I've owned a 1999 Jaguar XK8 for 17 years. I loved the car but it was time to grow up and stop throwing money at it. There wasn't much on the market that interested me and I had already decided that I was through with "high-end" cars. Always had a soft spot for VWs (a Rabbit and two Sciroccos in my youth) and a bright red GTI sitting outside the local dealership caught my wife's eye. "Cute! Cute! Cute!" she said. Okay, a slightly different take than the Jag (which was an awesome-looking car) but I'm secure enough in my masculinity to overcome even that. So I took it for a test drive. Back to a manual (which you couldn't get on the Jag in the US) and a decent technology package (which didn't really exist back then either). I had a ball. It just felt right to me. I did do some price checking and had a number in mind. The dealer met it and I bought it the next day. It's been over a month. I'm seeing mileage between 34 and 38 mpg (I know how to drive a stick economically when I feel like it), acceleration that didn't have me missing the Jag...too much, and a really slick comfortable cabin - maybe no burled walnut but who needs it? looks like plastic anyway. I might have liked the nav package, but I bought the car literally off the display ramp. An SE with most everything but Nav and the Driver Assist package which I didn't want anyway. The GTI fits that middle range between practical and fun. And that first evening when the "ambient interior lighting" became visible (soft red LED bars in the door and threshold), I forgot about the Jag, mostly.
I bought a 2016 GTI 4DR Manual SE w/Performance Package in anticipation of returning my VW Golf TDI to VW for the diesel buyback extravaganza. I fell in love with the GTI as soon as I test drove it. The engine is very quick and sounds great. The performance package adds an extra 10 HP and gigantic brakes that make stopping the car not only easy, but strangely fun and engaging. I also opted for the manual transmission because I feel it adds an extra level of engagement that the DSG does not provide (I really did not like the DSG, but I think I'm in the minority on that one). This car also has the lighting package, so the headlights are not only incredibly bright, but they actually move as you steer the car. The interior is beautiful and simple, and although I wish the SE had the option for plaid cloth seats, the leather seats are nice too, and remain comfortable on long drives. I'm 6'2" and I fit easily into this car. There is so much leg room in the front that I can't reach the pedals with the seat slid all the way back. The technology in the 2016 GTI is also a monster upgrade from the 2013 TDI to which I became so accustomed. CarPlay is a great addition, and even though Apple Maps isn't my favorite, it integrates seamlessly with the in-dash touch screen. All of the controls are easy to use and quick to respond. The steering wheel is cool but most of the controls are flat and I find myself looking at the wheel for each control instead of feeling around for them (e.g. cruise control, radio controls, etc.), but that's only a minor gripe. The ride is surprisingly good and road noise seems much lower than my 2013 Golf TDI. The Fender stereo system sounds very, very clear, and has a subwoofer that makes me feel like a complete idiot when it's cranked up high. Overall I'm incredibly happy with this car, and I look forward to every time I get to drive it. Even to work. By far the best car I've owned.
I bought my 2016 GTI Autobahn 4-door 6-speed to replace a 2004 MINI Cooper S that I totaled. The GTI is plainly a German cousin to the MINI -- steering is nicely weighted with good feel, with the GTI having a much better blend of handling and ride quality while maintaining a Teutonically firm ride. The GTI has a highly refined, if not luxurious, best-in-class interior, but you don't seem to be able to turn off the radio without turning off the infotainment system. (Like when you're navigating via your iPhone through the integrated CarPlay system.) A couple of things I miss from my MINI (besides its quirky stylistic touches) -- the MINI was supercharged, so response was immediate (the GTI's turbo lag is minimal, but it's there); and the MINI redlined to 7000 RPM, and made sweet music getting there, while I can't tell how much of the sound getting into the GTI's cabin is coming through the firewall, and how much is coming through the speakers(!) from the SoundAktor system. The GTI's fat torque curve (pretty much maximum torque from 1500 RPM to its 6000 RPM redline) is great fun, though. All in all, my GTI feels much like my MINI Cooper S all grown up and graduated from finishing school.
GTI mk7 is a super nice hatchback. Very sporty if you want it to be and still comfortable enough to be a commuting option. Engine is awesome, DSG is excellent. Very funny car to drive. Interior design is very classic and I love it. Commands are very intuitive and ergonomic placed.