The Volkswagen Golf GTI has been a hot hatch icon for over 40 years. How does the latest Mark 7 GTI hold up?
Anyone who loves hot hatchbacks holds the Volkswagen Golf GTI as a benchmark. With 24,000 units sold last year, in addition to 62,000 standard Golfs, it’s also one of Volkswagen’s most popular cars. It’s not the most powerful you can get, nor is it the outright fastest. However, it’s well-built, practical, economical, and fun. It’s also a great college car, as our own Michael Curtis will attest. As benchmarks go, the GTI earns its reputation because it does what a hot hatchback should: it does everything. As great as this all-rounder may be, it does have some flaws, however minor. In this TFLnow video, Mike gives us a long-term update on his 2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI.
Things Michael loves about the Volkswagen Golf GTI:
1.) The engine
A staple of a truly good hot hatch is a good engine. Volkswagen makes that point plain to see with the GTI. It has a 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 200 horsepower and 258 lbs. ft. of torque. In Michael’s car, that engine is mated to a six-speed manual transmission (save the manuals!). It’s not the most out-and-out powerful, but it is torquey, rev-happy, and pretty economical too. If you drive it carefully, you should get mileage above and beyond Volkswagen’s 25/28/34 City/Combined/Highway rating. That being said, even if you don’t drive it carefully – it is a hot hatch, after all – you should still get in the mid-20s.
2.) Fun to drive
Again, it wouldn’t be a hot hatch if it didn’t handle. Despite being on less-than-ideal Pirelli Cinturato P7s (we’ll come back to that in a minute), the Volkswagen Golf GTI still loves to go canyon carving. Its engine is really at its best when you drop a couple gears and ring every bit of turbocharged goodness out of it, whether that means stretching its legs on the highway or blasting down a mountain back road. Mike says the car as a blast to drive, and I wholeheartedly agree – plus it sounds pretty good (although with a slight issue that we’ll come back to later).
3.) The interior
With a red-stitched leather steering wheel, a golf-ball shift knob, and funky plaid seats, the Volkswagen Golf GTI’s interior brings some nice touches. The golf-ball shift knob and seats, in particular, hark back to the old days of the GTI, carrying on its tradition with retro touches in an altogether modern hatch.
Things to hate (or at least find slightly annoying) about the Volkswagen Golf GTI:
1.) The tires
While the Volkswagen Golf GTI’s handling is excellent, its tires do a fair bit to hold back its true potential. They’re not bad tires in their own right, but they don’t handle the power and torque sent to the front wheels as well as more optimal tires would. That may be a sticking point with all-season tires in general, but it does make it too easy to break the wheels loose in first and second gear.
2.) The wheels
The five-spoke alloys on Mark 7 Golf GTI’s look fantastic. That being said, they do carry some issues, in that they sit flush with the wheel. Because they sit flush, you can curb a wheel fairly easily, and that hurts the aesthetic of the car (and your bottom line, if you do it enough).
3.) The “Soundaktor”
The soundaktor – German for sound actuator – is a system Volkswagen uses to enhance engine sound in their cars. In the Golf GTI, a device mounted on the firewall amplifies noise inside the cabin when the engine is under load. It’s not a bad noise, but some people mind the added sound. On the other hand, it may not be the noise that grates some owners, as the gnawing realization that the augmented sound is, in fact, fake. It can be bypassed, or you may simply drive the car around in comfort mode to diminish its effects.
What do you think, TFLcar community? At any rate, there could be worse things to hate about the Volkswagen Golf GTI! Leave your thoughts on this car or start a hot hatch debate in the comments below! As always, check out The Fast Lane Car and TFLnow on YouTube and subscribe for more news, views, and long-term reviews.