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The 2025 Volkswagen Golf GTI Gets Buttons Back but Loses Its Manual Gearbox

We won, but at what cost ...

2025 VW Golf GTI
  • The 2025 Golf GTI gets its steering wheel buttons back.
  • European models get a bit more power, but we might not.
  • It also loses its manual transmission option.

The 2025 VolkswagenGolf GTI is here, and the eighth generation of VW's legendary hot hatch receives a number of major changes for the new model year. The most noticeable updates are to the bodywork. The front fascia is new, as are the headlights — while not totally different, the changes give the GTI a bit more menace than before. But that's not all that's going on here.

Volkswagen says that GTI models now make 262 horsepower, but notes that this applies to European models. We aren't yet sure if the GTIs that come to the U.S. are going to get the 21-hp bump over the current car's 241 ponies. It would be a nice change, however, since American buyers have never had the option of the more potent Clubsport versions of the GTI European buyers have been able to enjoy since 2016.

2025 VW Golf GTI rear three-quarter

After much admonition, VW has relented and put real buttons back onto the GTI's steering wheel. We've spent years clamoring for physical controls, and VW has finally granted our wish and we hope this might finally put an end to that longstanding saga. But the returning buttons require a sacrifice, and that's the option for a manual transmission. The face-lifted GTI will be offered exclusively with a dual-clutch DSG automatic. Power is sent to the front wheels in classic GTI fashion, but the option to row your own gears will likely be sorely missed by hot-hatch enthusiasts.

Inside, the GTI's cabin gets more than a traditional steering wheel. While most of the cockpit hasn't changed, there is a massive new infotainment screen. It measures 12.9 inches and features a thoroughly reworked user interface. The big screen is now divided into three sections. The top bar gives drivers quick access to the drive modes, parking functions, driver aids and media. The middle portion of the screen is dedicated to tiles that display info like the navigation system and radio, assuming we don't all just default to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The bottom bar grants permanent access to the climate controls and heated and cooled seats.

2025 VW Golf GTI interior dash

A few other new features come with the face-lift as well. There's a new parking assistant and a 360-degree view camera to make squeezing into small gaps a little easier. All of these changes make the GTI more livable and easier to use than before, but for right now they only apply to European GTI models. Expect GTI info that's more specific to our market to come in the near future.

Edmunds says

The GTI has made buttons great again, but we'll only know how much better the refreshed model is to drive (if at all) once we get behind the wheel.