The Volkswagen GTI is one of the best-known budget performance cars sold in America. For more than 25 years, Volkswagen has been taking its entry-level, economy car-based two-door hatchback model and turning it into a GTI by adding a more powerful engine and brakes, a sport-tuned suspension, and special interior and exterior trim pieces. The result is a practical car that's also fun to drive and desirable.
The original Volkswagen Rabbit GTI stormed onto American shores for 1983 and has been frequently credited for creating the niche-oriented "hot hatch" market segment. Though many of the original GTI's specs don't seem particularly great by modern standards (its 1.8-liter engine made just 90 horsepower, for instance), it was a lightweight and agile revelation for many consumers used to bulky and underperforming American sport coupes.
Since then, there have been five more generations of Golf- or Rabbit-based VW GTIs, and some have been more highly regarded than others. The latest model is a refinement of the previous generation, which was considered a return to form for the nameplate. Shoppers interested in a used GTI will likely want to do some research in order to determine which model year is best suited for them.
Current Volkswagen GTI
The GTI is a performance-oriented version of the Volkswagen Golf and as such is available in two- and four-door hatchback body styles. VW makes many modifications to the GTI to improve its performance and distinctiveness. For power, it has a turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that's capable of 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard and sends power to the front wheels. A dual-clutch automated manual transmission called DSG (direct shift gearbox) is optional.
The Volkswagen GTI sets itself apart from the pack with a truly upscale cabin and a high level of features that make the car almost seem like a luxury car. Standard equipment includes heated sport front seats, snazzy tartan upholstery, Bluetooth and an eight-speaker audio system with a touchscreen head unit and iPod interface. Among the options are 18-inch wheels (with or without summer tires), a sunroof, bi-xenon headlights, a premium audio system, a navigation system and leather upholstery. There is also an Autobahn trim that includes leather, a sunroof, keyless entry and special seats.
In reviews, the GTI earned strong praise for its well-rounded nature and is considered a class leader. Although it's not the most powerful or the most aggressively tuned for high-speed handling, the GTI makes up for any such deficiencies with a comfortable ride, excellent fuel economy, loads of interior space, classy styling, a reasonable price and the aforementioned high-quality cabin.
Read the most recent 2015 Volkswagen GTI review.
If you are looking for older years, visit our used Volkswagen GTI page.