October 31, 2014
What Did We Get?
So which all-new four-door Volkswagen product with a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine and six-speed dual-clutch transmission have we just added to our long-term fleet?
The A3 and GTI share an underlying structure, but performance, on-road feel and, most importantly, price keep these compacts from walking down the same path. The base price of a GTI is roughly $5,000 less than a bare-bones A3, and you get more engine for the money, but miss out on in-car WiFi. You get the idea.
So the GTI ends up being the hell-raising younger brother to the cool and collected A3, but that's not the GTI's real competition. Two years ago, the wicked Ford Focus ST barged onto the scene with aggressive styling and more horsepower, and proceeded to whoop the GTI in performance testing and on mountain roads. We quickly added one to our long-term fleet and fell in lust. But we compared it to the old GTI, and with the newest iteration finally here, we need to see if the old girl still has some fight in her.
What Options Does It Have?
In base S trim, the two-door 2015 Golf GTI with a six-speed manual transmission starts at $25,215. It represents a strong value proposition, with standard equipment including LED foglights, heated front seats and 18-inch wheels.
When we bought our 2010 Volkswagen GTI, we ordered a two-door with a manual transmission, touchscreen radio and sunroof. We wanted to carry a few more people comfortably this time around, so the four-door was our choice. This brought the starting price to $25,815.
Volkswagen has taken a page out of Honda's book and now packages options into separate trim levels, with only accessories like bike mounts and car mats available as extras. That meant we had to give up the GTI's classic tartan cloth seats if we wanted to get luxuries like a navigation system and dual-zone climate control. And if we were losing those, we might as well make it up elsewhere and go the full monty.
We skipped over the midlevel SE trim and selected our GTI in Autobahn trim, i.e. completely loaded. For the $30,695 asking price, Autobahn adds VW's DSG automated manual transmission, leather seats, a nav system, sunroof, Fender audio system, dual-zone climate control, push-button start and a power driver seat.
A Performance package rings in at $1,495 and includes bigger brakes, an electronic limited-slip differential and 10 extra horsepower. An adaptive suspension can also be ordered in conjunction with the package. And while we tested a 2015 GTI with these options, they're a late availability option and we wanted our GTI ASAP. Time will tell if we regret this decision.
Our Tornado Red 2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI Autobahn rings in at $31,515. Volkswagen loaned it to us for the year so we didn't have a chance to negotiate a lower price.
Why We Got It
Although the GTI's skin hasn't changed much since the last generation debuted in 2010, there are plenty of tweaks to the interior and mechanical components to justify adding a 2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI to our long-term test fleet. The 2.0-liter turbocharged engine now puts out 210 hp compared to last year's 200, torque increases 51 lb-ft to a healthy 258, backlit red trim accents the perimeter of the cabin, and selectable drive modes sharpen throttle response and steering weight.
With all the improvements to this new car, the biggest question on our minds will be whether this GTI is sporty enough to wear the badge, or is it just a bargain A3 with more usable trunk space? Is the new GTI bringing enough hot hatch to the table to take the fight to Ford? And did Volkswagen finally purge the ticks, creaks and teenage locker room odor that plagued our past long-termer?
We have 12 months and 20,000 miles to find out. Follow along on our Long-Term Road Test Updates page as we flog our 2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI through the Santa Monica mountains and run long-distance road trips to see where the GTI falls between Audi-lite and hot-hatch king.
Best MPG: 27.2
Worst MPG: 24.5
Average MPG over 1,045 miles: 25.6
The manufacturer provided this vehicle for the purpose of evaluation.