Based on the subcompact Volkswagen Golf, the GTI is the performance version of VW’s most popular model. Introduced in 1976, the front-wheel drive GTI has gone through numerous changes and has since been joined by an even more powerful model, the Volkswagen Golf R.
2015 to Present: Volkswagen GTI
The seventh-generation Volkswagen Golf GTI was introduced in 2015. This front-wheel drive model seats five and shares the wedge layout of the Volkswagen Golf. The current version is larger, faster and lighter than the previous generation and is available in two- and four-door body styles.
The GTI has a familiar silhouette, but the latest version features changes that provide a more refined and aerodynamic look. The current GTI is distinguished by its sharper headlight clusters and a bright-red level delineation splitting the available bi-xenon headlamps. Standard front fog lamps, alloy wheels and a roof spoiler contribute to the car's striking appearance.
Inside, this model has heated front seats, a touch-screen infotainment system and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. New for this generation is a driving mode selector, enabling drivers to choose between normal, sport and customized settings.
For 2016, Volkswagen added a new infotainment system and made a rearview camera standard for all GTI models. Optional safety technology was also added in 2016, including adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and a blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert.
The GTI is powered by a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine making 210 horsepower. This engine may be paired with a six-speed manual or a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
There are a handful of small performance models competing with the Volkswagen GTI, including the Ford Fiesta ST, Ford Focus ST, Subaru WRX, Honda Civic Si and Mini Cooper S. Consider the Golf R if you’re looking for top performance along with all-wheel drive.
Earlier Volkswagen GTI Models
The Volkswagen GTI parallels the history of the VW Golf, therefore there have been seven generations of this pocket rocket. Some of the earliest models are known as the Rabbit GTI, corresponding to the North American name for the Golf used at various times.
The fifth-generation GTI was introduced in 2006 and had a four-year model run. The sixth-generation model debuted in 2010 and was built through 2014.
Distinguishing features of the fifth-generation model are its heated side mirrors and 17-inch alloy wheels. Interior features include sport seats, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and full power accessories. An HD navigation system was optional.
All fifth-generation models are powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine making 200 horsepower. This engine is paired with a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission.
Changes to the sixth-generation model were more evolutionary than revolutionary, with the same engine returning. As before, a six-speed manual transmission is standard. This model also offers a dual-clutch six-speed automatic transmission that can be shifted manually.
All 2010-2014 GTIs come equipped with fog lights, 17-inch alloy wheels, heated outside mirrors and a sport-tuned suspension. Inside, the GTI is equipped with power accessories, heated front seats and Bluetooth. Available options included larger wheels, sport seats, an upgraded audio package and a navigation system.
Beginning in 2012, Volkswagen added LED daytime running lights. In 2013, convenience and sunroof packages were made available. The two-door body style was dropped for 2014, returning a year later when the redesigned 2015 model was introduced.