The 2015 Volkswagen GTI is fully redesigned. The originator of the hot hatch reinvents itself for the seventh-generation, and puts everyone on notice once again.
You have to wonder if the engineers at Volkswagen that worked on the first Golf GTI during the mid-1970s knew the extent this model’s influence would have on the automotive world. The Volkswagen GTI sparked a revolution in what a sporty vehicle could be, and caused a number of competitors to bring out their own variation. For almost 40 years, the GTI has stayed true to its mission of providing a well-balance performance package that doesn’t break the bank.
The 2015 Golf GTI starts off as your standard Golf, which means a very clean and understated style. Smooth body panels are paired with a large glass area. You’ll also notice a clean hatchback design with a hidden latch. Volkswagen uses the emblem on the back to open the hatch and keep the backup camera safe.
From there, the 2015 GTI gets small touches such as a narrow, honeycomb grille; new headlights, small GTI badges on the front fenders and sharp looking 18-inch wheels.
It might not be the flashiest hot hatch on sale today, but the understated look has been a hallmark of the Golf GTI since it was first introduced. Volkswagen doesn’t want to mess with success.
Volkswagen offers the Golf GTI in both two and four-door variations to give a choice to buyers who either want sporty looks or a bit more practicality.
Volkswagen sticks with a simple design for the interior. Materials include soft-touch plastic, carbon fiber around the center stack and faux aluminum trim. Touches such as a flat-bottom steering wheel, a center stack that’s angled toward the driver, aluminum look pedals and ambient red lighting give are clear indicators that the GTI isn’t your standard Golf.
Base Golf GTI models get the signature ‘tartan’ cloth, while higher trim models get leather seats with red stitching. The seats in my tester provided excellent comfort and the manual adjustments help dial in the right position for anyone.
In the back, headroom is plentiful, but legroom does come at a premium. I found my knees were somewhat planted into the back of the front seat. At least cargo space is large with 22.8 cubic feet with the rear seats up and 52.7 cubic feet with the seats down.
Volkswagen uses a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 210 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. This can be paired with either a six-speed manual or six-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic. The EPA rates the GTI at 25/34 mpg city/highway, or 28 mpg combined for the manual. Opt for the DSG and fuel economy lands at 25/33 mpg city/highway, or 28 mpg combined.
All GTIs boast Volkswagen’s XDS Cross Differential System. Acting as a substitute to a traditional mechanical limited-slip differential, the system will brake the inside wheel in a corner to help reduce understeer and improve traction.
Those wanting a proper limited-slip differential will want to opt for the Performance package, which increases horsepower to 220 and adds a set of larger brakes all for a reasonable $1,495.
While my test GTI did not have the Performance Package, it still put a smile on my face. The engine spools up quickly and can get you moving at a very quick rate. Even more impressive was how much power was freely available around the rev range. The six-speed DSG was lightning fast on upshifts, but stumbled when it came to downshifts. Whenever I needed to make a pass, it took a few seconds for the transmission to realize that it would be a good idea to downshift. Luckily, the DSG does come with paddles on the steering wheel, which somewhat alleviates this problem.
But where the GTI truly shines is in the corners. Put the drive selector mode in Sport and the GTI transforms. The steering gets slightly heavier and provides a decent amount of feedback. The suspension keeps body motions in check. Flicking this car around some corners, you might give yourself the impression of being a downhill skier tackling a slalom course.
When you decide to drive the GTI for around town duties, it surprises you once again. With the drive selector in normal, the steering relaxes and makes the vehicle a bit more maneuverable. The suspension does a good job of keeping bumps and imperfections out of the interior. Out on the expressway, the GTI keeps a lot of road and wind noise out. In terms of fuel economy, I got 28.2 mpg as an average for the week.
No matter which trim level of the GTI you opt for, you’ll find a 5.8-inch touch-screen radio. This system is one of the quickest and smoothest systems I have used as it responds quickly when pressed. You’ll also have a set of buttons around the screen to take you to various parts of the system. Navigation comes standard on the Autobahn trim, but oddly isn’t available as an option on any of the other trims. Also, the GTI still uses a proprietary connector to hook up a USB or Aux cable to the vehicle. Luckily, Volkswagen will be changing that for 2016 with USB and Aux jacks coming standard.
All trims also get a color screen in the instrument cluster providing trip computer information, and Volkswagen’s Car-Net telematics system, which provides such features as automatic 911 notification if you crash and concierge services.
At the time of this review, the Golf GTI hasn’t been crashed-tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Golf GTI its coveted Top Safety Pick for earning ‘Good’ scores in all of their tests.
All Golf GTI trims boast a full suite of air bags, stability control, traction control, and a backup camera. There are two option packages that increase the safety quotient.
First is a lighting package that adds Bi-Xenon lights and an adaptive lighting system which turns the headlights as you turn the steering wheel. The other is a Driver Assistance package that gets park distance sensors and forward collision warning.
The 2015 Golf GTI kicks off at $24,785 for the base S 2-Door and climbs to $31,540 for the GTI Autobahn 4-Door with the Performance package. This puts the Golf GTI slightly above the base price of a Ford Focus ST and in the same league as the Subaru WRX. But the Golf GTI comes with a lot standard equipment for the price.
The 2015 Golf GTI may not be the flashiest or most powerful hot hatch on sale. But it offers a nice balance between sport and comfort that no other competitor can come close to matching.