Truth be told, I’m a big hatchback fan and a big VW GTI fan, so this may be a bit biased, but I’ll try to keep it objective. I had an 02 VW GTI 337, which was a great car and never gave me any trouble. Volkswagens have always been fun cars, from the first MK1 GTI, but many people thought the MK5 gained a bit too much weight. This MK7 VW GTI has gone on a significant diet courtesy of VW’s new aluminum intensive MQB platform. Is the original hot hatch still king of the hill?
First of, this 2015 VW GTI has outstanding build quality and interior fit and finish. Or SE model with performance package, leather seats, and sunroof came in at right around $31,000. The absolutely shocking part is that it weighs, on our scales with a full tank of gas, 3157lbs. Now under 3200lbs may not sound like a lot, but with leather interior, navigation, heated seats, a large glass sunroof, big brakes, 4 doors, room for 5 and some cargo, this is seriously impressive. This car is equipped with a manual transmission, but I’d prefer the fantastic dual clutch in congested Miami traffic. That being said, the clutch is light and easy to use, so don’t fear for your left leg if you want to row your own gears.
The weight loss translates into handling and performance as well. The 2015 VW GTI is delightfully nimble on it’s feet and never harsh. It feels sporty and engaging but not so much that it hurts your back. The seats are grippy and very supportive, though those with broad shoulders may want to try the seats first as they might be a little tight. Those supportive seats are also very comfortable on longer drives. Power is there in spades. Low end torque is very good, and high end power is good as well, though you can tell that VW is holding you back up top. Passing power is never a problem, and transient response out of the turbo 2 liter is very good. I’m not going to give a horsepower number, because I think Volkswagen’s claimed 220hp with the performance package is a load of crap: this car makes MUCH more power. Value for money? Check!
The steering is communicative and has just the right amount of feedback. The GTI just feels right. One curious addition is the VW GTI “Soundkator,” which adds in synthetic engine noise. The car doesn’t need it, in back to back testing with the “Soundkator” on and off, it definitely added an annoying drone at 3,000rpm. You can have your dealer turn this off very easily and quickly. The brakes were very good, and even the electronic limited slip differential is adequate. Yes, I’d rather have a mechanical limited slip, but this brake-based limited slip works very very well on this car, and most people won’t even notice the lack of a mechanical LSD.
The interior is well appointed, and with the exception of the painfully low resolution screen for the infotainment system, is really top of it’s class. The Fender audio system is absolutely amazing in this car- a small spare-tire-mounted subwoofer fills out the low end. Really, this audio system is fantastic. Definitely get it if you’re at all into music. The only pet peeve of mine is the MDI connector- a proprietary interface for the infotainment system that requires a $50 dongle to connect your phone to. Volkswagen has confirmed that they will replace the MDI connector with USB and update the low-res infotainment screen for 2016, so keep an eye out for that. HID and LED lighting abounds, and the car just looks right, especially on these machine polished wheels. In and out, the GTI looks great.
All in all, this is definitely my pick for value/sporty/grown up hatch back. The car is mature enough to feel high end, but still fun to toss around and drive every day. That’s what the GTI has always been all about: practical driving enjoyment. I can’t think of a better fun hatchback in this price point. This GTI is great, but maybe I’ll get to test the even more powerful Golf R soon. Keep up the great work VW.