Used 2002 Volkswagen GTI Hatchback
- Fun to drive, reasonable price, lots of standard goodies, hatchback design offers excellent cargo utility, available six-speed manual.
- Some controls hard to decipher, handling could be crisper, dated styling.
Edmunds' Expert Review
Need a sport coupe for the real world? This is it.
Back in 1983, the Volkswagen Rabbit GTI stormed onto the scene and created a new market segment: the hopped-up econosport. In recent years, however, the increasingly upscale Golf-based GTI was slipping out of reach for enthusiasts who lacked fat wallets. For 2002, VW decided to restructure pricing and content and market the car simply as the GTI with a choice of either the 1.8T or VR6 six-cylinder engine.
The price cut was achieved by removing some of the formerly standard features (such as leather trim on the VR6) that folks may not want anyway and moving them to the options list. Rest assured that the 2002 GTI is not stripped down, however. Air conditioning, keyless entry/anti-theft system, cruise control, premium stereo (with both cassette and CD players), tilt/telescopic steering wheel, and power windows, locks and mirrors are all standard features on the GTI. Consumers will be impressed by the hatchback's structural rigidity, which not only provides a solid, quiet body with precise gaps between the doors and body panels, but an overall feel of quality. Performance hardware includes 16-inch alloys (17s on the VR6), four-wheel disc brakes and a sport suspension with front and rear stabilizer bars.
A plethora of safety features is also present. In addition to dual front and side airbags, the GTI comes with a side curtain airbag, which helps to protect the heads of both front and rear passengers in a severe side-impact collision. Active safety (that allows one to avoid an accident) is up to snuff as well, with antilock brakes employing electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD) and traction control both standard.
Options with the 1.8T are a leather package (seats, steering wheel, shift boot and knob), a "luxury package" with power glass sunroof and premium Monsoon stereo, 17-inch alloy wheels and a cold weather package (heated windshield washer nozzles and heated seats). For those who choose a GTI VR6, an additional "technology package" is available with a self-dimming mirror, rain sensor wipers, and an automatic climate control system.
New life is breathed into the 1.8T powerplant for 2002, which brews up 30 more horsepower than the previous version for a total of 180. Doling out the power is your choice of a five-speed manual or a five-speed automatic tranny with Tiptronic manual shifting. Currently the 2.8-liter, 12-valve VR6 makes 174 horsepower, but if you wait until spring a 200-pony, 24-valve version will come your way -- and you'll be able to get a six-speed manual with it.
In spite of the power upgrade for the VR6, the late arriving, special-edition GTI 337 equipped with the 1.8T and a six-speed (the same powertrain used in the New Beetle Turbo S) promises to be the most serious driver's car in the lineup. Based loosely on a 25th anniversary-edition GTI recently offered in Europe (to commemorate the car's original birth there in 1975), the 337 features 18-inch wheels, 225/45VR18 performance rubber, a ground effects kit, tinted taillights, red brake calipers, genuine Recaro seats, Monsoon sound and red stitching for the steering wheel, shifter and parking brake handle.
All GTIs ride on front MacPherson struts and a rear independent torsion-beam axle; the suspension is of course tuned for sport but without sacrificing day-to-day livability. Separate shock and coil-spring mounts reduce intrusion into the luggage compartment and cut road noise.
Ownership peace of mind comes from VW's improved four-year/50,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, up from two years/24,000 miles. In addition, Volkswagen offers a fully transferable limited powertrain warranty that covers five years or 60,000 miles. Four-year/50,000-mile 24-hour roadside assistance is also provided.
Whether swayed by the value or performance of the GTI, drivers will be racing to start their engines.
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More About This Model
Remember the "Pocket Rockets"? OK, get your mind out of the gutter, we're talking cars here. Back in 1983, the Volkswagen Rabbit GTI stormed onto the scene and created a new market segment: the hopped-up econo-hatchback.
Powered by a feisty 90-horsepower 1.8-liter fuel-injected inline four, the GTI sported a five-speed manual gearbox, alloy wheels, full instruments, blackout trim, red accents and sport seats. With nimble handling and brisk performance (the car only weighed around 2,000 pounds), the Rabbit GTI was a hit with driving enthusiasts who appreciated the beauty of low mass and intelligent, efficient engineering. Inevitably, competition sprang up from all corners, as cars such as the Toyota Corolla FX-16 and Dodge Colt Turbo entered the fray.
In 1985, the Rabbit was redesigned and renamed (in the U.S.) the Golf, and as before, a sporty GTI version was available. Subsequent years saw the GTI receive a 16-valve inline four, become more expensive, take a hiatus and return in 1995 even more pricey but with a V6 stuffed under the hood. A weak-kneed GTI that had a lowly eight-valve 105-horse inline four was offered in an effort to have a lower-priced (and lower-performance) GTI for the masses.
Two years ago, the GTI adopted the turbo 1.8-liter inline four-cylinder engine (rated at 150 horsepower) that VW used in the Passat and New Beetle Turbo. At this time, the GTI could be had as either the GLS (with the turbo four) or GLX (an upscale version that had leather, moonroof and the 174-horsepower VR6 engine). This fussy nomenclature made the name of the car confusing to those not versed in automotive history. "So what kind of car is that?" "It's a new Volkswagen Golf GTI GLS."
Unlike the old GTI, the more recent versions were getting out of reach for enthusiasts who lacked fat wallets. The GLS started at $19,425, while the GLX listed for a hefty $23,050. For 2002, VW decided to restructure pricing and content and market the car simply as the GTI with a choice of either the 1.8T or VR6 engine. Pricing now stands at $18,910 for the 1.8T, a decrease of around $500 for a car that is similarly equipped and more powerful. And at $20,295, the VR6 sticker drops a whopping $2,755. The price cut on the VR6 was achieved by removing some of the formerly standard features (such as leather trim) that folks may not want anyway and moving them to the options list.
Rest assured that the 2002 GTI is not stripped down, however. Air conditioning; keyless entry/anti-theft system; cruise control; premium stereo (with both cassette and CD players); tilt/telescopic steering wheel; and power windows, locks and mirrors are all standard features on the GTI. Performance hardware includes 16-inch alloys, four-wheel disc brakes and a sport suspension with front and rear stabilizer bars.
A plethora of safety features is also present. In addition to dual front and side airbags, the GTI comes with the latest wunderbag: the side curtain airbag. This last feature helps to protect the heads of both front and rear passengers in a severe side-impact collision. Active safety (that allows one to avoid an accident) is up to snuff, as well, with antilock brakes and traction control both standard.
For 2002, the GTI has double the power it started out with in 1983. Yep, 180 horses' worth, an increase of 30 ponies (20 percent) over last year's GTI GLS. Torque is up, as well, to 174 pound-feet; an increase of 12 percent. The hefty boost in power was achieved via revised engine electronics and a less restrictive exhaust system. VW chose to be discreet about the new muscle; in fact, there is nothing to distinguish the more potent '02 GTI 1.8T from the '01. Visually, that is.
Although the present VR6 has less power (174 horsepower) than the new 1.8T, VW will be correcting this discrepancy sometime next year when they bring out a more potent VR6 sporting four valve heads and 201 horses.
The other big news this year is the availability of a five-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic, a feature that allows manual-style shifting for those who prefer an automatic but sometimes have that urge to change gears for themselves.
VW claims the new GTI can scoot from 0 to 60 mph in just 7.5 seconds, which is a full second quicker than a 2001 GTI we tested. Power delivery mirrors that of last year's version, characterized by a broad, flat powerband where peak torque hits under 2,000 rpm and stays there (174 pound-feet) right up to 5,000 rpm. We drove a five-speed manual GTI, and the car felt quicker than the 2001 GTI GLS we drove awhile back.
Otherwise, this GTI felt the same as last year's model, providing a slightly firm, controlled ride and strong, progressive braking. Typically VW, the rubbery gearshift won't be mistaken for a Honda unit, but it's teamed up with a smooth, linear clutch that made for easy gearchanging.
As it was raining the day of our ride and drive, we didn't push the car in the curves, but we wouldn't expect any surprises in this area, as the GTI's underpinnings are carried over from last year. Precise, well-weighted steering reminded us of why we enjoy driving German-engineered automobiles so much.
Those who loved the philosophy of the original GTI -- a no-nonsense, fun-to-drive and functional hatchback -- should try out the newest version with the 1.8T engine. But before making a buying decision, know that competition is springing up anew, with hot hatches such as the Ford Focus SVT and Honda Civic Si soon to debut. Sounds like a comparison test to us.
Used 2002 Volkswagen GTI Hatchback Overview
The Used 2002 Volkswagen GTI Hatchback is offered in the following styles: 1.8T 2dr Hatchback (1.8L 4cyl Turbo 5A), 1.8T 2dr Hatchback (1.8L 4cyl Turbo 5M), VR6 2dr Hatchback (2.8L 6cyl 5M), VR6 2dr Hatchback (2.8L 6cyl 6M), and 337 2dr Hatchback (1.8L 4cyl Turbo 6M).
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Should I lease or buy a 2002 Volkswagen GTI?
Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.