By on June 22, 2018

2018 Volkswagen GTI front quarter

2018 Volkswagen GTI S

2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four, DOHC (220 hp @ 4700 rpm, 258 lb-ft @ 1700 rpm)

Six-speed manual transmission, front-wheel drive

25 city / 33 highway / 28 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

27.4 (observed mileage, MPG)

Base Price: $27,265

As Tested: $27,265

Prices include $850 freight charge.

Depending on how pedantic you feel like being, one can argue that the original Volkswagen GTI was not the first hot hatch. Alec Issigonis, with the revolutionary Mini, clearly inspired Volkswagen to move to the space-saving front-engine, front-drive, two-box form factor, even though the Austin/Morris original never had a true hatchback. No matter. Whatever the lineage, there’s no arguing that keeping mechanical bits in a separate box from the fleshy bits can yield impressive room from a small car.

My personal fleet reflects my typical suburban middle-class life — a minivan, a body-on-frame midsize SUV, and a midlife crisis disguising itself as a roadster-shaped shelf in the garage, not to mention the press car gravy train making frequent stops. And while my wife and I drive separately to our respective offices, pretty much all other times we are together in a single car.

I sometimes forget that many families throughout the world really don’t have a use for multiple vehicles — they need one that does everything. Hauling people, hauling stuff — one car does it all. That’s where the two-box solution shines. And if the driver likes driving, the minimal weight and compact dimension are a natural plus. So, the 2018 Volkswagen GTI is quite clearly shaping up to be a perfect one-car solution.

2018 Volkswagen GTI profile

Like many enthusiasts with more time than cash, I’ll often peruse manufacturer websites for the configurators, looking for the best combination of features and price. Almost invariably, I end up at some significant multiplier of the base price, as the good stuff isn’t available on the bargain basement trim. Matthew Guy, I am not.

2018 Volkswagen GTI front 2018 Volkswagen GTI rear

Except for this Ace of Base GTI S. The least expensive trim in the catalog is most certainly the one I’d buy with my own money. Higher trims offer a sunroof, LED headlamps, power driver’s seat, leather seats, keyless starting, and adaptive cruise control. While nice features, I don’t need them — and in the case of the seats, I want the lovely Clark Plaid cloth. Were I forced to select the top-trim Autobahn package, I’d seek out a wrecked S trim car and swap the leather for the cloth.

2018 Volkswagen GTI front seats

Back to the utility factor of the two-box form. Beyond my usual commute, I spent the weekend with the GTI shuttling two kids between softball, soccer, and cheerleading events. All of that sporting gear, plus camp chairs and coolers, fit easily in the 22.8 cubic foot cargo area without folding the seats.

2018 Volkswagen GTI rear seats

The kids had plenty of legroom behind me, and — unusually — I had enough room to slide the front seat forward from the rearmost position comfortably. I’ll admit the power recline mechanism on an otherwise-manual seat is unusual, but the adjustments were simple to make. Take away the rest of the car, and I’d buy the GTI for the seats.

2018 Volkswagen GTI interior

Thankfully, the rest of the car is just as brilliant. The six-speed manual transmission’s shifter is just a bit rubbery — the Mazda3 has a slightly better feel when shifting quickly —  but the clutch action on this Volkswagen is linear, almost buttery smooth. As most cars I drive don’t have a clutch pedal, I’ll admit the first couple drives in a new-to-me manual will reveal a lack of left-foot/right-hand coordination with a stall or two. It never happened in the GTI.

The ride in the GTI is a touch firm for seriously pockmarked roads, which isn’t helped by the standard forty-series tires on 18-inch wheels. Otherwise, highway drives are calm and quiet, with bumps registering with a muted thump and controlled body motions. The electrically-assisted power steering has none of the vagueness typical of other EPS systems, with a direct feel and quick turn-in.

2018 Volkswagen GTI dashboard

Drive this Volkswagen conservatively, upshifting at low revs with deliberate pedal and shifter action, and it’s a calm, quiet experience befitting the ideal city car. The basic infotainment system, with Bluetooth connectivity, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, works intuitively and sounds good enough for my ears.  Only when you let the tachometer swing past straight-up noon does the hot-hatch nature reveal itself, with a menacing-yet-muted feline growl coming from deep within the car.

2018 Volkswagen GTI infotainment

There’s 258 lb-ft of torque available at a low 1,500 rpm, so shifting isn’t strictly necessary when passing slower cars on the interstate. However, the sound can be addictive when you do drop a gear or two and you’re a child like me.

2018 Volkswagen GTI center stack

When you do break off the highway onto one of those roads laid out by the meander of a creekbed rather than the clinical shovel of a civil engineer, third gear is your friend in the GTI. Up and down ridges, around a mottled grey sycamore, and past the old bait shop, the roadholding is confidence-inspiring.

Indeed, while the GTI is clearly descended from hot hatches of old, there’s a bit of classic sports sedan deep within the soul of this truly great car. Composure over all road conditions is a hallmark of the iconic German sports sedans of old, and this VW delivers just like those legends.

Really, I’m convinced that everyone needs a Volkswagen GTI. It has the cargo room of a compact crossover, the driving manners of a good sports sedan, and the compact dimensions of a commuter. Plus the six-year, 72k-mile warranty eases the mind. Call me a jaded journalist, but it’s likely the one car I’d buy with my own (imaginary, remember, I’m a journalist) money.

2018 Volkswagen GTI rear quarter

[Images: © 2018 Chris Tonn/TTAC]

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86 Comments on “2018 Volkswagen GTI S Review – The One-car Solution...”

  • avatar

    Ok, I guess, even as a wagon-fan (’05 Legacy GT wagon), I still don’t get certain car fetishes (for lack of a better word).
    -brown (don’t like the color in a car)
    -diesel / manual – ok, just diesel..
    -and the (&@#% plaid seats. I think they’re the ugliest, dollar-store-like things I’ve seen. It would make me think I’m driving a Lada with the cheapest fabric available in Siberia. Yet, journalists seem to love them. I don’t get it. Sorry.

    • 0 avatar

      No love for the plaid seats? See the Blazer article on disrespecting a nameplate’s history!

      • 0 avatar

        I don’t like plaid seats either – reminds me too much of bad ’70s pants. Otherwise, this GTI seems like a nice piece of gear. I’d want the moonroof, though.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree.

      I sincerely admire VW for offering something unique in a world of cookie cutter appliance cars, but I do not understand why every review of a GTI has to speak so glowingly of those hideous seats. They just remind me of a 40 year old couch in my grandma’s basement….

      • 0 avatar

        Reminds me of a 40 year old TR7 …

        just about the only thing I didn’t like about the styling of that car were the plaid seats.

      • 0 avatar

        I like the Clark plaid seats, jack4x, but I’m in complete agreement with your annoyance at the way auto scribes fawn over them. I like them, but I can enumerate why: 1) I prefer cloth to leather; to me it’s more comfortable and more practical. 2) They’re quirky, if that appeals to you. 3) In the GTI, they’re traditional, if that appeals to you. They’re certainly NOT lovely, and to praise them as such is borderline indefensible.

      • 0 avatar

        They grow on you After a while you don’t even see them that often.

    • 0 avatar

      I also drove an ’05 Legacy GT Wagon. Loved that car. There’s a point in this review of the GTI that reminds me of the LGT. Driven conservatively it can be a calm, quiet experience. The LGT was the same way. It, like the GTI, could have two personalities. You could drive it calmly and still keep up with traffic while getting great fuel economy. But the power and torque would be available whenever needed.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t care much about the plaid design either way. But it is nice if they’re offering a quality cloth seat option.

  • avatar

    Now with a six year warranty, what’s not to like? Hopefully trump puts a tariff on Mexican-made vehicles and VW decides to dump their GTI production into Canada.

    (But really, who is buying all these GTIs with bland colours? Tornado red all the way!)

    • 0 avatar

      I was burned by a troublesome 2003 Jetta wagon. I became convinced that the check engine light was just VW’s way of telling me that the car was on. Didn’t matter how much money I put into repairs. But I loved driving it.
      With a 6 year warranty I might reconsider Volkswagen.

    • 0 avatar

      VW must have found a way to make window regulators last 6 years and 2 months.

      I am shopping for a hatchback right now. And I would like one that’s fun to drive. And I will not consider any VW. Because of reliability history, and their corporate disregard for the environment and people’s health.

      The only person I know who has owned more than one VW is a man with enough money to afford the repairs. I know several people who have owned exactly one VW and replaced it with something Japanese.

      • 0 avatar

        > and their corporate disregard for the environment and people’s health.

        Drama queen.

        If you eliminated every corporation which have a disregard for the environment and people’s health, you would be out of a job and your 401K would be nil.


  • avatar

    Yeah the GTI is a great “jack of all trades” car BUT…

    I still want more wagons period – subcompact, compact, midsize, full size.

    I want more sedan-hatches too. Sedan trunks have turned into barely there mail slots as it is so just make the whole darn thing open up.

    • 0 avatar

      Jack of all trades… yes… for the under-35 crowd.

      For the older driver with a bit more cash to flash, the new-gen Volvo V60 gets my vote.

      • 0 avatar

        “Jack of all trades… yes… for the under-35 crowd.”
        I have to agree. When I was in my late teens and through my late 20s I drove VW hatchbacks, but now I’m older, and they just look hideous to me. Moreover, if you’re over 35 driving one you look like a complete dork.

        • 0 avatar

          50+ and on my 5th VW hatchback, a ‘17 GTI SE. I get nothing but compliments and respect :)

          • 0 avatar

            Similar here, got my 2017 SE for myself as a 50th birthday present. I had been looking at the Sport trim as it seemed be the best bang for the buck, but the plaid seats didn’t do it for me. I found an SE in night blue for under 24K, went for it, no regrets. Besides the leather, SE also added the Fender sound system and the sunroof. With the 60/40 split seat and the pass through it works for 98% of the driving I do, except for the big family trips, and it is way more fun to drive than anything I’ve ever owned. I did get a hitch for a rear-mounted bike rack and the VW-brand roof/ski rack. All in all, good power, great brakes, well thought out package, seats are excellent. A/C is weak and there’s a little too much blind spot in the driver mirror. I like the looks from inside and out (said as a Honda guy).

        • 0 avatar

          Not sure why you think driving one would make you a dork. It is a fairly mature vehicle with conservative looks. We are not talking about Civics here, and I am a Honda fan
          I think the Golf Gti S now with the new warranty is one of the best fun car values out there. Too bad the diesel GTI never made it.

        • 0 avatar

          I have to admit I find it puzzling why people care what other people think. If it’s a practical fun car with good value who cares.

    • 0 avatar

      I’d love to see the Malibu Maxx re-booted.

      But I guess that’s what the Buick wagon is for.

    • 0 avatar

      I love my ’17 GTI, but I would pay STUPID money for a Golf GTI wagon. I’d probably even go so far as to buy an R wagon if they offered it here, and I generally have no use at all for that much power or AWD.

      Though what I really, really want is a Golf Wagon GT – GTI suspension, looks, and interior, but with either of the smaller more fuel efficient engines and a long roof. I’m not in that much of a hurry. They sell that elsewhere, but not in the US, because evidently we only deserve jacked up abominations like the AllTrak.

      • 0 avatar

        I’m curious, why not just buy a sportwagon and build your own GTI with some after market parts? Plenty of shops will do it if you are unable.

        • 0 avatar

          Because I can’t be bothered, I don’t have time, and I won’t pay butchers to do a poor job of it for me. And cobbled together cars are rarely as satisfactory as an unmolested example from the factory.

  • avatar

    It’s a shame they killed the “Sport” trim. It seemed like a great deal with the best upgrades the SE gets without some of the fluff like the sunroof and at a nice price point.

    • 0 avatar

      There is no need for a Sport trim any longer. All GTI’s are mechanically the same with the same 220hp engine tune (previously only available with the performance package, then later standard on Sport trim up).

      So a “Sport” would be a trim with more content than the S but less than the SE, which is a very narrow market niche. Especially since the plaid seats are now available on the SE with the sunroof and other niceties (previously the inability to do so was a major complaint with fans).

    • 0 avatar

      COMPLETELY agree, as the owner of a Sport. I actually considered trading mine for an ’18 to get the lovely new green (with the long warranty as a bonus, not that I have needed mine), but the inability to get the Sport goodies without a sunroof killed that thought dead.

      At least you can now get plaid seats and a sunroof if you want.

  • avatar

    The original Mini wasn’t a hatch, was it? (If we’re being pedantic.)

  • avatar

    I have always liked the GTi, even owned an ‘1984 model. Often times wished I had never sold it. Where do I find performance specs, wheel sizes, etc on this car?

    • 0 avatar
      cimarron typeR

      Me too, my 1st car was an 84 silver over blue velour Recaros. You’re right about wishing you didn’t sell it -the values of unmolested ones (like mine was) is escalating. Same for the 92 Mustang LX 5.0 I had, and the 330i ZHP after. Such is life.
      I started buying die cast models of former cars. Still , I can’t find a good Mk1 GTI that doesn’t have to be shipped from England.

    • 0 avatar

      My ’81 Rabbit had a golf ball shifter from a ’84 GTI.

      Don’t ask where I got it. And don’t ask where the shifter from my Rabbit ended up.

    • 0 avatar

  • avatar

    I owned a MKV with DSG a few years and really loved it. Haven’t driven this one.

    It is great as an all around car, yes, but at least on the MKV (and I will be surprised if it has been “fixed” on the MK7)…

    1) the cargo area was just a tad small. Yeah I could take 3 or 4 people in great comfort (2 box is super for rear seat space and headroom!), the cargo area was just too small for everyone’s carry on roller bags and a bit of extra stuff. Needs a bit more depth(?)/distance front to rear from rear seat back to hatch door.

    2) Everyone, and I swear it is everyone, raves about the seats in these cars. IMHO that was the thing I hated the most. Something about the angle of the seat or what would make my lumbar sore after a bit, and if I didn’t get the height or fore/aft just right would often irritate a nerve. It isn’t GTI cuz I’ve had rental Jettas years later and I get in and the problem comes back within minutes. Something with VW seats and me don’t mix.

    3) the driving position was a littlest wonky. I had a DSG but one reason I didn’t get the manual was the wheel/clutch/pedal interaction. To get clutch comfortably to floor, I’d have to move the seat closer, but then the long travel clutch on release I’d often bump my knee on the bottom of the wheel. Also you’d be spot on for the clutch but now the gas, but especially the brake pedal, we’re too close, causing an odd/uncomfortable bend in right knee. Then on top of that, if you’d put the steering up high enough to see the full gauge cluster, it was too high, put it down for comfort and top of gauge chopped off. Reminds me a bit of my very bad Corolla the relationship between the seat, pedals, and an oddly positioned steering wheel.

    But yeah, the drive aspect is fantastic. It hits the sweet spot in nearly every category. And it is extremely roomy for a compact exterior, super easy to park, good mpg, fast enough when you want it, made some nice sounds.

    I actually am very disappointed they discontinued the 2 door. I’d be open to owning another GTI but I really have never cared for the 4 door look or the smaller door openings that come with that.

    • 0 avatar


      I like the 2 door much better as well.

    • 0 avatar

      A little more cargo space is why I long for a Golf Wagon GTI. But the solution otherwise is a roofbox. How often do you really need to haul that much stuff.

      Seats are just incredibly individual. Everyone raves about Saab seats and BMW Sport Seats and I hate both of them. The Saab headrests are in the wrong place and not enough lumbar support. BMW Sport Seats are too narrow for me. I love the seats in my ’17 GTI, drove it 20hrs straight escaping Irma. For me the perfect seats are either cloth Volvo 940 seats or Peugeot 505 sport seats though.

      I actually haven’t driven a MKV, so I can’t compare, but no complaints with my MKVII about driving position.

      I too would have bought a 2dr if they hadn’t discontinued it, my back seat is primarily a briefcase shelf, and I am a big ape of a dude. Though I like the look of the 4dr better, the way the back door echos the hatchline is just brilliant.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Yet another reminder that I let this car go for a BOF SUV. I wouldn’t mind stumbling on a suitcase of cash that could be spent only on a car.

    A bit more sidewall and a bit more cargo volume is all it needs to be a nearly perfect all-rounder for me.

  • avatar

    I shopped the GTI in 2014 to replace my 2007 A3 when Audi decided no 5 doors. It reminded me a lot of my little Audi, but that was the problem. I wanted something different. So I got the bigger and less fun (slower and automatic) TSX Sportwagon. Still I miss the Audi, and I still think fondly of the GTI.

  • avatar

    i test drove a 2016 or 2017 of these when I was trading in my tdi wagon, this is when you could not get the plaid seats and a pano moon roof, which they have fixed as someone noted. It was a little dark in there with a all black interior, my wagon had siege and black. the car I test drove had 19 inch wheels and they were overkill , I would want 17’s at most with metro NY roads, it is still on my short list of cars I will consider when my Saab needs to be replaced, esp now that I could get a plaid , sunroof combo on a SE w the DSG.

  • avatar

    Looks like a nice car. I like the plaid seats, and I would go for a bland color. My preference for Q-ships, you know.

  • avatar

    No argument from me on any of this. Come November 2019, this is the odds-on favorite to replace my Jetta.

    If you’re in the market for a car like this, though, check out the Elantra Sport – it’s a damned good drive, and Hyundai is dealing on them.

    • 0 avatar
      cimarron typeR

      or wait for the N Sport Veloster – if the goofy styling doesn’t offend

    • 0 avatar

      In 2008 I wanted a GTI but with a child coming, I ended up with a Wolfsburg Jetta, 2.0 DSG. In 2015, upgraded to a 2015 Audi A3 Premium Plus and got it for 29,900. For that, I had to get it. The biggest difference I have noticed is that the Audi is much quieter and the air conditioning works a million times better.

  • avatar

    I bought a GTI in ’84, blue interior (you got blue or you got red), white exterior (you could choose White, Red, or Black), sunroof/vent wings/no A/C, Recaro seating, and geared for fun. Other than a restoration project in the garage, that was the one car for a decade. Drove the wheels off that and enjoyed every minute. Ten hour drives could be tedious though.

    So last summer when I replaced my bought-back diesel Jetta, I looked at the new GTI. Same interior as that pictured above. I love it. Almost bought one. But I went for the Golf Sportwagen instead for 3 reasons:
    1. I need an urban pickup truck and they don’t make the S10 anymore.
    2. AWD is a useful option in the 6 months we have snow/ice on the roads here. And the R Golf is too expensive for what it is.
    3. Scoobies are for people who don’t enjoy driving (or have boy-racer pretensions in the case of the WRX).

    I too had the thought of finding those seats and swapping out the seats in my wagon. They’d look nice with the platinum gray exterior.

    • 0 avatar
      Tele Vision

      A friend bought a Golf R after selling his old S8. It lasted two years, as his wife – who CAN drive a manual and took her test on one – said that she can’t drive a manual and didn’t want to try and drive his car when he took her SUV. It was a fun car to hoon in. The R was replaced with an ’06 M5 that only lasted nine months, as it sucked in the Winter. He traded it straight across for a ’13 335Xi. He misses the R the most, he says.

  • avatar

    I looked these when I was shopping.

    The back seat is a little tight if you have car seats.

    And I still couldn’t get myself to buy a VW, but at the time, they didn’t have the 6 year bumper to bumper warranty.

    I’ve always wanted a VW, but have been avoiding them my whole car buying life.

    The 6 year warranty helps, but what would send me off the deep end and straight into a VW dealership, checkbook in hand, is if they made……a GTI WAGON.

    Wouldn’t be hard for them to, they have all the parts already made.

  • avatar

    I too would cloth seat first choice. Usually you don’t get the choice.

    The good headlights usually end up with the sunroof and some other foof I don’t want.

    Still, the Golf chassis is probably the best out there for most people. I’ve had the Mk 6, and have the Mk 7 Jetta, and even in ace of base trim it’s nice. Add more power, a real set of tires, and soundproofing, and you are at the 92% percentile of automotive-dom, but for a normal price tag.

    I miss driving the TDi. Not the TDi, but the driving of the TDi.

  • avatar

    I am shocked that there is no mention about the fact that VW knowingly lied about polluting the earth we all share. The idea of giving business to this company is revolting to me. Shame on anyone seriously considering willingly giving them money. Companies like this deserve to be shut down immediately, with all executives put in prison for a few decades. Shame on you Chris for promoting this car and this company. What other despicable practices are you willing to ignore while practicing your “journalism”? Have you no conscience? no shame?

    • 0 avatar

      They cheated, they got caught, and they repented and took their punishment. Do you want to drive them out of business ? Make the factory workers destitute ? Take away their children ? Burn down the factories ? Plow over the grounds ? Have you no conscience? no shame?
      I suspect that your hatred is really for capitalism, or anything not run by the Almighty State.

      • 0 avatar

        I “suspect” bobdod was conveying just a smidgen of sarcasm there. If not, hoo-boy!

        • 0 avatar

          Yeah, Threeer is correct… I guess maybe I laid it on a little thick. I love Capitalism, though I do personally hate VW and would never buy one of their cars (especially post dieslelgate).

          • 0 avatar

            bobdod, I understand why you feel the way you do about VW, but do you have the same distaste for GM products due to their attitude about ignition switches?

            And does your VW hate carry to Audi and Porsche? What about the suppliers that knew about the cheating and helped either to ignore or enable it? Companies like Bosch?

            It’s a tricky rabbit hole to navigate.

          • 0 avatar

            My mistake. I did not see your subtlety. I apologize.

          • 0 avatar

            Honestly…diesel gate is a huge case of selective outrage. Vw diesel cars probably weren’t even.0000000000000001% of the pollution we create. So they lied, who cares.

            Population growth is what’s doing this world in. the need for more food(methane), more cars, more waste….Yet now one dares name the real problem as with most issues. No one is going to tell people not to have 5 kids. No…its that damn VW diesel ruing the environment.

    • 0 avatar

      If the standard for buying cars must be their personal and corporate responsibility, I’m afraid most manufacturers would get black marks. BMW/Mercedes/Porsche all had that Germany thing back in the 40’s. The Japaneese cars- Pearl Harbor. Korea- they still eat dogs don’t they? The Americans- Henry Ford was known as anti Semitic and had his thugs beat the employees who wanted to start a union. GM has had a host of problems- the latest being the ignition fiasco. Chrysler has had jeeps igniting after rear end collisions.
      So pick you poison.

      • 0 avatar

        Porsche the manufacturer and car nameplate didn’t even exist in the 1940s. That was Porsche the construction bureau.

        And Dieselgate is much bigger than VW. In Europe, almost everybody got caught red-handed with defeat devices.

  • avatar

    What are these things like after about 3 years of ownership?

    If they’re like my previous “new Passat”, the interior was falling apart, and the mechanicals were reliably questionable.

    • 0 avatar
      cimarron typeR

      We have an EOS which is 11 years old and has not any issues.As opposed to a N/A car it does require more maintenance costs. Every 40K spark plugs, 40k DSG fluid, only non maintenance item it needed was a 200.00 air oil separator. Didn’t leave us stranded , just stuttery on throttle performance when it went. Ours uses MK5 motor though. This motor has no timing belt, which helps .Pads/rotors/plugs are no more expensive than any other econobox.
      Just like any German 2.0T, cooling parts need inspections annually over 60k. Plastic water pumps,overfill tanks, end tanks tend to degrade.Not horribly expensive to replace.Finding an independent mechanic will be key and they’re not hard to find as most people enjoy this mark and are willing to pay for expert maintenance.
      Just like any turbo car, I’d prefer to buy it new (we did), to make sure it wasn’t hooned on (I suppose the lot boy could’ve)

    • 0 avatar

      I too got burned by the Passat thing and thus swore off all VeeDub products.

      However my brother is a true believer and has owned two Golf models. He has the previous generation R (AWD) version of this car with many mods (APR Stage II+) and has beat it senseless on the track for 4 years. It has something like 80K miles on it now and the syncros in the 6 speed are finally going out. Its been pretty much flawless. It tends to have battery issues due to the heat underhood (turbo + track + Florida = HOT HOT HOT) which causes some random electrical gremlins, but mechanically has been perfect. One day a hose let go spewing oil all over the engine, however he pulled it off track immediately and no damage was done.

  • avatar

    There’s an idiot who drives one of these along my commute. He thinks it’s hot. He cannot shift a manual. It’s a laugh to be alongside, but less fun to be behind than a mid-90s Plymouth Voyager.

  • avatar

    As an owner of a 2017 GTI Sport, I can say that you are absolutely right in this review. After much deliberation (not really) I picked the VW, as it’s just so good at being your one car. Have to commute to work every day? -You look forward to getting in and driving this car. Need the power to pass mindless other drivers? -There all day and feel stronger than 220 hp. Want a car that returns decent fuel economy? – I routinely get 33 mpg going on a 400 round trip to my friend’s place in VA.

    There are many qualities to like about the GTI, especially over its competition. There are things I wish were better. – DSG is a great transmission but can still get jerky in traffic. Power is plentiful, but you know there is more. – APR will help me with this. The ride is good but stiff. – My 17 in winter set-up helps with this.

    Overall, I don’t think there is another car I would get for the price. It feels premium and not like a compact. Coming from my Si, it’s way more car, even though I do miss 8000 rpm shifting. Also, plaid seats are great in a sea of black plastic.

  • avatar

    Really like the current GTI as well. As an alternative, I’d seriously consider leasing a 330 sport wagon. When I was shopping a few months ago, it was possible to find amazing deals on ex loaner 330 wagons in the 300s w/ 0 down (36/10k) for a car in the low 50s. GTI leases are pretty expensive in comparison- even a base sport like the one in this article would likely run in the low 300s. The wagons I looked at were equipped similarly to an autobahn spec GTI (leather power seats, xenon headlights, pano sunroof, upgraded wheels, HK stereo, etc). A lower spec one I found (closer in spec to a GTI sport but still better equipped) could’ve been had in the high 200s!

    Advantages of the BMW would be more that it’s quicker and has more cargo room which make it slightly more appealing as a 1 car solution. On the downside you can’t get it w/ a manual and the GTI’s steering feels better (and steering wheel unless you get a BMW w/ their msport wheel). They both look equally good to me in terms of design.

    • 0 avatar

      GTI leases aren’t great at the moment because the car doesn’t have stellar resale and they haven’t started discounting them heavily. VW usually does that late in the year. Either way, though, I think it’s a better buy versus lease, particularly if they bring back the 0% financing.

      • 0 avatar

        Yeah GTI leases never have been strong. I originally looked into it for mine and it’s way too much. I took the higher discount over special finance rate as it made more sense, but that was at the end of the 17 model year

  • avatar

    Thank you for your review, Mr. Tonn. Your points validate the green light I gave my dealer last week to search for a GTI S 6-spd in Night Blue. I should be taking delivery the first week of July. The 6/72K warranty and the current 0.9% financing in my area made this purchase a no-brainer. I can’t wait for it to arrive. I even found one of those old GTI Fast figures online…”My Fast likes the windows down.”

  • avatar

    I am 12,000 miles into my third GTI (MK6, MK7, MK7.5). All three have been fantastic and each new one better than the last. Each has been a manual transmission and the car has gotten faster with each version. The MK6 had the plaid seat, which lots of people would comment on. Loved that the cloth seats were heated. The leather with the autobahn trim in my MK7 and MK7.5 is in fact real leather and comfortable. Will be looking forward to the MK8 around 2020. Will take mine in black, please.

  • avatar

    I sold my ’16 SE/DSG for a ’17 SS, but I still miss the GTI. It’s just a damn good all around car.

  • avatar

    Subaru WRX has more hp -268 and better lateral acceleration -0.96 g.
    Is GTI more quiet than WRX?
    Does the steering have more feedback?

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, yes, and the GTI doesn’t make you look like a fratboy driving it. And the WRX doesn’t come in a useful form factor anymore.

      Plus I live in FL where I need AWD like I need a couple of ex-wives.

  • avatar

    I have a couple of ex-wives…I seemingly learn life lessons the hard way.

    At age 51, I simply can’t see myself in any Golf, nor a GTI. A Jetta GLI with plaid seats would be right down my alley, or a Sportwagen variant, but the hatch just screams out “young guy car”.

    • 0 avatar

      Interesting watching who is driving GTIs… they are either men in our age group or younger hipsters. I laugh every time I meet another GTI and the young guy driving gives me a wave.

    • 0 avatar

      If you have failed twice at having meaningful adult relationships, maybe you should rethink your understanding of social messaging in regards to the hinges on the back of your car.

    • 0 avatar

      “, but the hatch just screams out ‘young guy car’…’re 51, drive what you want to. I’m 55 and drive a Charger R/T, sometimes I get the “mid-life crisis” routine from people. Mid-life? I passed that over 15 years ago according to my expected shelf life, lol.

    • 0 avatar

      It never fails to amaze me:

      1) How much people think that complete strangers are watching them and taking note of what they own/do.

      2) To what extent people care about what complete strangers think of these choices.

  • avatar

    Thanks for an excellent article, Chris. I am also very fond of what you were listening to on the stereo. Didn’t think anyone paid attention to this album anymore ;)

    I have long disliked the plaid seats, so frumpy, but somehow in your photos they are growing on me.

    Would love to have one of these cars, but can’t get past the VW quality and shittee dealer issues. Had a 1977 Rabbit (brown) way back when and it served me well in spite of my lack of consistent care. But there were many very flimsy plastic parts all over it and under the hood.


  • avatar

    The car tested here is apparently not (quite) available in Canada. Here we get 2 choices, a base (not named “S”) and Autobahn. Unlike the model tested, it comes with blah-looking 17″ spoke alloy wheels and “Zoom”, not Clark, cloth. Only option is a driver assist package that has park assist, etc. No sunroof or other choices. There is a bit of color choice at least: Metallic in dark blue, gray or silver, black pearl, and solid white or red. No green. Interestingly if you go for the Autobahn model you can substitute Clark cloth for its standard black leather, but there is no price credit.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    Drove one of these and a Golf R. Put me in the pro plaid seat camp…I was disapointed they werent available on the R.

  • avatar
    Carroll Prescott

    Would be a decent car for four years – but it’s a Volkswagen – after the 48th month, the Gremlins start coming out and you’ll be sorry from that point on.

  • avatar

    Well said, Chris. I smile every time I walk away and look back at my 2011 base GTI with the plaid seats and aftermarket 18″ Snowflake repros. It is truly the one car I’d keep from the fleet if I had to pare it all down to one car.

    It’s just “right”.

  • avatar

    Owner of a 2016 MT Autobahn, and I couldn’t be happier. I replaced my 2006 A3 with a GTI after trying to convince myself that I wanted a B8 A4 or the (then) new S3. The A4 just wasn’t doing it for me, and the S3 was great – but sterile. The GTI just felt right. It really is a “goldilocks” car.

    It’s going to be hard for VW to not screw up everything great about the MK7 when its successor debuts in about 18 months. Similarly, it’s going to be hard to convince me that an A3/A4/3-Series is going to be worth the premium when the time comes.

  • avatar

    Late to this post but used this it to convince myself I wanted a GTI. I haven’t had a German car since my 1982 BMW 320i. This car reminds me of that but more power. I’m gonna throw out there that the shifter feel is much better than my 2012 Civic Si that I had a few cars back (I buy often). I don’t miss shifts with this manual. I did all the time in the Si. There’s a little more lag down low than I was anticipating. It reminds me of my 1997 SAAB 900 in that respect. But damn, the handling. I’ve never had a car that felt like a go-cart as much as this one does. Yet it was just fine for a 3.5 hr each way interstate trip this past weekend.

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