Full 2014 Volkswagen GTI Review
What's New for 2014
The 2014 Volkswagen GTI can only be bought with four doors; the two-door hatchback is no longer available. Additionally, the 2014 GTI only comes with Candy White, Carbon Gray or Deep Black paint. Base and Autobahn trim levels have been replaced with Wolfsburg Edition and Driver's Edition trims, which have similar standard equipment.
The 2014 Volkswagen GTI is a compact hatchback that manages to be classy, practical and fun all at the same time. This is the final year for the sixth-generation VW GTI (an all-new GTI arrives for 2015), and Volkswagen is only selling it as a four-door this year, and only with black, white or gray paint. Although the new GTI looks to be pretty enticing, the swan-song 2014 GTI is still a very appealing and grown-up small car with plenty of entertainment potential.
Within the small population of small but sporty hatchbacks, the GTI aspires to a higher class. The quality of its interior surfaces, its overall fit and finish, and even the comfort level of the seats make it feel like a more expensive car than it actually is. The same goes for its ride quality: The GTI is far more compliant and forgiving than many of the cars it competes with, and this makes it a more viable choice for commuters. Further increasing its appeal is its available automated-manual dual-clutch gearbox, which effectively exploits the performance potential of the car's potent turbocharged four-cylinder engine while making this hot hatch more accessible to households where not everyone wants to deal with a clutch pedal.
Of course, no car is perfect, and the main knock against the current Volkswagen GTI has always been its somewhat sleepy handling. Compared with harder-edged rivals like the 2014 Ford Focus ST, 2014 Mini Cooper S and 2014 Subaru WRX, it simply isn't as entertaining when driven hard. It feels softer and less controlled going around turns, and its steering has less feedback. The fact that you can't fully disable the VW's stability control also makes it less desirable for buyers who might want to participate in the occasional track day.
On the other hand, none of these competitors offer anywhere near the level of refinement and comfort that the GTI does, and save for the Mini, none offer an automatic-transmission option. For consumers drawn to a more balanced approach to performance, the 2014 Volkswagen GTI is still a great choice for a sporty hatchback.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 Volkswagen GTI is a high-performance version of the Golf hatchback. Only the four-door version is offered this year, and there's seating for five.
There are two trim levels: Wolfsburg Edition and Driver's Edition. The Wolfsburg Edition GTI's standard equipment includes 18-inch alloy wheels, a rear roof spoiler, foglights, heated outside mirrors, heated washer nozzles, full power accessories, a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, cruise control, a trip computer, air-conditioning, heated front sport seats, plaid cloth upholstery, split-folding rear seats with a center pass-through, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and an eight-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio, an auxiliary audio jack and iPod integration (via VW's proprietary MDI cable).
The Driver's Edition adds adaptive xenon headlights, LED running lights, a sunroof, multifunction steering wheel controls, leather-trimmed sport seats and a touchscreen audio interface with a navigation system.
Powertrains and Performance
The front-wheel-drive 2014 Volkswagen GTI is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that produces 200 horsepower 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 operates like an automatic transmission, but it can be shifted manually via the shift lever or the shift paddles on the steering wheel.
In Edmunds testing, a manual-shift GTI went from zero to 60 mph in 6.9 seconds, while a GTI with the DSG covered the same ground in 6.4 seconds: a good number for sporty compact cars in this price range. The EPA rates the GTI at 25 mpg combined (21 mpg city/31 mpg highway) with the manual gearbox and 27 mpg combined (24/32) when equipped with the DSG.
Standard safety equipment for the 2014 Volkswagen GTI includes antilock brakes, stability control and traction control, front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags.
In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing, the GTI earned a top rating of "Good" in moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength tests. Its seat/head restraint design was also rated "Good" for whiplash protection in rear impacts. In Edmunds performance testing, braking from 60 to zero mph required 125 feet. That's longer than average for a small car with all-season tires and about 10 feet longer than the summer-tire-equipped competitors in the sport-compact class.
Interior Design and Special Features
Among sporty hatchbacks, the 2014 GTI ranks at the top for interior quality. The retro-style plaid seat fabric on the base trim won't suit everyone, but the cabin reflects a cool and sophisticated design, featuring upscale Audi-esque trim and switchgear throughout. The Ford Focus might come close, but in general, you won't find better materials in this price range. There are a couple downsides, including a lack of useful interior storage and the navigation system's small screen, which makes it harder to view the map and limits its overall usefulness.
The front seats are sporty and supportive, whether cruising or driving hard, while the rear seats offer a surprising amount of headroom and legroom for adults. Behind the rear seats, the cargo area holds up to 15.2 cubic feet -- nearly three times that of the Mini Cooper S, but less than a Focus hatchback. Once the rear seat is folded down, 46 cubic feet of cargo capacity is at your disposal.
The 2014 Volkswagen GTI delivers one of the best overall driving experiences in the class. The turbocharged engine is lively and unloads plenty of useful low-end torque. Although the conventional manual transmission is fun and easy to shift, the DSG transmission provides the convenience of an automatic and still makes the car feel quick, especially when you use the shift paddles to call up manual gearchanges. The cabin is quiet, and the compliant suspension makes for a smooth and solid ride.
Driven on twisty back roads, the GTI is fun up to a point. But there's no question that cars like the Focus ST and Cooper S feel livelier and have higher handling limits. Still, most drivers will find the GTI strikes an impressive balance between performance, comfort and daily thrills.