2013’s The Good 12 – Volkswagen Golf GTI – $20,000-$25,000

VOLKSWAGEN GOLF GTI

2013 Volkswagen Golf GTI Detroit alloys

At first blush, the Volkswagen GTI has aged, a process made more evident now that it’s been overshadowed by the much more powerful Ford Focus ST.

Ah, but only like a fine wine.

The Good 12 2013 logoPower isn’t everything, and the fact that the Focus’s turbocharged 2.0L generates an extra 52 horsepower and 63 more lb-ft of torque while drinking less fuel doesn’t necessarily make the Ford the more desirable car. Personally, I don’t care for the boy racer look. The Focus’s centre console also resides too close to the driver’s right leg, something that might not bother you, but it drives me crazy. 

Ford made tremendous strides with the second-generation Focus. GoodCarBadCar honoured the Focus Titanium hatchback with a Good 12 victory just last year. But the Golf remains the more premium-feeling machine, the one you might want to keep for life, not just until something newer and flashier hits the auto show circuit. In these conflicting sporty trims, the Focus ST might be the better drive, but is it a car I want to use as my family’s daily driver? My nephews would love it. My wife’s aunts would continue to believe I’d never grown up.

But a Golf, a fast Golf riding on the best wheels the automobile world has to offer, satisfies so many different cravings. It’s a German turbocharged hatchback with room for five. Seriously, what more could you want? 

Apart from the Focus ST’s engine and lower price tag, of course.

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Engine: 200 horsepower; 207 lb-ft of torque from a turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder

Base USD/CAD Price: $23,995 / $29,375

City Fuel Economy: 21 miles per gallon

It’s Not Perfect: The GTI’s highway fuel economy, 31 mpg, is fine for a car of this nature. But that city figure isn’t pleasant. It could also be difficult to reconcile the 2013 purchase of an Mk6 GTI when you quite rightly suspect the Mk7 GTI will be better. The GTI isn’t a rear-wheel-drive dream like the Subaru BRZ. Unfortunately, the BRZ and its twin, the Scion FR-S, have virtually unusable rear seats and aren’t nearly as pleasant to live with on a daily basis.

Sales Stats: Through eleven months, 40% of the Golfs sold in the United States in 2012 were of the GTI variety. Combined with the Golf R, Golfs that don’t use a diesel or 2.5L five-cylinder accounted for just a bit under half of all Golf sales. In Canada, the Golf line ranks in the top 35 of all new vehicle nameplates, some 60 spots up on what the Golf does in the United States.

Viable Alternatives: The Ford Focus ST, Mini Cooper S, and Fiat 500 Abarth all have the ability to amuse.