Full 2006 Volkswagen GTI Review
What's New for 2006
For the old 1.8T GTI, the VR6 style has been dropped and more features, including 17-inch wheels and stability control, are now standard. Starting in the late spring of 2006, the 1.8T Volkswagen GTI will be slowly phased out in favor of a fully redesigned model. As before, this performance hatchback will be based on the upcoming next-generation Golf. Highlights for the new GTI include increased performance, new styling and more interior room.
For much of 2006, there will be two Volkswagen GTI models for sale: the 1.8T, which is the last of the line for the fourth-generation GTI, and the new, fifth-generation, 2006.5 Volkswagen new GTI. Volkswagen has made a concerted effort to improve the performance of this latest Golf-based GTI. It starts with an all-new body and chassis. The car is bigger and heavier, which is never a desirable change for a sporting car, but the body structure is considerably stiffer than it was before, and the rear suspension is now fully independent. There's also an updated 2.0-liter turbocharged engine. It's the same one that's used in a variety of VW and Audi vehicles and it features a raft of high-tech features, including direct fuel injection. For the first time, GTI buyers have the option of ordering VW/Audi's brilliant Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG) transmission, which is an automated, paddle-shifted manual.
Though purchasing the old version of the 2006 GTI might make sense if one can get a great deal on it, we think the new 2006 VW GTI is the way to go. Some enthusiasts might yearn for a GTI that returns to its roots as a lightweight pocket rocket. But realistically, with modern safety regulations being what they are and people's ever-increasing desire for power-techno everything, that was never going to happen. What we have instead is a solid and slightly upscale hot hatch that's fun to own and drive. Revolutionary? Errr, well, no. The previous sentence also applies to the new Honda Civic Si and the aging-but-still-quite-competitive Mini Cooper S. On the whole, the redesigned 2006.5 model is the best Volkswagen GTI in a long while. Hot-hatch fans, assuming they are willing to accept the new GTI's price premium, should be very excited.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The Volkswagen GTI is a two-door hatchback and a performance variant of the VW Golf four-door hatchback. Only one trim level is offered. Standard equipment for the old 1.8T and the new 2006.5 include heated exterior mirrors, a rear spoiler, 17-inch wheels with performance tires, a sport-tuned suspension, manual sport seats, a tilt-and-telescope steering wheel and full power accessories. The new GTI also has HID headlights and a standard 10-speaker audio system that's satellite radio-capable and equipped with an in-dash, MP3-capable CD changer. Buyers can get a DVD-based navigation system on the new GTI, but doing so eliminates the in-dash changer; a remote CD changer in the center armrest can be specified. Other options for the new GTI include a sunroof, 18-inch wheels and a package that includes power-operated heated front seats, heated windshield washer nozzles, dual-zone automatic climate control and leather upholstery.
Powertrains and Performance
The 1.8T GTI has a 180-horsepower, 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Available transmissions include a five-speed manual and a five-speed automatic. Under the hood of the new GTI is a 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine. It's capable of 200 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual transmission that puts power to the front wheels is standard. Alternately, buyers can opt for a Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG) six-speed transmission. As first introduced on the Audi TT, this is an automated manual transmission. Drivers can either place it in an automatic mode or shift gears manually (there is no clutch pedal) via steering-wheel-mounted paddles.
Standard safety equipment includes traction control, stability control and antilock brakes. The new GTI's brakes are larger and more powerful than those on the standard Golf. Also standard for both versions are front-seat side airbags and side curtain airbags for all outboard passengers. No official crash-test data is available for the new GTI, though the current Golf has earned high marks for its performance in NHTSA and IIHS crash tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
As is the case with its family members, the Golf and Jetta, the GTI's cabin is notable for its high-quality interior materials and meticulous fit and finish. Front occupants are granted a surprising amount of spaciousness, and two adults or three children can fit in back without much of a fuss. With the rear seat in place, the new GTI can hold 15 cubic feet of cargo.
The 1.8T GTI is comfortable for everyday use but is generally outclassed by other affordable sport hatchbacks and coupes when it comes to power and handling. The new GTI is more composed on twisty canyon roads, yet still relaxed during long highway stints. The new GTI's 2.0-liter engine is almost ideal for this class of car. Right off idle, there's plenty of thrust available due to its robust low-end torque. DSG-equipped new GTIs don't quite offer up the same interaction that can be had with the regular manual transmission, but for most people it's the better choice. Super-quick and accurate shifts are just a tug away and, when you're stuck in traffic, there's the auto mode that allows you to focus more on the quality sound system.