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New Car Review: 2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI SE By John Heilig


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John Heilig
Senior Editor and Bureau Chief
Mid-Atlantic Bureau
The Auto Channel

REVIEWED MODEL: 2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI SE
ENGINE: 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 220 hp @ 4,700 rpm/258 lb.-ft. @ 1,500 rpm
WHEELBASE: 103.6 in.
LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT: 168.0 x 70.8 x 57.8 in.
TIRES: P225/40R18
CARGO CAPACITY: 22.8/52.7 cu. ft. (rear seat backs up/down)
ECONOMY: 24 mpg city/32 mpg highway/23.7 mpg test
FUEL TANK: 13.2 gal.
CURB WEIGHT: 3,128 lbs. #/HP: 14.2
TOWING CAPACITY: Not recommended
COMPETITIVE CLASS: Ford Focus ST, Honda Civic SI, Subaru WRX
STICKER: $31,570 base ($850 destination)
BOTTOM LINE: If you’re looking to make an impression, but choose the Volkswagen Golf for practical purposes, then the GTI variant may be the vehicle of choice. It offers “pocket rocket” performance with hatchback convenience.

We live very close to the local high school, and at 2:30 every day we have these teenagers in their pseudo pocket rocket cars zooming by. By pseudo pocket rockets, I mean cars that have noisier than normal exhausts and may have a slightly lowered suspension. They almost always have wheels that are worth more than their cars.

All these are just pretenders to the throne of the original pocket rocket, the Volkswagen Golf GTI, also known as the Kleine GTI in imitation of the “Little GTO” of Beach Boys fame. Our history lesson for the day reminds us that the Golf came to the United States as the Rabbit, which replaced the original Beetle. How times have changed.

The GTI takes the standard VW Golf, lowers the suspension by 0.6 inch, adds larger brakes and wider low profile tires, then throws in a supercharged 2.0-liter four that delivers 220 horsepower, and seems to want to go on forever when you’re accelerating. Take that high school kids, and yes, they recognized what was in my driveway.

Like most performance cars of any size, the GTI sacrifices some. For example, with a stiffer suspension and low profile, P225/40R18 tires, the GTI is hard riding. There isn’t a ripple in the road that it doesn’t transmit to the cabin. However, after a while you become accustomed to the ride and can deal with it. The payoff, of course, is in excellent handling that allows you to drive the GTI like a race car, wherever possible.

Front seats offer very good side support. I’m not convinced that the plaid inserts offer the most fashionable choice, but at least they were heated in our wonderful winter weather. Additionally, the side support make the firm ride more comfortable, as they did when cornering at a fast pace. The rear seats offer cozy knee room. The rear seat backs fold easily to increase cargo capacity.

Cargo is very good, as with most hatchbacks. We didn’t even overfill it with the seat backs up after a trip to Costco. This conforms with the utility of the Golf to go along with the fun factor off the GTI.

The instrumentation is clear, except that the speedometer is too busy with its 0-180 mpg range. There’s also a useful information screen located between the tachometer and speedometer. In the middle of the dash is a great infotainment screen. It is clear and multi-colored. We have driven vehicles where the screen is next to useless and it was a pleasure to use a clear one. The back-up camera display really lets you know where you are going.

We appreciate simple HVAC controls and the GTI delivers on that point. There are three knobs for fan speed, direction and temperature, with six small buttons above these for the heated seats, air conditioner, and rear defroster, etc.

Other nice details include a fat flat-bottomed wheel with t-shaped spokes and bright headlamps at night. If you don’t know what you’re driving, the bright red brake calipers remind you with GTI logos.

I’m willing to admit that the Volkswagen GTI doesn’t quite fit my demographic to a T, but it’s close enough to make any ride fun, while also delivering the practicality of the GOLF.

(c) 2018 The Auto Page Syndicate

The Most Helpful Volkswagen Research Information; Anywhere!

Labels: 2018 Golf R, 2018 Volkswagen Golf R, 2018 VW Golf R, Golf R, Volkswagen Golf R, VW Golf R

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