Full 2010 Volkswagen GTI Review
What's New for 2010
The Volkswagen GTI has been redesigned for 2010, boasting new exterior and interior styling along with improved cabin materials.
The 2010 Volkswagen GTI is like a dignified elder statesman who refuses to do Facebook. It's extraordinarily suave and well-mannered, and its lifetime accomplishments are second to none among its peers -- but it just won't get on board with the latest trend. In the sport-compact segment, that trend is power. Lots of power. Anywhere from 237 horsepower to 265, if you're wondering. Yet the new sixth-generation GTI soldiers on with the same 200-hp inline-4 that first arrived in 2006. How can it hope to compete?
In a word: refinement. Lots of refinement. This GTI is far more than the sum of its track numbers. Not surprisingly, its acceleration times lag well behind those of steroidal rivals like the Mazdaspeed 3, Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback Ralliart and Subaru WRX. But the GTI compensates with the nicest interior of any sport compact, thanks to its tasteful new design, upgraded materials and vaultlike build quality. The subtly revised exterior styling looks sophisticated, too, admitting none of the juvenile excesses that plague other hopped-up hatchbacks. This is the pocket rocket that you take home to meet Mom and Dad.
Of course, the GTI is still fun to drive when you let it loose. The turbocharged four-cylinder won't plaster you to your seatback like some others in this segment, but it's eager to please. The suspension strikes a wonderful balance between suppleness and sporty handling ability, allowing high cornering speeds without ever beating up occupants over bumps. Even highway trips are a treat thanks to the GTI's autobahn breeding, which yields an uncanny composure at elevated speeds. If you can live with its relatively modest power output, the GTI's got the other bases covered.
The hot-hatch shopper's task is pretty simple: Figure out your priorities and go buy the car that fits. If you want the best drive and the runner-up in refinement, head straight for the Mazdaspeed 3. For scintillating performance and the benefits of all-wheel drive, the Lancer Sportback Ralliart or Subaru WRX will do the trick. For inimitable style and go-kart athleticism, the diminutive Mini Cooper S is a no-brainer. And for maximum bang for the buck, Chevy's Cobalt SS wins the prize. But if you're after a sport compact with solid capabilities and unmatched class, go with the rejuvenated elder statesman -- the 2010 Volkswagen GTI.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2010 Volkswagen GTI is a high-performance compact hatchback offered in both two-door and four-door body styles. Standard equipment includes 17-inch alloy wheels, foglights, a sport-tuned suspension, heated outside mirrors, heated front sport seats, full power accessories, a trip computer, air-conditioning, cruise control, a 60/40-split-folding rear seat, Bluetooth and an eight-speaker touchscreen audio system (with a six-CD changer, satellite radio, an auxiliary audio jack and iPod integration).
Options include 18-inch wheels (with or without summer performance tires), a sunroof, bi-xenon headlamps, a Dynaudio premium sound system and a hard-drive-based navigation system with digital music storage. The Autobahn package adds partial leather upholstery, the sunroof and special sport seats.
Powertrains and Performance
The front-wheel-drive 2010 Volkswagen GTI is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that pumps out 200 hp and 207 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, while a six-speed dual-clutch automated manual called DSG is optional. The DSG transmission can be shifted manually via the shift lever or paddles on the steering wheel, or it can shift on its own in automatic mode.
EPA fuel-economy estimates stand at 21 city/31 highway and 25 combined for GTIs with the standard six-speed manual, while DSG-equipped models are rated at a notably better 24/32/27. GTIs sold in California-emissions states earn a cleaner partial-zero-emissions-vehicle (PZEV) tailpipe emission rating.
Standard safety equipment includes antilock disc brakes with brake assist, stability control, front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. Rear-seat side airbags are optional on four-door models, but are unavailable on two-doors.
In government crash tests, the structurally identical four-door 2010 Volkswagen Golf with the optional rear side airbags received four stars out of five for frontal impact protection and a perfect five stars for side impacts.
Interior Design and Special Features
The GTI's interior is the cream of the pocket-rocket crop. Aesthetically, it's restrained but dignified, with graceful shapes and curves that say "luxury car" more than "souped-up econobox." Materials quality is top-notch, and the standard GTI-specific sport seats are nicely shaped and well-bolstered. Access to the rear seat is naturally easier in the four-door GTI, of course, but even the two-door is up for periodic people-hauling duty, thanks to adequate backseat space and relatively painless entry and exit (try that in a Mini Cooper S).
Though not as blindingly quick as its top peers, the 2010 Volkswagen GTI is still satisfyingly fleet, with ample midrange power from its turbocharged four. It also features one of the better-sounding four-cylinders on the market, singing a surprisingly throaty tune at full throttle. Both transmissions perform well, but the conventional manual shifter feels a bit rubbery. The DSG is notable for its combination of world-class shift speeds in manual mode and remarkable docility in automatic mode.
In general, the GTI imparts a feeling of solidity through its suspension and controls that one rarely finds in this segment. It's quiet at speed, and bumps are absorbed with extraordinary composure. The GTI might roll more and grip less than higher-strung competitors, but those who must commute as well as carve canyons will appreciate its all-around goodness.