Just about perfect.
I’m prone to bouts of extreme laziness, so I don’t mind telling you that I thought about writing the review for Volkswagens Mark 7 GTI like so:
The Volkswagen GTI is the best front wheel drive car there is, period. You should buy it.
Aside from the boss chewing me out for an epic lack of effort, that statement, er, road test, is completely accurate.
- Unflappable poise, no matter the situation
- Strong power coupled with admirable efficiency
- Build quality is good enough to embarrass cars that cost twice as much
- Pedals spaced ever so slightly too far apart for proper heel-and-toe shifting
- Stability Control can’t be fully disabled- not cool for a car with such potential
- The undisputed reigning King of the Hot Hatches.
Since it hit the streets in 1974 the GTI has been the undisputed torch bearer for the hot hatch genre and aside from a dark time from 1997 to 2006 when it became a tired and bloated afterthought, it’s been the ruler of the roost. You can buy similar cars in philosophy that are faster and in some cases a bit more entertaining to drive- I’m looking at you, Ford Focus ST and Subaru WRX- but nothing, absolutely nothing comes close to the GTI’s heady mixture of speed, poise and everyday usability.
Thing is, as great as the Focus and Subie are they aren’t as adept at real life as the GTI. If you live on a rally stage or enjoy a glut of high speed, oversteer inducing curves during your commute the WRX and ST are ideal choices. If you have to traverse pock marked streets while carrying the occasional cargo hold full of stuff, you can look but you will not find a finer steed than the GTI.
Is it perfect? No, but imperfections are very minor, starting with a stability control system that isn’t fully defeatable- halfway off simply doesn’t cut it. I might also wish slightly for pedals spaced ever so slightly closer together for perfectly executed heel-and-toe downshifts. Other than that, there isn’t much left to be desired with this car.
The styling is the best GTI expression to date- I happily owned a Mark 5, and this version is much tauter and sharply creased than the slightly bulbous proportions on my car. Similarly, the interior has seen its share of upgrades over the years, to the point where I’d describe the cabin as one of the best in the automotive kingdom. You may never need to consult your owner’s manual- everything works as expected, and easily located too. The GTI specific touches do it for me as well- the plaid “Clark” seats, the teed up golf ball gear lever and the wonderful flat bottomed steering wheel. And the seats? Next to a Volvo, there aren’t many thrones that place you so perfectly, so comfortably in a car for the task of driving.
Driving the GTI is where the most satisfying rewards are doled out. Want to play it cool and just commute? No problem. The GTI’s suspension is supple enough to smooth out any scabrous pavement, the controls all respond with a pleasing willingness and the whole affair is bolstered by an overall feeling of solidity and cohesiveness. It’s even whisper quiet, playing the luxury card surprisingly well.
When you feel like playing, the GTI is equally adept. The stoic steering which helps with resolute path control becomes lively and talkative. The brakes respond with a feel that is light years better than even the Mark 6 version, and summon impressive stopping power. The chassis’ stern civility becomes playful and the nose of the car is like a terrier, hunting for apexes, finding them, and then eagerly looking for the next corner. At the limit, the GTI is always planted and in control; no uncertain sashaying and devoid of ugly, plowing understeer. It’s all great fun.
The 2.0 turbocharged four has matured over time as well, and it now makes enough power to keep even the most dogged enthusiast happy. If 210 horsepower isn’t enough, a Performance Package turns up the wick another 10 horsepower, but you also get beefier brakes and an honest mechanical limited slip differential to help manage the extra grunt. More important is the husky 258 pounds of twist the engine summons to the front wheels.
By now, any reservations on putting one of these gems in your driveway has been addressed. The question now becomes, “which gearbox should I get?” I was asked this at length during my time with the two flavours of GTI. Should you go blink-of-an-eye shifting DSG or the old fashioned manual? It won’t surprise many that we overwhelmingly prefer the DIY tranny- to us, it seems odd to even question anything else- but the DSG gets better and better with each passing generation, and if the reality of hours long traffic jams is part of your commute, the case for eliminating the clutch pedal becomes that much more compelling. In the end, it really doesn’t matter which one you go with, because this car is just that good.
2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI 6MT/DSG – Specifications
- Price as tested: $33,590 (6MT)/$36,085 (DSG)
- Body Type: 4-door, 5 passenger sedan
- Powertrain Layout: Front engine/front-wheel drive
- Engine: 2.0-litre turbo inline four, DOHC, 16 valves
- Horsepower: 210 @ 4,300-6,200 rpm
- Torque (lbs.-ft.): 258 @ 1,600-4,200 rpm
- Transmission: 6-speed manual/6-speed Dual Clutch automatic
- Curb weight: 1,375 kg/3,031 lbs. (6MT) 1,400kg/3,086 lbs. (DSG)
- Observed Fuel consumption: 9.2L/100 km (25 mpg)