2008 Volkswagen GTI Review

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Edmunds' Expert Review

  • Hatchback utility, upscale features and interior design, strong turbocharged engine, optional sequential-shifting DSG gearbox.
  • Higher price than many competitors, handling nimbleness dulled by beefy curb weight.

The 2008 Volkswagen GTI trades outright performance for more comfort and daily usability. It's the grown-up's hot hatch.

Vehicle overview

When Volkswagen introduced its new GTI a couple of years ago, it ran a series of TV ads featuring a stereotyped German engineer, his leggy female counterpart and a variety of over-customized sport compact cars. The ad's Teutonic duo then "un-pimped" the cars by smashing or destroying them, hence allowing the introduction of the new GTI. The TV spots were fun (you can find them on YouTube, naturally) but more importantly, there was real substance behind them. After a string of lackluster GTIs, the latest edition is once again a key member of the hot hatch justice league. And unlike some rivals, it doesn't have to resort to spoilers, scoops and gimmicky interior trim.

The fifth-generation ("Mk V") GTI went on sale as a late 2006 model and heads into 2008 with minimal changes. As expected, the GTI starts life as your basic economy-minded Rabbit. It then gains a variety of upgrades that serve to increase sporting potential. VW and Audi's common but highly regarded 2.0-liter direct-injected turbocharged engine (aka, the 2.0T) is used here, and it can be fitted to Volkswagen's excellent Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG) transmission, an automated-clutch, paddle-shifted manual. Also on the GTI are more powerful brakes and a sport-tuned suspension that's been further enhanced for 2008 via a 15mm drop in ride height.

This is definitely the best GTI in a long time. It's also versatile -- it comes as a two-door or four-door and has a roomy and well-built interior. Your only pause for concern might be that the GTI is a bit pricey and lacks in performance when compared to other top sport hatchbacks or coupes. The Honda Civic Si and Mini Cooper S are more nimble and fun to drive, for instance, and the well-rounded Mazdaspeed 3 packs more of a turbocharged wallop. There's also the Volvo C30 to consider this year as it, too, brings a refined European feel to this segment. Overall, though, the 2008 Volkswagen GTI is still a very good choice, especially for somebody wanting a hot hatch that's grown-up, comfortable and pleasingly "un-pimped."

2008 Volkswagen GTI models

The 2008 Volkswagen GTI is a performance-oriented hatchback. Both two-door and four-door body styles are offered. Standard equipment includes xenon HID headlights, 17-inch alloy wheels, heated outside mirrors, full power accessories, air-conditioning, cruise control, sport front seats, a 60/40-split rear seat and a 10-speaker, six-CD/MP3 audio system with satellite radio, an auxiliary jack and steering-wheel-mounted audio controls. This year VW is offering an Autobahn Package; it includes a sunroof, a premium audio system, leather upholstery and heated front seats. Most of the Autobahn's features are also offered as stand-alone options. Other upgrades for the GTI include 18-inch wheels, an iPod adapter and, when equipped with the Autobahn Package, a navigation system.

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2008 Highlights

The 2008 Volkswagen GTI receives a lower ride height for better handling, and minor equipment and trim level changes.

Performance & mpg

Every VW GTI comes with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that produces 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque. It drives the front wheels through a standard six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed, sequential-shifting automated manual called DSG. The DSG transmission can be shifted via paddles on the steering wheel or placed in fully automatic mode. For a GTI with the regular six-speed manual, expect a 0-60-mph time of about 6.7 seconds.

Safety

Standard safety equipment includes antilock disc brakes with brake assist, stability control, front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. Rear side-impact airbags are optional on four-door models. In government testing, the four-door Rabbit/GTI earned four stars out of five for its protection of front occupants in frontal impacts. For that agency's side-impact test, the car earned a five-star rating. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash tests, the car scored a "Good" rating (the highest possible) in both the frontal-offset and side-impact tests.

Driving

Start the 2008 Volkswagen GTI and there's a deep, burbling engine note that increases in volume once the throttle is opened under load. It's an enjoyable tone that's rare in the world of turbocharged cars. The engine also provides plenty of torque at low rpm to make squirts through urban traffic quite easy. Around town, the GTI's ride quality is quite agreeable, and overall the car is an excellent choice for a daily driver. From an enthusiast's standpoint, however, the GTI falls a bit short of cars like the Civic Si and Cooper S in terms of handling and driver enjoyment. This year's lower ride height has helped matters somewhat, but the softy tuned VeeDub still suffers from a beefy curb weight and lackluster steering feel.

Interior

Like the Rabbit, the GTI's interior design is straightforward and traditional, with upscale materials and excellent build quality. A few special metallic trim pieces grace the cabin, and the GTI-specific sport seats are very supportive. Distinctive design elements include the standard cloth upholstery, which has a retro plaid print, and the flat-bottom steering wheel. The main advantage to the four-door GTI is its more accessible rear seat, though the two-door's front seats slide forward quite easily to improve entry and exit. With either body style, there's plenty of rear-seat room for a couple of kids. Behind the rear seat, the GTI can hold 15 cubic feet of cargo.


Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the Used 2008 Volkswagen GTI.

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Most helpful consumer reviews

5 out of 5 stars
The King of the 'hot hatches'
ted gathe,01/07/2016
2dr Hatchback (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 6M)
I don't know who wrote the Edmunds review of the 2008 GTI but they are badly mistaken in describing the Honda Civic Si and- good gracious- the Mini Cooper S as better driving cars than the GTI. I test drove both those cars on multiple occasions along with a number of others and the GTI was by far the best vehicle in every category. The Mini Cooper in particular was disappointing- noisy, tinny sounding and rough riding. The Si has nowhere near the smooth acceleration and shifting of the GTI. It's by far the 'King of the hot hatches.' I have had the car for over 4 years now and my only significant repair was replacing the pcv valve. Pretty impressive.
4 out of 5 stars
08 GTI
Mark,01/05/2010
2dr Hatchback (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 6M)
I purchased my 2008 GTI rather than a Mustang. I wanted a sporty, fast car. My decision was made primarily due to increasing gas prices. This wasn't solved since the car runs best using premium fuel anyway. While the car was extremely fun to drive, the ride is stiff but should be expected. Maintenance costs are high as are costs for replacement items such as tires. At 10k miles it needed a 4 wheel alignment. I always drove the car easy, no curb hopping. Sold car at 22k miles due to notification from VW USA of possible problems with the DSG transmissions. Buy the car if you have money to burn on upkeep and maintenance. I went back to Toyotas, no more headaches.
4.88 out of 5 stars
One of the best
Todd,05/07/2010
4dr Hatchback (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 6AM)
I have not driven a car that gives you so much for the price. It's fantastic the way the motor and transmission work together. The DSG is the best auto-manual there is. The car feels very refined and stays relatively quiet on the road. The seats are awesome and I love the steering wheel. Loaded with features that are usually offered on luxury cars. Turbo lag is there low in the RPM range, but after driving a couple of weeks it is easy to get used to. The 4-door version has all the room I need. Carries 4 people comfortably, and my kid's car seat fits great. Have had no reliability issues. All around this is one of the best cars money can buy. Could not be happier with my purchase.
4.88 out of 5 stars
Maybe the greatest car for your money...
Chris Moore,01/29/2009
4dr Hatchback (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 6AM)
This is a car that can truly do it all. I was looking for a car that could fulfill my demands for having a fun, performance oriented vehicle that could simultaneously deliver respectable gas mileage, have four doors, a great warranty and not break the bank, including full coverage insurance. Oh, did I mention my non-manual transmission driving wife had to be able to drive it too? Under these strict stipulations, the GTI is absolutely sublime. I bought mine for $20.5K and spend $100 a month on full coverage insurance. I regularly get over 30 mpg on the highway and 23 mpg in town. Because of its sleeper status, I can drive it like I sat on a wasp, and a cop would be none the wiser.

More about the 2008 Volkswagen GTI

Used 2008 Volkswagen GTI Overview

The Used 2008 Volkswagen GTI is offered in the following submodels: GTI Hatchback. Available styles include 2dr Hatchback (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 6M), 2dr Hatchback (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 6AM), 4dr Hatchback (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 6AM), 4dr Hatchback (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 6M), PZEV 2dr Hatchback (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 6M), PZEV 2dr Hatchback (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 6AM), PZEV 4dr Hatchback (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 6AM), PZEV 4dr Hatchback (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 6M), 2dr Hatchback w/Prod. End 05/08 (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 6AM), 4dr Hatchback w/Prod. End 05/08 (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 6M), 4dr Hatchback w/Prod. End 05/08 (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 6AM), and 2dr Hatchback w/Prod. End 05/08 (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 6M). Pre-owned Volkswagen GTI models are available with a 2.0 L-liter gas engine, with output up to 200 hp, depending on engine type. The Used 2008 Volkswagen GTI comes with front wheel drive. Available transmissions include: 6-speed manual, 6-speed automated manual. The Used 2008 Volkswagen GTI comes with a 4 yr./ 50000 mi. basic warranty, a 4 yr./ 50000 mi. roadside warranty, and a 5 yr./ 60000 mi. powertrain warranty.

What's a good price on a Used 2008 Volkswagen GTI?

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Which used 2008 Volkswagen GTIS are available in my area?

Shop Edmunds' car, SUV, and truck listings of over 6 million vehicles to find a cheap new, used, or certified pre-owned (CPO) 2008 Volkswagen GTI for sale near. Simply research the type of car you're interested in and then select a used car from our massive database to find cheap prew-owned vehicles for sale near you. Once you have identified a used vehicle you're interested in, check the AutoCheck vehicle history reports, read dealer reviews, and find out what other owners paid for the Used 2008 Volkswagen GTI.

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Find a used Volkswagen GTI for sale - 10 great deals out of 10 listings starting at $22,400.

Find a used Volkswagen for sale - 8 great deals out of 17 listings starting at $15,718.

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Should I lease or buy a 2008 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.

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