I had spent a year test driving 20 cars over 1000mi to decide on the car that would last me the 20yrs my last car did, a VW Corrado.
Life's too short to keep driving VWs, but the final shootouts for months were between the '10 GTI and different flavors of 1 and 3 series BMW coupes.
I was not cross-shopping any of the Japanese "hot hatches".
The GTI is easily the best combination of refinement, speed, value, and driving pleasure on the market. I cross-shopped the car with various others and the GTI was the winner with the closest runner-ups being the BMW 328i and the Mini Cooper.
I honestly don't think the GTI competes against the various Japanese cars (i.e. Civic Si, WRX, Evo) because of its level of refinement. No, it's not as fast as the WRX or the Evo, but it provides a level of refinement and all-around usability that both of those toys can't match. It's less isolated than the luxury cars but is still blessed with a remarkably high-class interior that should be the envy of most entry-luxury drivers.
Love the car, love the interior, fun to drive...When it works... Car has broken down once in the first six months and need to be towed. Since that time it has been to the dealer 3 times for misfires and engine stalling out. This is a DSG vehicle... I've made three reports to NHTSA and the car is currently in the shop again... Never had a vehicle before that's been so unreliable.
I love everything about this car except that it needs more power. Well, I found out, before I bought it, that you can get a software reflash that ups the turbo boost to 19 PSI instead of 10 PSI and you get 54 hp and 80 lp-ft of torque. All this is from a company that works directly with VAG (VW of America) and develops racing concepts for them. All this is safe for the car, but dealers don't really like you to do it for obvious reasons. The car now runs 0-60 in 5.8 instead of 6.6. It's a monster and that's why I bought it. It also has a stealth mode for when you bring it into the dealer.
I've had my GTI (4dr, manual, 18s) for just over a year, and I'm still enamored with the car. It's solid, speedy, handles amazingly well. Yes, could use more power, but I don't need it. Handling is what makes the car so fun. Ride is a bit harsh on bad pavement, but who cares? Buy a couch on wheels if you so desire. Stereo is fantastic but touchscreen is difficult while driving, shifter precise, engine note perfectly tuned and gas mileage good on the highway--26-28mpg on spririted freeway stints at 90mph; 33 best; 13 in city worst. Two issues: brake pad came apart at 4000 miles; rattles from pas. b-pillar at 8800 miles. No big deal--all replaced under warranty quickly. Can't wait for R20.