2015 Volkswagen Golf GTi 5-door Autobahn
2.0 TSI 16V Turbo
210 HP @ 4,300-6,200
258 lb-ft @ 1,600-4,200
46m (winter tires)
Heritage – In the automobile world, few cars have to be awesome by default, just because their heritage demands so. The Volkswagen Golf GTi is definitely a car with heritage few can dispute, it is the grand daddy of hot hatches. It was the car that showed the world how to transform a “regular” commuter into something really fun to drive and today, nearly 30 years later, it is challenged to prove that it is possible to improve the ingredients without diluting the recipe that made it such a success.
Indeed, upon first look, the 7th generation Golf GTi looks like it is on the right path. Its hot hatch visual cues are very few and discrete at the same time, pricing is also kept reasonable; a factor vital to its success. Prices start at $27,995 and at that price point you get all the essentials and then some . Our test vehicle came in at $33,590 as it featured the 5-door bodystyle in the Autobahn trim and the technology package. It is not stripped down at all, standard features include 18″ alloy wheels with TPMS, red brake calipers, automatic Bi-Xenon adaptive headlights, Bluetooth connectivity with voice commands and iPod support, dual zone climate control, cross differential system (XDS), direct steering, stability control with sport mode (ESC). It also comes with a wicked Fender premium audio system with a punchy sub, LED fog lights, heated front sport seats, hill hold assist, keyless entry with start button, leather wrapped “GTi” multifunction sport steering wheel, a cool “golf ball” gear knob, panorama power sunroof, rear view camera, sport suspension, navigation with traffic support and a 5.8″ touchscreen with proximity sensor.
The interior design will not thrill with visuals, but will definitely satisfy the owner with the quality of the construction. Soft to the touch materials have been used extensively and the fit between them is excellent. The ambient lighting is impressive, with the red illuminated “GTi-style” lines appearing on the door panels. The door pockets are lined with carpet, which shows that the Golf has been engineered with particular attention to detail. As a typical German hatchback, ergonomically it scores top points as the layout of all the controls is as simple as it gets and reaching everything is easy. The instrument cluster is modern and very readable, while the info menus include a lap timer and complete trip information for both the past and the present. The infotainment system responds quickly and is very easy to pair with your phone. The proximity sensor understands when your hand is approaching the screen so it preps the system to accept your input without delay. If only the screen was a bit higher resolution so the graphics would appear less choppy. Voice control works well and even some hard to pronounce names were recognized correctly. Every time you leave the car, there is a notification reminding you to take your cell phone with you. Nice touch.
Apart from being well made, the cabin is also very roomy for a compact hatchback. The front heated sport seats are a joy to sit in, while the rear bench is able to fit three adults with no major complaints. Legroom is good and so is the headroom, but best of all is the trunk. At 490L it is the king of the hill and second to none in the class.
Under the hood, the 2.0L TSI 4-cylinder engine has been improved and further developed to output 210 HP and 258 lb-ft of torque. Performance is really good, especially thanks to the low curb weight of 1,378kg. The engine has little to fight against, which has also benefited fuel economy. Our 6-speed manual hit 100km/h in under 7 seconds and when driven ultra-smoothly, it averaged 7.9lt/100km in heavy traffic. There is only one way to describe that, amazing! Without trying to save the planet’s resources, the GTi still returned a very respectable 9.1lt/100km average, which was 0.3lt better than the claimed number. There are three driving profiles you can select from, normal, sport and individual, which set the steering, throttle response and lighting accordingly. The manual gearbox is a joy to use, the shifter is soft and smooth and shifts into position with ease between the well-defined gates. The useful clutch travel is only about half, so at first the hill hold assist might come in handy. The brakes keep stopping confidence high as they resist fade well and from 100km/h were able to bring the car to a complete stop in 46m (on winter tires). The brake pedal itself was quite crisp and linear making smooth braking effortless.
The nicest thing about the GTi is how usable it is. It is so well balanced that makes it one of the most flexible cars on the market. Between a lap on the track and running to the store, there is nothing the GTi cannot do with decent skill. Even the exhaust note is very balanced, ranging from very discrete to slightly throaty under heavy acceleration. The ride comfort is really good despite the firm setup. Bumps are felt but not enough to upset your spine or to cause increased fatigue. In the city, its agility and refinement help reduce the pain, so even when stuck in traffic, the experience was not so horrible. Rural roads and highways are with no doubt where this car belongs, as it spreads its wings and flies away, covering large amounts of kilometers before you know it. The sturdiness in a straight line is spectacular, and in the bends, what the XDS differential does is simply phenomenal.
Throw the car in a sharp turn and expect the nose to follow your input with high precision. At the apex, while you’d normally go back on power gradually to avoid understeer, with the XDS diff you can do that almost instantly and the nose will just grip and pull the car out of the corner. It feels like it inverses all the laws of physics, making the thrill of going around corners a little bit magical. Yes, if you exceed its limits with the ESC turned off, it will understeer, but the eagerness it showcases when trying to sort things out is astonishing. A few months ago, I had the opportunity to try a DSG equipped GTi around the track, and I was amazed by how easy it was to go really fast, without feeling any stress at all. The maximum lateral acceleration we recorded was a very respectable .93g on a fine autumn day. With the Performance Pack installed, the whole experience is supposed to improve even further so if you plan of taking your GTi to track events, you’d better go for it.
30 years later, the GTi still lives up to its heritage and most importantly, continues to make history. It has won so many awards already and that tells the whole story. The latest reincarnation has redefined what the hot hatch is all about. Zero stress, maximum fun, every day.
Fully loaded it gets pricey
Noisy tonneau cover
Rear door panels are hard plastic