It's been already 5 years with the GTI (6M, Autobahn). It is my daily commuter. And I take it to short, fun trips with the entire family (wife+2 kids). I thought of trading it for a BMW 2 series or an mk7 GTI (or golf R). But this car has aged like a good red wine. After everything she's done for me, I couldn't give her away. Instead, I added the upgraded APR flash files (v2.1)... fell in love all over again. The car surprises me so much that I giggle every time I put my foot down. Overall, the interior is in outstanding condition with absolutely no squeaks (and germanic fit and finish). Also, I've had ZERO issues with the only thing being ill changes every 7,000 miles. Do I do preventative maintenance before things brake? Yes, I replaced the water pump at 40k (weak link of this car), diverter valve and coil pack (the latter two updates are more related to the tune). In conclusion, take care of her and you'll be fine (true for most German cars).
I feel this car has delivered exactly what was promised based on reputation and car magazine reviews. It is fun to drive, especially with the sweet shifting manual and quickly spooling engine, the ergonomics are exactly aligned to how I think, and the hatchback practicality is obviously a big plus. I have had absolutely zero reliability issues over 16,000 miles and 13 months and have not experienced any poor customer service when I have been to the dealership. After a over a year though, I cannot stand the leather seats as they are not perforated and are always disgustingly hot, and the exterior styling looks cheap from some angles.
Excellent interior design and quality, auto adjusting bi-xenon headlights are great at night, interior features, practicality, fun to drive, open feeling greenhouse with large side windows.
Perforated leather!! More power, RWD (don't tell me I could have got the Golf R, it is a rip off at $35,000 with minimal performance increases), more exciting styling, more than 4 A/C fan speeds.
Coming from Acura, I don't miss a bit of luxury. Actually the GTI makes much more sense. It's extremely well-built with a logical and spartan/germanic layout. Navigation and ipod integration work smoothly and fast. The leather seats are very comfy and supportive while the interior is much more spacious than you think. I left the powertrain last. It's a blast to drive the GTI. Whether commuting or playing, it just brings a smile. I had a VW in 2003, so I was afraid of VW's reliability... But GTI has come a long way. It's not as reliable as my 2009 TSX but it's quite close. Actually you wouldn't want GTI to become Japanese... you definitely want it to stay German: a toy and a commuter.
engine, manual transmission, understated but elegand looks, simple and high quality interior, navi
18" wheels are not for everybody and every road. While I prefer a firm ride, a 17" choice should be default
I was expecting to buy an Audi A4 or A3 and I drove the GTI on a whim. It's a good thing that I did this because I bought the the 2011 model almost immediately.
This car is unbelievably fun to drive and it's economical, practical, reasonably priced (29k for the Autobahn package) and compares very favorably to every other car in it's class. The interior has an Audi build quality but costs a couple k less and the VW warranty is now better than Audi. The amenities included in many ways trump the Audis as well. For instance, the Bluetooth package on the GTI has the A2DP streaming protocol included as part of the base features. Not on the Audis, you'll pay extra & lose your iPod integration too.
Driving characteristics. The GTI hugs the road and immediately pops as soon as you ask for power. The stock Detroit 18" wheels are also a very nice touch and your need the wide tires to handle all the torque produced by the engine. Be aware that you'll probably need to buy Winter wheels if you live in northern latitudes. The GTI's stock setup is not going to get you through heavy snow very effectively. I purchased a nice set of snow tires & rims for $750 and put them on myself. A small price to pay for this much fun.
It would be nice if the phone interface would be able to transfer my contact addresses to the satellite navigation system. It seems odd to me that this level of integration was overlooked by the designers.