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All-new 2015 Volkswagen GTI delivers refined thrills with a dash of nostalgia

The evolved GTI targets grown-ups

Published: July 09, 2014 11:00 AM

Many of us here at Consumer Reports' test track have loved GTIs since Day One. Naturally, we were quite excited when we took delivery of our 2015 Volkswagen GTI test car. We got an early drive last year with a European-spec GTI, but now we can compare the U.S. version back-to-back against competitors already in our fleet, such as the Mini Cooper S and Subaru WRX.

The base GTI two-door starts at $24,395. We chose the top-trim Autobahn, priced at $29,595, and got a real stick shift rather than the DSG automated manual. With a couple of other options, it rang in at $31,730. The Autobahn version, which costs $1,600 more than the midtrim SE, brings power seats, automatic climate control, and a navigation system—quite a lot for the money. Sadly, only the base S model has the familiar plaid fabric seats. Long-time fans will smile that the shifter still has the golf ball shaped knob.

First impressions

Taut and agile, the GTI is fun through corners yet easy to live with day to day. It’s quiet and civilized enough that it doesn’t wear on your patience on a long drive. The well-executed, semi-luxurious cabin takes care of you with ample support from the seats, impressive interior quality, and an easy-to-manage infotainment system. And with its established name recognition, VW didn’t have to resort to oversized spoilers, aerodynamic ground effects, and in-your-face colors to make a bold statement. This car is all about the driver, not turning the heads of passersby,

Under the hood of this seventh-generation GTI sits VW/Audi’s 210-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. The engine pulls strongly with either transmission, providing meaty low-end grunt and eager revving that brings plenty of high-end punch.

The DSG automatic works very well when the car is driven with gusto, but it’s not always so fluent when loafing around in town. The six-speed manual is crisp, low-effort and coupled to a progressive, easy-to-modulate clutch. So far, we’ve been seeing about 28 mpg overall on the trip computer—quite commendable for a sporty car. 

Handling is athletic and agile. The car corners with alacrity, displaying quick turn-in response and very little body lean. The steering is quick, linear, and well weighted, and it conveys decent feedback. But nothing is raw or over-the-top in this mature GTI. You won’t confuse it with a BMW M235i or a Ford Fiesta ST.

Sport mode alters throttle response, adds a raspier engine note, and increases steering weight just the right amount to spice up those occasions when you’re in the mood for some fun on a winding road.

The ride is certainly taut, but it doesn’t subject you to the quick, choppy body motions of such competitors as the Subaru WRX. There is decent isolation and steady, tied-down body control, allowing the car to gobble up curvy undulating roads with composure.

The GTI remains faithful to the original concept: fun to drive, practical, and affordable. But this latest edition has been updated for the times and targets a more mature clientele. In this solid, substantial, and sophisticated machine, the fun is now melded with modern electronics and creature comforts. In the next couple of months, we’ll know more about how it really stacks up against its major rivals. Rest assured, it will be an entertaining few weeks.

Gabe Shenhar  

   

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