"New Car Review: 2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI Review" By Larry Nutson
2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI Review
By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor and Bureau Chief
The Auto Channel
My last extended drive in the Golf GTI was back in mid-2015. With this now just-completed stint behind the wheel I was quickly reminded how the GTI makes for a really nice all-around vehicle.
Now in its seventh-generation, the GTI first came on the scene in the U.S. in 1983. VW’s GTI is THE car that defined the term “hot hatch”. But, back then the GTI only came as a two-door and only with manual transmission.
Today the Golf GTI is available only as a four-door (the two-door has been dropped) and also with an optional dual-clutch automatic transmission, which helps make this hot hatch fit better into many a family’s household fleet.
In 2015, on my last drive, the Golf was entirely new. The 2015 Golf family of cars had been named the North American Car of the Year as well as the Motor Trend Car of the Year. Awards are not new to the GTI, having been named the 1985 Motor Trend Car of the Year when the Gen-2 was introduced in the U.S.
Most recently Car and Driver magazine has named the Volkswagen Golf family to its 2018 “10Best” list. Taking home a twelfth consecutive “10Best” award in a competition against 65 vehicles, the Golf models were praised for exceptional versatility, dynamics and value.
The 5-passenger Golf GTI has been freshened a bit for 2018 and is offered in three trims…S, SE and Autobahn. Driving through the front wheels, engine power has been bumped up with an improved turbocharged 220 HP 2.0-liter TSI engine mated to a six-speed manual transmission. A six-speed dual-clutch DSG automatic is optional.
SE and Autobahn trims get the brake system from the Golf R and an electronically controlled, torque sensing, limited-slip VAQ differential. All Golf GTIs sit 0.6 inches lower on their sport suspension.
EPA test-cycle ratings are 28 mpg combined with 25 city mpg and 33 highway mpg. These are the ratings for the manual transmission and the DSG models are rated one mpg less in each category.
Base prices range from $26,415 to $36,170. For this recent drive I was in the Autobahn trim with the manual transmission.
The GTI has a standard rearview camera that’s nicely hidden inside the VW logo on the rear hatch. The logo flips up when you engage reverse. The GTI also offers an array of driver-assistance safety features, some of them standard on SE and Autobahn trims. The list includes Forward Collision Warning and Autonomous Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Monitoring, Adaptive Cruise Control, Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Traffic Alert, Lane Departure Warning, front and rear Park Distance Control with Maneuver braking, Parking Steering Assistant, and High Beam Control.
As I said at the start, I think the Golf GTI is a really nice car. It’s properly sized for urban driving as well as being nicely sized for spirited open-road driving. It’s very nimble and quite well rounded in delivering a very good driving and use experience.
The front cabin is plenty roomy for two with easy ingress and egress. The back seat is roomy too, for the smaller ones in the family as well as for adult companions. Under the rear hatch is 16.5 cu.ft. of cargo space below the parcel shelf that opens up to 52.7 cu.ft. when the rear seat is folded.
On the SE and Autobahn a new 8.0-inch touchscreen display is brighter than previous and also offers better color reproduction, response time and improved viewing angles.
There has been a general thinking in the U.S. that Americans don’t like hatchbacks. This is somewhat puzzling since they provide the same passenger comfort and carrying ability as a traditional three-box sedan of the same model. However, they offer more cargo room and more versatility. Plus, they are shorter in overall length for improved maneuverability.
With more and more younger as well as older adults favoring city living, a small and yet versatile car is an important consideration. To wit, compact crossover SUVs (tall hatchbacks) are quite popular.
If I were buying a Golf GTI my choice would be the Autobahn with DSG transmission. I liked the manual I drove but the DSG is just as responsive and a bit more convenient in stop-and-go driving. The fuel economy impact is negligible. And, I also would get loads of driver-assistance safety features. The added cost for these features will be recovered if they save you from just one crash.
If you happen to be a bit competitive, the Golf GTI is well balanced with very compliant ride and handling. Fitted with the available summer performance tires it will bring lots of smiles on an autocross or around your local club road course.
More information and specifications on the Golf GTI can be found at www.vw.com.
The other good news on the 2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI is that in the United States they come with the People First Warranty, a six-year or 72,000-mile (whichever occurs first) bumper-to-bumper New Vehicle Limited Warranty, which can be transferred to subsequent owners throughout its duration.
The Golf GTI might just be the best in its class. It certainly is invigorating to drive.
2018 Larry Nutson, the Chicago Car Guy