Fast Take: 2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI Rabbit

Words by: Adam Allen

What is it?

If you need an introduction to this car, well, you’re doing it wrong. The GTI is among the iconic pillars of the automotive industry, up there with the likes of the Porsche 911, the Range Rover and VW’s own Beetle. Since its inception in 1974 Volkswagen has sold over 10 million of these things and with good reason- they transcend their genre, or in this case, is responsible for inventing the entire hot hatch segment. Many manufacturers have tried to get in on the action, some enjoying success and others not so much. Today, we’re driving the newly minted GTI Rabbit Edition furnished in traffic stopping Cornflower Blue. So what exactly do you get with the Rabbit Edition, which slots between the base model and the full zoot Autobahn trim? Horsepower remains the same as its stablemates with 228 excitable ponies. This output can be harnessed by a 6-speed manual transmission (this is the one to get folks- Save the Manuals, remember?) or a 7-speed dual clutch automatic as was the case with our tester. Also on the menu are gloss black 18” wheels, a spoiler and side mirrors finished in black paint and a choice of exterior colours specific to the model, though it’s hard to argue that yours shouldn’t be slathered in the Cornflower Blue you see here.

What’s it like to drive?

The GTI is a delightful juxtaposition of driving behaviour, one that has endeared it to so many drivers who want their cake and eat it too. Feel like a go-around on your favourite rural ribbon of tarmac? The GTI will rise to the occasion, making short work of the straight bits and then devouring corners thanks to its extremely balanced chassis and trick XDS differential that provides astounding levels of grip- not bad for a front-wheel drive car without a true mechanical LSD. After you’ve tortured the tires and burned off some fuel and it’s time to head home, the GTI knows how to restore calm. It isolates you from road and wind noise, the engine turns over lazily and the suspension goes from focusing on providing flypaper grip to cosseting you and your passengers. To sum it up, it’s easily the most comfortable hot hatch you’ll encounter- but it isn’t the fastest. The latter matters not one iota because were it lacks in all out speed (and only just) it makes up for in all around versatility…

What’s it like inside?

…and that versatility extends to the cargo holding abilities of the GTI, more so than some small crossovers. To wit- we managed to swallow much more stuff when helping a friend move that we were able in an Audi Q3. That is a feather in the GTI’s cap of practicality, but you won’t care about that when you see and settle into the Clark cloth seats which are finished in a whimsical plaid pattern, a nod to the O.G. GTI from 1974. No other car on the market has a flourish like this, and on paper you might think it sounds like it might be better suited to upholstering your Granny’s couch from the 1970’s but rest assured that it is all kinds of retro awesome. The other interior highlights would include impeccable build quality and an abundance of high-quality materials capped off by an 8” infotainment screen that is finally a pleasure to use- this used to be a weak point of VW interiors, but not anymore. If you typically find yourself on journeys to far flung destinations, or just coming home from a long day at the office, the GTI’s interior will become one of your favourite places to decompress and relax. You can hardly say that about many of those cars that compete with the GTI.

Why you should care:

If you fancy yourself a gearhead and you want to extract the maximum amount of flexibility from your ride, you need to drive this. When you’re feeling saucy, it’s a willing dance partner. When you just want to chill, it will deliver you to your destination in comfort and refinement. It’ll also happily swallow an impressive amount of your life’s detritus, so much so that owners of small crossovers will cast envious glances in your direction. It will return exemplary fuel economy on long trips just as effortlessly as it will send a hair-raising torrent of power to its trick electronic differential. If you could only have one car in your driveway and aren’t flushed with an abundance of cash, the GTI is a serious candidate for your parking real estate. Yes, the Soundaktor exhaust noise amplifier tries too hard and we wonder who thought it would be a good idea to hobble such a capable car with Pirelli P7 Cinturato all-season tires instead of something that would complement the astute suspension tuning, but at the end of the day the GTI remains as it has been almost throughout its entire lifespan: Nearly perfect.

2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI Rabbit – Specifications

  • Price as tested: $37,145
  • Body Type: 5-door, 5 passenger hatchback
  • Powertrain Layout: Front engine/front-wheel drive
  • Engine:  2.0-litre turbo inline four, DOHC, 16 valves
  • Horsepower: 228 @ 4,500 rpm
  • Torque (lbs.-ft.): 258 @ 1,500 rpm
  • Transmission: 7-speed Dual Clutch automatic
  • Curb weight: 1,418kg (3,126 lbs.)
  • Observed Fuel consumption: 9.3L/100 km (25mpg)