Since the Golf-based Volkswagen GTI first came to market nearly 30 years ago, numerous rivals – both direct and indirect – have come and gone. There are new rivals on the way. Scion’s FR-S is a rear-wheel drive boxer-engined coupe. The Hyundai Veloster is a front-drive lukewarm hatch which, with next year’s turbocharger, should be quicker than the Volkswagen.
Will it matter? The Veloster is a hit, deservedly so, but for how long? And does anyone believe the Scion FR-S will still be alive and kickin’ in 2035 when Volkswagen is celebrating the GTI’s 60th birthday? Sure, it’s possible. Technically. Theoretically. But the GTI has the lasting power of Elizabeth Windsor. And for good reason.
The Volkswagen Golf GTI is both the sensible and emotional choice. It’s a hatchback with 46 cubic feet of cargo capacity, seating for five, and 31 highway miles per gallon. That makes the GTI a smart choice. But it’s wearing four of the world’s best wheels, 18-inch Detroit alloys. There’s a scenic torque plateau from 1800 to 5000 rpm. The steering is so pure; so familiar; so obedient, you’ll constantly be left wondering why something as inherently automotive as steering can’t always be this good. Volkswagen covers the seats in beautiful plaid cloth which will cause you to wonder why lumberjacks don’t look this good.
Priced below the American market’s average new car transaction price, the Volkswagen Golf GTI is perhaps the car most capable of satisfying the majority of new car buyers. Thankfully, it hasn’t, so your new GTI purchase won’t land you a car all the neighbours already own.
Engines: 200 horsepower; 207 lb-ft of torque from a turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder
Base USD/CAD Price: $23,695 / $29,375
City Fuel Economy: 21-24 miles per gallon
It’s Not Perfect: A basic GTI now weighs more than 3000 pounds. No wonder Volkswagen offers the more powerful Golf R, although that car weighs as much as 3325 pounds.
Sales Stats: The GTI must deal with numerous direct rivals Across The Pond. The RenaultSport Megane, Opel Astra OPC, GTI-based Seat Leon Cupra R and Skoda Octavia vRS all make life slightly more challenging for the GTI outside North America. Perhaps the forthcoming Ford Focus ST will do the same over here in the near future. Monthly and yearly sales figures for the Volkswagen Golf family can be viewed here. The GTI stars in two monthly sporty car sales charts, one for Canada and one for the United States.