2023 Volkswagen Golf GTI
The first-generation Volkswagen Golf – known as the Rabbit here in America – always had a following of people who already had an enthusiast’s mindset. When they discovered that European customers could get a more powerful, faster, and quicker version of the Golf, the phone lines and mailboxes at Volkswagen of America urged the company to import it stateside.
In the fall of 1982, the customer base was pleased to see the first Rabbit GTI arrive at Volkswagen showrooms.
Forty years later, the Golf GTI has been a mainstay in the lineup – even as Volkswagen has turned to selling SUVs and electric vehicles. The GTI attracts enthusiasts both young and old. They are loyal to the core to never compromise when it comes to their hot hatch.
We are in the eighth generation of the Volkswagen Golf GTI. We wondered if it still stirs the soul as it did back in 1983?
For this new generation, we noticed how evolutionary the design continues to be. There are many design cues that could be traced back over decades and generations. The eighth-generation model underwent some nips and tucks to update its overall design. You will also find a set of LED foglamps that peek out of the lower honeycomb grille.
The GTI continues to be is sharp looking and highly functional as a practical hatchback, with a bit more aggression to its mission. The added red trim and GTI badges give away its intention on providing a bit more fun for your daily grind.
Our tester was the S model, which includes a set of 18-inch alloy wheels wearing performance tires. In all, the Golf GTI has a signature stance that stands out in a parking lot and continues to speak to its place among enthusiasts.
The biggest change to the newest generation model is in the interior. A fully digital instrument cluster has replaced its iconic analog dials. An updated infotainment system is now in line with Volkswagen technology, yet it is pretty functional. The gear lever for the DSG transmission has been reduced to a toggle switch. There are plenty of haptic and soft touch controls throughout the cabin.
You still have a three-spoke flat-bottom sports steering wheel, red trim and LED lighting, and GTI badging.
Seating in the Golf GTI is designed for enthusiastic driving. The high back front seats are very supportive. The cushion and seatback bolsters lock front seat occupants down for the ride of their lives. The iconic Tartan cloth upholstery in our S tester feels great to the touch is quite comfortable to sit in.
While the rear seats are comfortable for average-sized adults, the space is really good for four of them. At least the cargo space can accommodate their luggage in the 19.9 cubic foot hatchback space, which is expandable with the removal of the cargo tray and folding down the rear seatbacks. If you do fold down the rear seatbacks, then you get up to 34.5 cubic feet of space.
Power comes from a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 241 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. It is a very responsive engine that is designed to motivate hot hatch legend. Our tester came with the available seven-speed DSG transmission – both feeding power to the front wheels. The shifts are lightning quick, though you may find some long gear holds in Sport mode. In terms of fuel economy, we averaged 34.3 MPG.
The ride quality is quite firm. There’s plenty of feedback on rougher road surfaces. However, you will find plenty of sharpness in the overall handling.
The steering system is very responsive. On-center feel is pretty good. Though stopping power is very good, we found the brake pedal action experiencing some lag at times. When the brakes are on point, you will love the stops in normal and panic situations.
The Volkswagen Golf GTI starts with a base price of $30,530 for an S model with a choice of four trim levs; - including a special 40thAnniversary model. Our tester came with a sticker price of $32,425.
The Volkswagen Golf GTI is not alone in the hot hatch, or, as we call it in the U.S.A., the sports compact segment. It can be compared to the Subaru WRX, Honda Civic Si, Mazda3, MINI Cooper S Hardtop, Hyundai Veloster N and Kia Forte GT.
However, there is still one sports compact that can offer performance, superb driving dynamics, and practicality all in one package. Forty years on, The Golf GTI has been the absolute choice among enthusiasts, even when everyone else is catching up.
Credits: CarSoup Editors