Its just a fine piece of engineering. This car feels absolutely solid and locked on to the road. Driving becomes more intuitive when the car goes exactly where you point it, when you point it. Anyone who has ever driven an American car should be familiar with the amount of sag or 'play' between the actual motion of the steering wheel and whats transmitted to the wheels. That's what makes German cars so awesome - wheels turn with the drivers hands. The DSG is just about the most underrated technological innovation ever. This trans is a blast, blowing through gears at speeds previously unimaginable for any gearbox. Learn about how the dual clutch works -- its worth the education.
My GTI has been with me for two years and 17K miles, and the experience has been positive. This is the original "hot hatch", the benchmark for this class. If you're looking for outright performance, go for a Mazdaspeed 3. But if you're seeking European character and sophistication, the choice is clear. The GTI goes about its business in a most German way. Feels solid as a bank vault when you get in and shut the door. On the interstate, it's unflappable and deceptively fast, so invest in a good radar detector. This model has ceased production, as the sixth-generation is already out and headed to the US in the fall of 2010. There should be many pre-owned examples to choose from.
Engine sounds great under full throttle. GTI built in Germany, not Mexico as previous model. Xenon headlamps standard. High quality exterior paint finish. Beefy steering wheel you want to caress. Full-size spare tire. Elegant enough for the country club valet, if the occasion were to arise.
Some interior rattles audible on bumpy roads. My previous Hyundai Elantra had a superior stereo. 200hp is adequate, but the competition has surpassed that figure. Sirius available only in package with moonroof. Options could bloat the price to nearly $30K. Curb weight of 3200lb sometimes felt.
My '07 GTI is the most enjoyable new car I have ever owned. It's the perfect size and I've got plenty of space for people and cargo, too. VW styling never gets old and the retro interior is cool, comfortable and durable. The DSG is best auto-manual transmission ever made. It makes the car feel sporty without making me feel tired. It's a sports car that doesn't beat you up. But stick to the base car and skip the leather package. Otherwise you have a $30K GTI.
DSG, retro seats, xenon lights, handling and steering, radio.
Electrical problems have dampened the ownership experience. I've had a coil pack go and repairs for engine and oil pressure sensor lights. The dealer, Langhorne VW, has fixed all of these with no charge. One time they took me on no notice on a Saturday and had me back on the road in an hour.
I bought the GTI to have a fun car to drive while still being able to live with it day by day. It has more than enough power for the street. Quick steering and an easy to use 6-speed gear box, but the clutch travel is long. There is a huge aftermarket to tweak the car to exactly how you want it. Fits four people with ease. The hatch is a bit small compared to my last car's trunk, but cavernous once the rear seats fold down. Adequate 6-disc CD stereo for a non-audiophile. I've had no mechanical problems. The biggest problem with owning the car is how expensive maintenance can be, especially if down at the dealer, but the recommended 10,000 miles between oil changes helps with that.
Powertrain. Interior accent lights at night. 30+ mpg easily achieved if driven with care. Much fun if driven without care. Big aftermarket. Multi-Function Display in dash for car info (mpg, etc), radio control, and car options.
Lots of minor eccentricities with the controls (cruise control, seatback adjustment, lever to lower the seats to get into the rear, etc). Creaks and rattles are common.
I've had my GTI for almost two years now, and it's easily the finest car I've ever driven. There were so many duds that followed the 1983 original, but Volkswagen finally got serious again about this iconic model. The engine is the star here, propelling what's not a light vehicle with gusto. It pulls from below 2000 rpm, which means there's virtually no turbo lag. Great car for darting around Manhattan traffic, but the open road is where it shines. Buckets of torque make passing a breeze, and the VW is unflappable at high speed. Overall reliability has been surprisingly solid. Fuel economy has been atrocious.
2.0L turbo engine sourced from Audi, xenon headlamps, quality interior materials, induction "tube" that pipes in engine/exhaust sounds into cabin.
The stereo is a joke, despite the myriad speakers. There are numerous rattles coming from the dashboard and other parts of the interior, as well as clunking noises from who knows where. The ride is sometimes harsh, and the shifter feel could be better. Blue instrument lighting is getting tired.