By Andy Lilienthal
The Golf GTI has always been synonymous with great driving dynamics, a reasonably low cost of entry, and loads of fun. Volkswagen Golfs with those three letters have always been rewarding to drive; it's been a winning formula for VW since 1976. It's also not a formula that gets messed with much. And frankly, VW knows how to execute the FWD performance hatchback.
I can't wait for this style to go away.
Our tester is a GTI S model, which is the entry level trim (there are S and SE models). This means, no moon roof, no navigation, no backup camera, and no Fender audio system. The S model is great for those who want a GTI, but don't need the extras, or the extra weight. What it does come with, however, are 18-inch wheels and tires, a sport-tuned fully independent suspension, a gusty engine, and great driving dynamics. Unlike many boy-racerish sport compact cars, the GTI has a mature feel to it. Not mature as in dowdy, but mature as in classy. Case in point? Look at those seats!
All this means that the GTI is quick little hatchback. With all that torque, the car is quick around town, yet still has plenty of thrust on the highway. There were numerous occasions where the front wheels broke loose, but the traction control quickly quells that. And by the way, there is the XDS differential system, so in the corners, the GTI sticks like glue.
Speaking of handling, the GTI continues to live up to its reputation of being a handler. The standard 18x7.5 inch wheels and sticky Bridgestone tires offer tenacious grip. The steering—oh the steering! In a world in which so many cars lack any sort of steering feel, the GTI reminds you that there is life outside of numb, overboosted turning. In terms of front-drivers, the GTI's handling is definitely at the top of the pile. This is a car you just want to fling at every possible moment. It's a damn hoot to drive enthusiastically. It rewards you nearly all the time. The ride is on the firm side, and that's accented by the 40-series tires. You do feel every crack in the pavement.
By the way, our GTI was equipped with a true shift-it-yourself six-speed manual transmission. The very good DSG automatic is also available for for an $1,100 up charge. Fuel economy ratings for our GTI are 25 city, 28 combined, and 34 city on premium fuel. We got about 28 MPG.
If there was one thing I'd like to see changed on the GTI it'd be a twinge louder exhaust note. In fact, any exhaust note would be welcome. Yes, this is easily remedied by the aftermarket, but still. Let's hear this little beasty!
So how much will all this fun run? Our tester stickered at $25,605 including destination, which I think it an extremely fair price of the amount of performance and driving pleasure you get from the GTI. And while rear-wheel drive is all the rage these days, the GTI is still a hot hatch, and is still a kick in der lederhosen.
|THE BASICS: 2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI S|
|MSRP As Tested:||$25,605|
|Engine:||Turbocharged 2.0-liter four cylinder|
|Curb Weight:||2,972 lbs.|
|Suspension:||F: Independent front, 24mm sway bar |
R: Independent multilink, 20 mm sway bar
|Brakes:||F: Disc w/ABS |
R: Disc w/ABS
|Range & MPG:||21 city, 29 highway, 24 combined|