Used 2002 Volkswagen GTI Review

Need a sport coupe for the real world? This is it.

what's new

For the 2002 model year, the GLS and GLX trim levels are dropped. Instead, choose from the juiced-up 180-horsepower turbocharged inline four (that can be mated to a five-speed manual or a five-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic) or the VR6 engine. The current 174-horsepower, 12-valve VR6 will be replaced with a 24-valve unit good for producing 200 horsepower in the spring of 2002. Later on, a special-edition model called the GTI 337 will arrive with a six-speed manual hooked up to the 180-horse 1.8T, as well as 18-inch wheels, 225/45VR18 performance rubber, a ground effects kit, genuine Recaro seats and red accents inside and out. All-new Volkswagen vehicles come standard with an 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.

vehicle overview

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.

edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.