and I do, but the TDI will always be the best car I ever owned.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    “As far as I’m concerned, Clark plaid cloth seats are mandatory for a GTI.”

    NO.

    Plaid seats are disqualifying, “tradition” be damned.

    I don’t want the interior of my car to look like a department store scarf rack circa 1977.

    • 0 avatar
      la834

      I love the *look* of plaid seats; I just don’t care for the scratcchy cloth material Volkswagen uses for them. I also miss the extra contortions the higher-end leather-trimmed seats can twist themselves into in an (sometimes vain) attempt to keep my back from hurting, including seat cushion tilt and lumbar up/down as well as in/out. And the leather is just a bit more upscale and classy, and smoother on your underlegs and arms, pushing the GTI into competition for cars that sell for $1 to $1.5K more.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      You want the plaid seats on this car. You need the plaid seats on this car.

      • 0 avatar
        TDIandThen....

        I fully agree. The ‘Clark tartan’ was one of the reasons I wanted to get a GTI. The lack of the plaid and lack of sunroof was one of my real hesitations in getting the R. Silly, but not silly.

  • avatar
    jalop1991

    “The GTI simply does everything well…The only possible drawbacks with the GTI is the price and Volkswagen’s enduring quality concerns.”

    So: no, it doesn’t do everything well. It’s still pricey AND, more importantly, it’s a VW–with all the quality concerns that VW (and Audi, and BMW, and M-B) is inherently and rightfully known for.

    And at the end of the day, it comes down to the price you pay for what you get. That’s called value.

    If you’re renting for a day, great. Get the VW. If you’re putting your hard-earned post-tax dollars to work transporting you ongoing, there are better value choices.

    • 0 avatar
      ozzypriest

      I had a 2015 MK VII for two years, never had a problem. It’s incredibly unfair for people to judge VW wanting in reliability when the numbers don’t support the erroneous attitude. You have no data to back your claims, just erroneous anecdotal attitude.

  • avatar
    Nedmundo

    After my experience with a 1995 Jetta GLX VR6, it will take massive reliability gains for me to consider another VW, even though the GTI would be perfect for me otherwise. The warranty is nice, but doesn’t prevent stuff from going wrong and leaving you stranded, as when our Jetta’s fuel pump died when I was doing 65 in the left lane through Camden, NJ.

    The GTI is a solid value, but so is the Focus ST, which can be found with huge discounts. I’ve seen loaded ST3 models for around $27k, which is a steal — provided you fit into the Recaros! And when the GTI tops $30k, the value proposition fades IMO. If/when the Civic Type-R starts being available at MSRP, that will be a much better value IMO, especially if it has typical Honda reliability. I’m not crazy about the Transformers vibe, but I’ll live with it for 305 hp, a Honda 6MT, and the reportedly excellent ride/handling balance. I have sat in one, and the seats are phenomenal.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Is there no more Sport trim level? That was the sweet spot in the 2017 lineup, IMHO. +10hp, the good headlights, the big brakes, and keyless entry and go but no leather or sunroof for ~$29K. Perfect. Which is what my car has been approaching its first birthday. Just started counting down to the first oil change the other day. Very much agree that the GTI is the best all-’rounder for under $30K.

    Did they happen to add a button to the new stereo to let you go directly back to AA/Carplay when you leave it for something? That is my only complaint with the ’17 stereo.

    The best I can say is that I like it better overall than the M235i it replaced. Though I sure miss iDrive (and picking a car up in Ft Myers is just not the same as picking it up in Munich). 85% of the car for 1/2 the money, and far more practical to live with as an only car. The only thing better would be a long-Golf GTI!

    • 0 avatar
      Adam Tonge

      S, SE and Autobahn now.

      You’ll have to hit up the SE for the bigger brakes and VAQ diff. All US GTIs have the same horsepower for 2018. I think the Euro-GTI gets 242 horsepower with the performance package.

  • avatar
    Mike

    I know many former GTI owners with the same story synopsis – a fun and practical car that goes wrong… a lot. I’m really wracking my brain to come up with one GTI owner within my extended social circle who hasn’t experienced an abnormal number of repairs.

    It’s something all of the mainstream buff books gloss over or ignore, but historically these cars are statistically unreliable, and no matter how much I want one I won’t be convinced to buy one as my daily driver, where reliability is paramount, until above-average reliability is a matter of fact and not anecdotal fanboy promises (because I guarantee you there will numerous replies to this post claiming MY GTI has never had a single problem, to which I say wow, you have astounding luck).

    • 0 avatar
      LeeK

      I dunno, I’ve owned three GTIs and an R32 over the past thirty-five years, and I’ve owned a bunch of Hondas during that same time period (Accord, CR-V, two Elements) and I honestly don’t see much of a difference between the two brands in regards to frequency of repairs. I’ve shelled out more money fixing one Element (2006 EX-P with manual) than all the GTIs combined.

      Yeah, GTIs are only average in reliability statistically. But all of the repairs I’ve paid for out of pocket for VWs have been for what I consider reasonable things due to age and wear. Maybe I have been astoundingly lucky but three Ford vehicles I’ve owned have disappointed me far more than the VWs.

      To deny oneself the pleasure of the GTI is unfortunate, I think, if it’s because of concern that the thing is going to break down every other week. That has not been my experience.

    • 0 avatar
      Adam Tonge

      My MkV GTI didn’t have any problems. My MkV R32 had many problems.

      Statistically, the current generation GTI is of average reliability.

    • 0 avatar
      hreardon

      Mike,

      With previous models, yeah, you’d be right that they were problematic. Check the stats on the MK7 Golfs. They’re not Toyota Corolla levels of reliability, but solidly middle of the pack and nowhere near the steaming piles that previous models, the MKIV in particular, were.

      We had my wife’s 2012 CRV EX-AWD in the shop more than my GTI in the first three years of ownership: ABS module failure, cracked driveshaft, peeling paint from the rear bumper, windshield wiper motor failure and bad seal leading to oil leak. The CRV left my wife stranded once. Even my demon ’00 Jetta VR6, ’04 R32, and ’06 Audi A3 never left me flat out stranded. So much for Honda reliability, huh?

      We’re also five years into Jeep Grand Cherokee ownership and contrary to the horror stories, had no shop visits apart from oil changes and tire rotations.

      My point is that Volkswagen has earned its reputation after decades of what I consider to be flat out malevolence toward the consumer. That said, Audi and Volkswagen have really turned the ship around since 2012 and it’s not just fanboyism.

      • 0 avatar
        Mike

        I guess Im just not ready to give them the benefit of the doubt. I’ve owned three VWs over the years, but they were older. All of my horror stories have come from owners of mid 90s cars to present, mkIV Golfs/Jettas being the worst offenders, but also several noted issues with the mkVI and even mkVII related to the turbo and especially build quality.
        Of course I’ll never buy a used car so hopefully the jury will be in on the MQB cars by the time I’m ready to buy something. Then there’s the next existential crisis – used GTI?

        • 0 avatar
          Adam Tonge

          I wouldn’t buy a used GTI, Focus ST, WRX, or Civic Si without seriously considering who the first own is. It was part of the reason why my wife and I got top dollar for our GTI. It was adult female driven most days, had full service records, spent 3/4 of its life in Arizona, and had zero modifications. I’ve seen some that are beat to hell.

        • 0 avatar
          Nedmundo

          Exactly. I’m not ready to give VW the benefit of the doubt either, and unfortunately, reliability ratings aren’t worth much until a model has been on the road for a few years.

          When I bought a Saab 9-5 Aero in 2001, it was “recommended” by Consumer Reports, but the model had been on the road only two years. Well, guess what? Some significant parts started to fail at around 50k miles, so after a few more years its reliability ratings took a huge hit. Two of these components failed on mine, and I needed a tow both times. Saab covered one under warranty, and another under a belated recall several months after the fact, but one was a huge inconvenience.

          I understand being suspicious of Ford as well, but their reliability ratings have suffered largely from Sync issues that I believe have been ironed out with Sync3. Plus, at least a Ford can be serviced anywhere in North America. When my Saab died in rural Southern Illinois, I learned how much this can matter!

          • 0 avatar
            ozzypriest

            No. Lots of Sync issues, but also lots of mechanical. Engines on fire in the escape? Fiesta and Focus also rife with issues. Current Consumer Reports 10 least reliable cars list includes 2 Fords, then 4 GMC/Chevy, a Jaguar, a Volvo, a Merc and an FCA. Sorry, no VW or Audi. It really bothers me that chevy and ford get a pass, while people still bash VW and Audi, when the opposite is in fact true. Long live truthiness.

    • 0 avatar
      lon888

      2012 GTI Owner checking in. Repairs include intake manifold, high pressure fuel pump, one fuel injector, 4 batteries, 4 sets of rear sway bar end links plus the typical VW weird electrical issue that took me weeks to figure out. If you go to a dealer expect every repair to be at least $600 – $1200.

      Compare this to 22 years of Honda ownership (8 cars) – 2 warranty repairs and only 1 part that actually broke ($80 door latch).

  • avatar
    Arminius

    Another former MkV GTI owner here and I also had minimal problems. Some small stuff but nothing major. Seems like reliability can be hit or miss. Also, the DSG is well worth it particularly if your DD involves any type of traffic. Truly brilliant transmission. As for the price difference between the R and GTI, you need to do the comparison to the top trim GTI with the “Driver Information Package” given all the additional options that come with the R. Doing manual to manual the difference is just over $4K. There is an almost $14K difference to the most basic trim of GTI. This excludes any dealer discount.

    • 0 avatar
      TDIandThen....

      Agreed with your pointS – I’m turning in my mkVI TDI after five years and had a similar ownership / maintenance experience. A couple of oxygen sensors and an intercooler under warranty, nothing major since, and a quality experience overall. My only objection is the dealers, but I’ve found one I like and now…we should be good. Didn’t want to start the experience over with the limited but awful sales experience I’d had at Mazda.

      Due in good measure to this thread and others (pun not intended) here on TTAC, I put a deposit on a 2018 Golf R w DSG tonight. Delivery in early February most likely. MSRP minus $2k Canadian.

      • 0 avatar
        Arminius

        Enjoy the R, I don’t think you will regret it. I went in a different direction a few months ago with a Chevy SS. Always wanted a big V8. Even so there are times I wish I had gone wiith the R.

  • avatar
    theBrandler

    Until you buy one and get the electrical gremlins the dealer insists doesn’t exist. The transmission issues that crop up passed 60k miles…I mean sure it’s great till it breaks, just like every other german car I won’t ever own. Then it’s nothing but a cash fire.

  • avatar
    Hi there

    Well, I guess German cars have bad reputation for reliability because we do not really have Italian ones around. Yes we do, but numbers are so small.

    I have never owned a GTI although I almost did (I got Sportwagen instead for bigger trunk), but I have owned and still do own a 1999 Passat, manual transmission. If it is anything to say about reliability, the car is a magic. It just runs and it is as quiet as on the first day. Change oil, brakes, and whatever common sense dictates. Maybe I just got lucky, but I picked my friend who swears on Consumer Reports and would not buy anything but Japanese (meaning….Made in Japan) from his Toyota dealership in my Passat enough times for me to decide never to buy a Toyota. My 2016 Sportwagen is similar, but slightly less smooth story. 26000 miles with no functional problem, but sunroof leaked (do not expect the dealer to figure it out, although it is just clogged drains). I am mentioning it for those who insist on having a sunroof on GTI. In fact, I would considering buying R just because it does not have a sunroof.

    Adam, any chance that you were told about the new stereo system in 2018 GTI? I know about the interface and all that, but I wonder if, along with those cosmetic changes to the system, they accidentally changed the sound and made it different. I may be inviting the wrath of the Internet with this, but 2017 GTI, and all other VWs for that matter, sound system is somewhat counteruseful (I just invented this word, sorry). Fender, whatever, will make your symphony orchestra sound like a garage band. In fact, it is awful.

    By the way, nicely-written review. Warranty, or not.

    • 0 avatar
      Adam Tonge

      As far as I could tell it was the same audio system. I drove a 2016 GTI a few weeks before and didn’t notice any differences in audio quality.

      Thanks for reading.

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