2021 Volkswagen Golf GTI review: Parting is such sweet sorrow

Farewell, scorching hatch.

Andrew Krok/Roadshow

The Volkswagen Golf GTI is without doubt one of the all-time greats, spending seven generations within the candy spot between every day usability and an old school good time. In its last yr earlier than the introduction of an all-new eight era, the Golf’s hot-hatch variant continues to remind us why it stays a darling of critics and automobile geeks alike.


  • Hatchback capaciousness
  • Enjoyable and pragmatism in equal doses
  • Strong cabin tech

Do not Like

  • One USB port
  • Can push into costly territory
  • Simply-OK gas economic system

Unassuming getup

The GTI would not look a lot totally different than the Golf, however that is high quality, as a result of it is by no means been a shouty automobile. My Twister Crimson tester does seize some eyes with its paint coloration, however many of the stuff that units the GTI aside takes some effort to search out, like the marginally extra aggressive air intakes on the bumper, the wise variety of GTI badges or the trick pink components tucked into the LED headlights. Even the 18-inch alloy wheels are appropriately sized. It is a look that flies beneath the radar, which is ok, as a result of who actually wants extra factors on their license?

My Autobahn-trim GTI foregoes the ever-present plaid seats in favor of one thing far much less thrilling: black leather-based. Truthfully, that may be my largest drawback with the GTI. If it have been potential to retain these wonderful fabric seats on larger trims, I would be a contented camper. That mentioned, the leather-clad cushions aren’t dangerous, with loads of assist and heaters that fireside up fairly rapidly in chilly climate. The Golf is an affordable automobile, however the inside is not precisely bargain-basement; construct high quality is top-notch and many of the plastics aren’t offensively exhausting or ugly. A smattering of piano-black trim breaks up the dashboard’s monotony, too.

From a family-car perspective, there’s loads to love concerning the GTI. The rear seats have ample area and the hatchback’s flat roof gives greater than sufficient headroom for all occupants. Its 16.5-cubic-foot cargo space is sufficiently sized for a household’s value of groceries or a pair suitcases. Tchotchke storage is slightly restricted, with sizable door pockets however cramped cubbies within the middle console and beneath the armrest. Skinny A-pillars and an upright physique means the GTI additionally gives up a powerful view, not solely of the highway forward but in addition in each different course.

It is exhausting to not have enjoyable

Not each sports activities automobile wants some sky-high output determine to return a lot of smiles per gallon. The GTI makes do with an quantity that is not even thought of sporty in lots of automobiles: Its 2.0-liter turbocharged engine places out 228 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, which is greater than sufficient to have a great time. Nearly each spot on the tachometer is an efficient start line for enjoyable, because the four-pot spits out sufficient torque to push the GTI with ample haste, making it straightforward to slip into site visitors from an on-ramp or shoot forward at a inexperienced gentle. It is an approachable sort of powerband, too, by no means feeling prefer it’s overwhelming the automobile (or the motive force). Even the exhaust observe is on the demure facet, producing sufficient bass to sound attention-grabbing with out a lot as to alert the neighbors.

On my tester, that energy makes its option to the entrance wheels by a six-speed guide transmission. The motion between the gears is slightly rubbery, however it’s not imprecise, accepting shifts whether or not they arrive with haste or not. The clutch pedal gives simply sufficient bite-point suggestions to make clean begins potential each time and the throttle manipulation in any car mode is ample to make sure rev-matched downshifts could be rattled off with out upsetting everybody inside. The steering is direct, if slightly gentle, however it feels completely matched to the remainder of the GTI.

Like a number of different cheap good-time-mobiles, the GTI Autobahn packs a set of adaptive dampers. In Regular mode, the suspension does a great job stopping many of the highway’s nastier components from making a large number of the trip high quality, aided by summer time tires that buck the development of eliminating undesirable millimeters of sidewall. In Sport mode and past, issues get… stiff, however that is by design. If you wish to shut the door on physique roll’s face, that is the best way to do it, however as at all times, there is a ride-quality tradeoff concerned. Irrespective of the mode, this front-drive scorching hatch is a perennial hoot. Toss it right into a nook, cackle because the two-liter’s torque pulls you out the opposite facet, rinse and repeat. It is front-wheel drive, so there are only a few conditions the place overdriving ends in something aside from a little bit of understeer.

Regardless of a turbocharged engine that does not break output data, the GTI is not probably the most environment friendly hatchback on the block. The EPA estimates my tester at 24 miles per gallon metropolis and 32 mpg freeway. Whereas my metropolis economic system lands nearer to 20 mpg, I’ve no drawback stretching past the freeway score, seeing as much as 35 mpg if I keep a light-weight foot and keep away from spooling up the turbocharger.

The GTI’s cabin gives wonderful visibility and an easy structure.

Andrew Krok/Roadshow

Easy, usable tech

All GTI trims make use of Volkswagen‘s MIB II infotainment system, with the bottom mannequin rocking a 6.5-inch touchscreen whereas SE and Autobahn variants sporting a fancier, glass-covered 8-inch show. It is a simple system to get used to, with an easy structure and a quick-access dock that disappears from the display till your hand approaches. Navigation is accessible on the bigger show, and whereas the graphics would possibly really feel previous, vacation spot entry is simple (whether or not utilizing voice or the on-screen keyboard) and it may well even advocate endpoints based mostly in your prior exercise.

Consumers additionally get 5 free years of VW’s Automobile-Web Distant Entry connected-car tech, which permits house owners to make use of a cellular app (obtainable on each phones and smartwatches) to manage the GTI’s door locks and headlights, and a few fashions additionally embody distant begin. A 4G LTE hotspot powered by Verizon Wi-fi can also be obtainable, with pay as you go plans costing about $20 per 30 days.

For its last mannequin yr, VW makes ahead collision warning, blind spot monitoring, automated emergency braking and rear cross-traffic alert customary on all GTI variants. My Autobahn tester additional enhances security with customary adaptive cruise management, lane-keeping help and parking sensors. Nothing works with too heavy a hand; even the lane-keeping help does a reasonably good job of subtly altering car place with out being annoying. There is no superior lane-centering, highway-driving trickery right here, however what does come customary works very properly for what it’s.

VW’s in-car infotainment has been freshened up just a few occasions over the course of the seventh-generation Golf, and the next-gen GTI ought to add much more technological doodads.

Andrew Krok/Roadshow

Right down to brass tacks

Whereas a manual-transmission GTI S could be had for $29,690 (together with $995 for vacation spot), the value can rapidly attain quasi-wonky heights, with my 6MT Autobahn rolling out of the dealership with a $37,940 price ticket. There’s a great deal of competitors on this section. There are older guards just like the Civic Si, which is down on energy but in addition down on value (and enjoyable issue), however there’s neat new rivals on the horizon, just like the Mazda3 Turbo, which is able to pack 250 hp and 320 lb-ft of torque along with all-wheel drive. The Subaru WRX is in there, too, however with a brand new one on the best way, it may be value holding off — then once more, the identical could be mentioned of the GTI.

It is at all times a disgrace to say goodbye to a beloved mannequin, however there is no must weep over the 2021 Volkswagen GTI. Whereas it stays considered one of my favourite automobiles because of its equal-dose mix of pragmatism and pleasure, there is a model new one on the horizon and it is more likely to take all the nice components of the present mannequin whereas enhancing the aesthetics, know-how and extra. However for now, the present mannequin scratches nearly each itch there may be. 

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Andrew Krok