Volkswagen says its GTI defined the term hot hatch – a fun-to-drive hatchback offering power, playful performance, refinement, and style. The latest iteration was North American Car of the Year for 2015 and recently we spent time behind the wheel of the 2016 Golf GTI.
If ever there was truth in advertising it is the embodiment of the Golf GTI. Volkswagen got things right with this one despite its struggles with TDI models. The Golf GTI is offered (for now) in two- and four-door models with our tester arriving as the latter. At the heart of the fun is a turbcharged 2.0-liter TSI four-cylinder engine with direct injection producing 210hp and 258 lb. ft. torque with the power band beginning low in the rpm range. An available performance package allows the engine to gain an extra 10 horsepower and hold power a bit higher in the revs.
Volkswagen mates the third-generation EA888 engine to either six-speed manual or six-speed DSG automatic transmission. We drove a model with the DSG gearbox and enjoyed the solid shifts at peak power point with no needed input from the driver. For those wishing for more input, there is sport and manual shift mode along with steering wheel paddle shifters. We did engage sport mode quite often but never found it necessary to shift for ourselves – the GTI handled that splendidly.
Our tester arrived in the S trim package complete with cool Clark plaid cloth interior seat covers. There was still plenty of leather to go around in other areas of the spacious cabin and the front bucket sport seats were very supportive. There are also some nice GTI highlights of red ambient lighting and illuminated door sills along with aluminum finishes for the pedals. We enjoyed the new MIB II touchscreen infotainment system that includes VW Car-Net connected services.
Exterior styling was upgraded for this seventh-generation car and the striking new front end hints toward something in an Audi showroom. The Golf GTI gets red-colored horizontal highlight on the grille along with standard LED foglights in the lower fascia. There are red-painted brake calipers inside the 18-inch alloy wheels shod with summer performance tires and the car is finished with rear spoiler, GTI bumpers, and other exterior trim.
Pricing for the 2016 Volkswagen Golf GTI begins at $24,995 for the S 2-Door model with our S 4-Door arriving with a final sticker of $27,515. Fuel economy is rated at 25 mpg city and 33 mpg highway. Your mileage may vary as mine most certainly did.
The Golf GTI embodies the heart and soul of the hot hatch and has long been the benchmark for other manufacturers. Plenty of power on demand, balanced ride and handling with just enough spring in the suspension to handle cornering without jarring your teeth, and comfort and convenience in a compact space with cargo room in the rear for the gear. The spirit of driving is alive and well in this one and I join GTI in thumbing its nose at all those autonomous bots around the globe.