It felt like an old friend had come by to visit last week. I was fortunate to receive the 2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI five-door hatchback in the test driveway, and this model arrived with a manual transmission. It just felt like old times behind the wheel of this hot little hatch, and I enjoyed every minute.
Volkswagen gave the Golf mode lineup a redesign for the 2015 model year, and this year they have done a bit of housecleaning for the car. GTI is basically the mid-level model for style and performance in the Golf lineup and is offered in three trim levels itself in the form of S, SE, and Autobahn. Since we don’t have too many “wide open” roadways here in the States, we settle for the SE model to grace our week. All GTI models now come with a 220hp turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with direct injection. As I mentioned, our hot hatch was equipped with the six-speed manual gearbox that, while being easy to shift and features a fairly light clutch, offers endless driving enjoyment. Screw you autonomousbots, I am in control here.
You can get the GTI with an automatic transmission, and that is what we experienced during our last visit with the Golf GTI a couple of years ago, but this time around the experience was just more enjoyable…more “old school” if you will. Also somewhat old school is the fact this is a five-door hatchback and not a new crossover utility model of some sort. It sits lower, it rides lower, and it makes you feel in touch with the road. The GTI has been around since 1983, and I certainly hope there is another 35 years in its future.
In addition to some styling tweaks, Volkswagen has also updated a few bits of technology for the 2018 Golf GTI including standard forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking (with pedestrian monitoring), standard park distance control with new maneuver braking, parking steering assistant, lane departure warning with lane assist, blind spot monitor with rear traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, and high beam control. SE and Autobahn models also benefit from new electronically controlled torque sensing limited slip VAQ differential for enhanced traction and grip. With the manual gearbox, this means you can now spin both front tires if not using the accelerator with moderation.
The Golf GTI is a comfortable ride with excellent handling. There is a sport mode available, but we found it was hardly necessary. There is excellent acceleration and braking and a good bit of feedback in the wheel from the road. The ride experience can be as exhilarating as you wish but also as gentle as a driver’s license road test. The car seats four adults very well, and there is ample space for cargo with the second row seats upright or folded. It was hot here in Texas during our week behind the wheel, and the black leather interior did not really help things. This is the time of year I yearn for a cloth interior or at the very least, ventilated seats. We did enjoy an 8-inch capacitive touchscreen display for infotainment functions, and even though this model did not feature the premium Fender audio system we did not seem to miss it much. There is a large glass moonroof overhead, and SE models also get keyless access and push-button start and there is also the Volkswagen Car-Net connected vehicle services platform for smartphone integration and safety and security services.
Pricing for the 2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI begins at $26,415 with our SE tester arriving with final window sticker of $32,015. Fuel economy for the 220hp/258 lb. ft. torque EA888 engine, and manual transmission is rated at 25 mpg city and 33 mpg highway. The Golf GTI comes with a nose-to-tail six-year/72,000-mile warranty.
Hatchbacks have been around for a long time, and cars like the Golf GTI are convenient, fun to drive, and can accommodate a variety of lifestyles. Bring me a car like this SE tester with turbo four and manual gearbox, and we will be instant friends. Let’s keep in touch Golf GTI, and I hope to see you again real soon.