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2024 Volkswagen GTI 380: Our Final Test of a Manual Golf

Three pedals and plaid seats. What more do you need?

2024 Volkswagen Golf GTI front 3/4
  • 2024 is the last time Volkswagen will sell a manual Golf GTI in the United States.
  • The GTI 380 combines a six-speed manual transmission with 19-inch wheels and dynamic dampers.
  • This car continues to be one of our favorite hot hatches for daily driving duties.

OK, so the Mk 8 Volkswagen Golf GTI ain't what it used to be. But that doesn't make it a bad car. Refined and composed, but still playful when pushed, the Golf GTI is the sort of hot hatch that endears itself as a daily driver, rather than a sports car that sacrifices creature comforts and livability for outright performance and punch.

2024 marks the end of an era for the Golf GTI: It's the last time VW will offer its plucky hatch with a manual transmission. In an attempt to give it a proper send-off, Volkswagen created the GTI 380 — it's not a special model, per se, but rather a package of standard equipment that comes on every manual GTI. There's no extra performance; the package is limited to things like 19-inch black wheels and standard adaptive dampers.

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2024 Volkswagen Golf GTI interior

The GTI hasn't changed mechanically for 380 duty; its 2.0-liter turbo inline-four makes the same 241 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque as before. We recorded a 6.1-second sprint to 60 mph in our testing, which tracks, given VW quotes 6 seconds flat for GTIs equipped with the dual-clutch transmission, and this quicker-shifting (and quicker-launching) gearbox improves performance. Past 60 mph, the GTI 380 ran a 14.4-second quarter mile with a 99-mph trap speed. And in the opposite direction, it confidently stopped from 60 mph in 108 feet.

It's been a few years since we last tested a GTI, but these numbers are consistent. Launching a manual GTI is sort of a challenge; you'll want to slowly slip the clutch out to avoid mega wheelspin. The clutch pedal also lacks feel, so you instead need to focus your attention on the tires to avoid pronounced axle hop. The stick shift itself has short throws with solid engagement, though we miss the smaller golf-ball-style shifter of older GTI generations. Running through the gears in this little hot hatch is satisfying. The DCT might put up better performance numbers, but the manual is definitely more fun.

The GTI 380's 19-inch wheels come wrapped in 235/35 Bridgestone Potenza summer tires at all four corners, and the extra grip is not only a boon for overall handling but for confident braking feel, too. On our skid pad, the GTI 380 pulled 0.99 g, which is respectable for a performance hatch that isn't trying to reach into hardcore Civic Type R territory.

2024 Volkswagen Golf GTI driving

On our handling track, the GTI's nose is easy to place, though understeer is not only noticeable, it's often quite pronounced. The GTI enjoys a more relaxed pace, where it's easy to connect the dots through a series of apexes. But there's still a general unwillingness to rotate, even when using somewhat aggressive trail braking to try to get the rear end to step out.

In all honesty, the GTI is at its best when you're just doing your daily commute, or want to flex your enthusiast muscle on the occasional cloverleaf freeway interchange. The adaptive dampers offer a ton of adjustability, and there's a really pronounced delta between the softest and stiffest settings. This not only makes the GTI comfortable on crummy city streets, but lends itself to formidable long-distance road-tripping. Plunk it in sixth gear, relax, and enjoy(?) a long, boring slog down the 10 freeway heading east out of Los Angeles. At 70 mph, our sound equipment only registered 67.5 dB of ambient noise, which is pretty hushed for a sporty compact car.

Unfortunately, the GTI continues to frustrate with its infotainment interface, as well as its lack of backlit (logical) buttons for climate controls. The haptic touchpoints on the steering wheel also take a skosh to respond, which can lead to double-pushing, which is super aggravating. Volkswagen swears it'll bring buttons back in future Golf models at least.

2024 Volkswagen Golf GTI rear 3/4

If you want a manual GTI, you don't have much time left; the stick shift is being discontinued after the 2024 model year. We recommend sticking with the base GTI 380 S like our test car, which has everything you need (including, crucially, plaid seats) and nothing you don't, for $34,305, including $1,225 for destination. More costly SE and Autobahn variants can be had for $38,710 and $42,050, respectively.

Edmunds says

The best thing about the GTI has always been its inherent (and pleasant) simplicity. The standard GTI S 380 is a nicely equipped and functional daily driver that'll still pull double duty as a canyon carver when pushed. No, the new GTI isn't quite as sharp or tossable as its predecessors, but it's still one of the most fun new cars you can get for less than $40,000.

Photos by Keith Buglewicz

2024 Volkswagen Golf GTI shifter