2007 Volkswagen GTI Review
Model: Volkswagen GTI
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged I4
Horsepower/Torque: 200 hp @ 5100 rpm/207 lb.-ft. @ 1800 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic with manual mode
Wheelbase: 101.5 in.
Length x Width x Height: 164.9 x 68.3 x 56.7 in.
Cargo volume: 41.8 cu. ft.
Economy: 25 mpg city/31 mpg highway/28.0 mpg test
In “normal” form, this Volkswagen is known as the Rabbit. If you recall the name, VW used the name for its compact sedan until 1983, when it was re-named the Golf to conform with the usage all over the world. The Rabbit name returned in 2006.
Out tester, however, is the GTI, which has always been the GTI. The name has a resemblance to the GTO name used by Pontiac and, earlier, Ferrari. While the GTI is a hot little roller skate, it is in no way like the GTOs.
We have driven the GTI in the past and, if memory serves me correctly, it was a speedy little car but was always a handful. Volkswagen has kept the speed part and given the GTI more manners. While it can accelerate with, and keep up with, almost anything else on the road, when it’s driven “normally” it’s a nice, well-mannered car.
The two-door coupe version of the Rabbit/GTI is compact. It isn’t as small as a Smart, for example, but it is one of the smaller cars around. It has a longer wheelbase and overall length than a Mini, for example.
Despite its size, there’s a lot of practicality in the GTI. For example, when we had to travel we popped the rear seat backs down to create an almost-flat floor and more than 41 cubic feet of cargo volume. With the rear seat backs up, though, there’s still a lot of space back there to stow stuff. Access to the rear is through a hatch with a unique handle made out of the “VW” badge on the back.
We had comfortable front seats with good side support. The rear seats, surprisingly, were also comfortable. There was even a decent amount of leg, head and foot room to make the ride back there more pleasant. Rear passengers have a fold-down armrest as well. Access to the rear seats was relatively easy, with a fold-and-slide feature to the fronts that made entry easy.
My only complaint about the seats was the plaid inserts on them. The outer rims are black, and I feel the seats would have looked a lot better if they were all black. But, as I’ve said before, this car probably doesn’t have me in its demographic sights.
The engine was a joy. It didn’t seem like a turbocharged engine at the start because it was so smooth. But when I started driving harder and using the manual shifter paddles behind the steering wheel, then it acted more turbo-like. In fact, the turbo comes on quite suddenly and it takes some experience with the car to learn how to feather the accelerator to avoid jumpy starts.
The engine was fun to use on twisty hill climbs with lots of tight turns, but it was also a pleasure on long Interstate runs. When I wanted to pass someone, all I had to do was kick in the throttle and before either of us knew it, I was by. I did have to pay attention to the speedometer, though. It had a very high number and gave me every impression that the GTI would try its best to get there.
Befitting a sporty car, the suspension was hard. That, coupled with low-profile 45-section tires, made for a harsh ride. We noticed every tar strip on the Interstates. On the other side of the coin, of course, the GTI exhibited great handling. At times it was hard to believe that I was driving a 4-seater coupe and not a performance sports car.
The steering wheel was great. It was fat, so it had a great feel. The bottom was also flattened, Formula 1 style, to allow for more leg room. The paddle shifters behind were in just the right place and cruise and audio controls were also added.
The instruments were white-on-black during the day, but added an orange tint at night that made them harder to read. Small inside storage areas were slim, with cupholders between the front seats and one in each door (which I tended to use more). There was a small cubby at the bottom of the center stack that had a power outlet. There was a small center console that also had a power outlet. There was room enough in the glove box for a catcher’s mitt.
The new styling of the Rabbit/GTI drew a lot of favorable comments from passers-by. My brother-in-law, who rarely approves of any car I drive, was enthralled by the car, which could be an advertising coup for VW.
At $25,000 the GTI offers excellent performance with a lot of comfort and great fuel economy. As usual, it’s a winner.