It is easy to understand the appeal of a compact hatchback. They combine the small footprint and thrifty fuel efficiency of a compact car with cargo capacity to rival some big sedans. Yet that practicality doesn't have to be attached to a car that is boring. The 2017 Volkswagen GTI falls into a sub-genre of the compact hatchbacks once dubbed the "hot hatch." These variants had more gusto under the hood and refined, sport-tuned chassis to enhance athleticism and provide driving thrills. This on top of their versatility.
The GTI represents the latest chapter in a story that dates back to the 1980s, when the GTI first appeared in the U.S. and arguably started the hot hatch era. Through rabid enthusiast clubs and forums the GTI has achieved cult-like status over the past three-plus decades. Spend time behind the wheel of the latest GTI and you'll understand why its fans are so enthusiastic.
Based on VW's Golf, the GTI shares its roomy interior, impressive materials and commendable build quality. From there, the GTI adds sizzle in the form of a feisty turbocharged engine, a taut suspension and sporty cabin upgrades such as heavily bolstered sport seats and a thick-rimmed, flat-bottom steering wheel. Visual effects include 18-inch alloy wheels, a unique lower front fascia and chrome-tipped dual exhaust.
Whether you opt for the manual or the dual-clutch automatic transmission, the GTI is both swift (0-60 mph in the mid-6-second range) and fairly fuel efficient. The EPA estimates range from 27 mpg combined (24 city/32 highway) for the automatic and 28 mpg combined (24 city/34 highway) for the manual. As you might expect, the GTI has a noticeably firmer ride than the standard Golf. But this is the tradeoff for increased athleticism.
The GTI is available in four trim levels ranging from the base S to the loaded Autobahn. The S comes with a generous standard features list, highlighted by heated front seats and a rearview camera. The Autobahn offers features such as an adaptive suspension (allowing both a softer ride for commuting on rough roads and a tighter setting for curvy roads), a navigation system and adaptive cruise control, among others. In between are the Sport and SE trims.
Regardless of how you might want to equip your ideal GTI, you will end up with a car that draws a nice balance between driving enjoyment and everyday practicality. Let Edmunds help you find the perfect GTI for your driveway.