• Aug 28th 2007 at 12:43PM
  • 55
It's easy for a car maker to take one of its econoboxes, shoehorn in a more powerful engine and call it sporty. It's another thing entirely to make it enjoyable to use with minor touches like the 2007 Volkswagen GTI's leather-covered owner's manual stored out of the way on a shelf above the glove box, or the lighted door lock switches, and the little plastic flap that covers the greasy hatch mechanism (right). None of these things alone would get much attention in most car reviews, but add them up and they take a starring role in this one.

If you read John Neff's GTI 2-door review, you know all the statistical stuff about VW's new pocket rocket, but let's run through them anyway so we're all on the same page. The turbocharged 2.0 I4 engine pumps out 200 hp and 207 lbs. ft. of torque in a four-door car that weighs just over 3,100 pounds and does it getting decent mpg. Its modestly handsome good looks aren't easily distinguished from lesser vehicles, a good thing when attempting above-legal speeds on public roads. Not that we would encourage that, of course.

Continue reading Autoblog's review of Volkswagen's five-door GTI after the jump.

So let's take a good look at those good looks. To make a GTI, Volkswagen starts with a humble Rabbit, and, on the outside, adds special 17" wheels with low-profile performance rubber, a rear spoiler and a cute little dark red smile below the grille. It's a look that says German sports car more than boy-racer and, like we said, should help you fly below the local radar. Our tester wore optional 18" alloys, which nicely showed off the car's red brake calipers.

Inside our 2007 4-door tester, the Rabbit's already above-par interior got the full GTI treatment with optional leather, sport front seats, dual climate control, sunroof, in-dash DVD navigation and CD changer. Options on our very nicely-equipped VW totaled a whopping $6,060, which helped put an intimidating $29,290 price tag on the window.

Though we thoroughly enjoyed those supportive, side-bolstered seats and one of the most rocking OEM automotive stereo systems we've ever heard, if you're just shopping for a German-engineered, MazdaSpeed3 alternative, the base GTI's got ya covered. Lose the luxuries and you can bring the price back down to a more reasonable base of $22,600.

Our car, to our utter delight, had the 6-speed manual instead of the much-praised DSG automatic transmission. Running that little 4-cylinder up to redline, punching the clutch, hearing that turbo blowoff valve open and taking the shifter to the next gear was more fun than unlimited lives on Ms. Pac Man. This car, we swear, can cure baldness. No, really. After driving the GTI for a week, my hair was thicker, fuller and more manageable. I'm not sure if it's a by-product of the turbocharger or if the car somehow induced my body to make more testosterone, but I do know I'm in need of another treatment. We put it through turns and corners and twists and turns and, wow, it just kept pleasing. Highway ride is just rough enough to remind you there's a sport suspension below, but was not unbearable at all. Turbo lag, as well, was near non-existent.

Anyone hearing the initials G, T, and I together can safely assume it's in reference to a fast, fun VW. But how is it as a car? A family car. That's much tougher to pull off, and the GTI does it really well. In fact, I think I could have convinced my wife how badly our family (and my hairline) needs one, if only we'd had an automatic. The 5-door's hatch swallowed our Graco stroller with room to spare and with all the seats upright. We couldn't get the child seat installed in the preferred center position because of a stubborn head rest. The manual says it's removable, but we tried everything short of a crowbar and it didn't budge. So we stuck our child seat on the driver's side and our little one seemed quite happy back there even during some of the more, uh, spirited highway exit ramps. My wife liked the ride, interior and exterior, as well as my thicker head of hair. So, yeah, this quick little hatch could easily be Mom's baby buggy during the week and Dad's choice for Sunday's SCCA Autocross.

We did have one big surprise, though. The car's sticker boasts EPA mileage numbers of 23 city and 32 highway. Yeah, right. Those are, of course, EPA's old numbers and, under the new system changes to 21 city, 29 highway. That's pretty good in a premium-swilling, souped-up car like this, even more so when you consider the 5-speed, non-turbo Rabbit claims updated EPA numbers of only 19/28. Even with the GTI's sixth gear, we found those numbers quite doubtful. That is, until the end of the week when, after what some might call overly-aggressive (but legal, mind you) driving, we got an amazing 22 mpg combined. This car was just too much fun for us to drive like a grandma, so we think we can say with assurance that real-life numbers will be much closer to EPA estimates.

We live in the U.S. of A., not Heaven, so naturally we found some things not to like. The biggest complaint has got to be VW's choice of navigation system. Ours worked just as it was supposed to, but only by pushing a bunch of little buttons on both sides of the screen to get what we wanted. It was not very intuitive and took lots of practice to get the hang of. Just give the GTI a touch-screen system like any number of other manufacturers and things will be right.

Another annoyance was the car's Bluetooth mobile phone syncing. We never got it to work. Not once. There's a button on the steering wheel that, when pushed, should bring up a prompt on the navigation screen to set up a Bluetooth enabled phone. Didn't work. So we e-mailed our VW contact who confirmed that yes, indeed, it didn't work. At all. He said something about VW not procuring the rights to the software in U.S. vehicles or something, but they left the button on the steering wheel anyway. I suggested at least a mention of that in the manual.

One more negative was the car's electronic fuel economy estimator. We know not to trust them, and you shouldn't either. Most are rather optimistic and should never be a replacement for keeping track of the gas you pump and miles driven. One or two mpg plus or minus can be forgiven, but at one point, our car was consistently claiming 86 mpg. We have no idea how the car thought it could get away with a lie that blatant. We caught it and thoroughly punished it with a hearty blast down our favorite mountain road. Its little red smile never wavered. Neither did ours.

So yeah, Dad. You can have your cake, eat it and look and feel younger at the same time providing your family with safe, roomy transportation. And if you can swing another $6,000, you can make the Volkswagen GTI a luxurious cake with leather icing.

All Photos Copyright 2007 Chris Tutor / Weblogs, Inc.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 8 Years Ago
      I hate it when people compare the MS3 to a GTI... they aren't the same... compare the R32... even though it's more expensive, it matches up more in HP...
        • 8 Years Ago
        yeah agreed. If I was comparing a GTI to a Mazda it would be the Mazda 6. Just because of the nicer interior, size, etc. I like the M3 but it reminds me too much of a Civic. Mazda is a great brand though, all of their cars are fun to drive.

        Jared - I think your problems were because you had a 2000. 2000-2001 was a really bad time for VW quality (worse than usual) - I am on my 5th VW, and yes they have had issues but nothing as bad as the many Fords my family has owned. I compare them because VW is supposed to be Germany's base brand like Ford or Chevy here.

        My 07 GTI 2dr is a blast. But yeah, there are some rattles, some gremlins with the sound system that the dealer doesnt want to acknowledge. What else is new, we can't all own a Lexus. I got mine for $22k, a good price I think.

        • 7 Years Ago
        I like to compare the R32 to the 335i and the G37. They are all similar in size, have the same number of doors, and have the same ball-park of price, performance, and luxury.

        Though the R32 is the cheapest, has the best interior, and the most gadgets, its also by far the worst performer. I own a GTI, but I'd move up to a 335i it I was looking for a car in that segment. The R32 really needs over 280 hp if it wants to be competitive.
        • 8 Years Ago
        I'll grant you that the R32 may be a more direct comparison from a performance standpoint, but I'd say it's better compared to the STI and the Evo than it is the MS3 (though given that the R32 weighs 200lbs more than the GTI, and it STILL doesn't have as much power as the MS3, it could very well be slower than MS3 too...)

        And when put up against the STI and the Evo (cars which are much closer in price and are also AWD), much like the GTI against the similarly-priced MS3, it's also too fat, too slow, too unreliable and too poorly built to be a serious contender, unless you're more concerned with comfort and looks than you are with performance.
      • 8 Years Ago
      too expensive.
      too slow.
      too heavy.
        • 8 Years Ago
        Too heavy. 22 mpg SUCKS!

        And based on my experience with my 2000 GTI GLX, reliability will be the pits and the stealerships will be clueless.

        It's too bad. I like VW design. I love VW interiors. I just wish that 1) they were several hundred pounds lighter, 2) the mileage was better, and 3) that they were reliable.
      • 8 Years Ago
      on my trip to cape cod this weekend, i got 33mpg in my 06 2dr gti with 3 other passengers in the car, calculated with paper and pencil, so i would say that the epa estimated mileage is pretty accurate. you only see ridiculously high mpgs calculated by the dash computer if you are looking at the instantaneous mileage. its easy to get 80mpg for a second if youre in 6th gear rolling down a hill...for what its worth, the trip computer has been fairly accurate for me in my 20k miles of ownership. its never been off by more than 1 or 2 mpg.
      • 8 Years Ago
      The GTI is a fine car, yet not what it was in A1 and A2 guise. The point of the car then and now is not its speed, as it is with the MS3. The point of the car is grand touring -- fun, accessible handling, enough engine performance to put that handling to use and the ability to shame bigger, badder cars that are less well-driven.
      You could autocross the A1 and A2, but after that, the cars got much too heavy and far less wieldy. The A5 is a welcome return to the old agility I knew and loved in my '86 and it has more power than my '01 1.8T. I think it looks better in four-door than two-door. I'm thinking about a black 4-door with 6-speed and 18" wheels.
      As far as having reliability problems, I never had a problem out of either of my two GTIs. I've heard since the A4 model that the cars are crap, but the only warranty issue I had with my 01 was the window clips. Even the dreaded self-machining transmission failed to strike me with my '86.
        • 8 Years Ago

        I can't remember all the problems I had on my 2000 GTI GLX. I bought it new and sold it after 40,000 miles. Here's what I can remember off the top of my head:

        - rear struts and shock top mounts twice (and needed it again when I sold it).
        - starter motor
        - mass air flow sensor
        - thermostat
        - a/c compressor
        - spark plug wires
        - coil pack
        - rear brakes
        - turn signal stalk
        - numerous light bulbs

        The dealer never did solve the 2nd gear grind, of course. And those long heavy doors were starting to sag as well.

        I now have a 2003 Toyota 4Runner which I bought new. I've got about 61,000 miles on it. In that time, I replaced the front brakes around 50,000 miles and the rears around 55,000 miles. That is it.

        There are many things about the 4Runner that I'm not that fond of. The interior certainly isn't up to VW standards. But it works. I don't have to take it to the dealer every month, just to have them tell me 1) could not duplicate, 2) we don't have the parts, 3) we're waiting for Germany to tell us how to fix it, etc., etc.

        I like VW design, both interior and exterior. I'd live to have a small, economical hatch so I could leave my gas-pig in the driveway during the week. But VW has not improved their quality enough to make me risk it.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Ummm...VW's use diverter valves usually NOT blowoff valves...if it sounds like a blow off valve...its a BROKEN DIVERTER VALVE! of course, ignore this if VW has changed their engine management practices!
        • 8 Years Ago
        damnit you beat me to it. Owning two MKV 2.0Ts (Jetta 2.0T and GTI) I was a little disheartened to read the reference to a BOV as none of the 2.0T cars have one, and just assuming the car came with one is about as valid as assuming the dsg is just like the older tiptronic. Getting it right the first time is always helpful.

        Additionally, sans going down hill, I've never seen instant MPG climb up to 50, let alone 80+ mpg, and Never, Ever, in two years of MKV ownership and seven years of MKIV with MFDs, seen it list 80+ mpg for average fuel economy, and those two MKIVs were TDIs. I'm very curious why this particular GTI would report such outlandish mileage.

        And while we're on the topic of mileage, having completed quite a few 1500 mile trips in the Jetta, I can attest that the car has zero problems managing 31~32mpg while on the freeway. I've also averaged 25mpg over 31,000 miles of ownership, chipped, so the reported 22mpg average must have been some very aggressive (possibly not legal) in town driving.

        Those quibbles aside, it's a decent review. There isn't a car I'd rather have for $23,500 or $27,000 then my jetta and gti :P.
          • 8 Years Ago
          i almost wonder if the reviewer's car has been "messed with", as in someone installed an aftermarket blow off valve (which would explain the sound and potentially bad mileage ), screwed with the ECU programming poorly (86mpg mileage if not downhill). I've never owned a MKV VW, but VW/Audi production turbo cars always always have used diverter (sometimes called bypass) valves dating back at least until the early/mid 90's (by my own knowledge and probably before that)...
      • 8 Years Ago
      HELP! I just test-drove a GTI DSG tonight, the one thing that drove me crazy was that it was shifting just like a regular automatic, not needing any input on the paddles! I thought that there was a mode you could put it in in which you could take over the shifting, with the exception of if you redline it, it upshifts automatically. The salesman, however, told me there isn't such a mode! Is that right? I gotta decide fast on whether to buy this.
        • 8 Years Ago
        your salesman was an idiot. When the lever is in "D," push it to the right and you'll go into manual mode - you can either use the shifter itself or the paddles behind the wheel.

        there is also "S" mode (which I've never tried) which remaps the shift points so that they're much closer to redline.

        there's also "launch control" which lets the engine rev to 3k RPM before dumping the clutch - not recommended during break in period, but it lets more people get fast launches more often.

        go to the forums at vwvortex.com if you want more info than you'd ever know how to ask for about the GTI
        • 8 Years Ago
        Thanks Aliasfox!
      • 8 Years Ago
      Just a note, you can get the Bluetooth button working with about $300 of aftermarket stuff and an afternoon:


      • 8 Years Ago
      "So, yeah, this quick little hatch could easily be Mom's baby buggy during the week and Dad's choice for Sunday's SCCA Autocross."

      the gti isnt anyone's choice for autox, the car does not do well dancing around cones, it just weighs way too much for a fwd
      • 8 Years Ago
      I have an 07 4door GTI w/ the Votex kit, 18" wheels, rear torso airbags, and 6MT. I come from a Subaru background and it has been a very welcome change. The 6MT is silky smooth, the 2.0T is exceptional at all speeds, the suspension is competent (though, my MINI Cooper S will easily thump it on an autox course), and the interior is incredible. It fits 4 adults very comfortably. Basically, everywhere the Impreza failed miserably, the GTI excels. Sure it isn't as fast in a straight line, but the handling is on par w/ a stock WRX and the brakes are better.

      Did I mention that the over the last 2,200 miles, I've AVERAGED 31mpg? There isn't a better daily driver for the money. The MINI is more fun to drive, but the GTI is a better car to own on a daily basis.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Hopefully the new ones are built better, My buddy had a 2003 GTI loaded, he had more issues with that car then i had with the camry i used to drive which had 236,000 miles on it at the time... The GTI he sold with 36,000 miles on it... most were test drive miles from the mechanics at VW. if any one is interested in the list of repairs let me know i can add them in 2 notes, as i think there is a 1000 letter limit per ticket... Not to mention you could get a nicer, faster car for the money, stage 1 gti only does 0-60 in 6.2sec, opposed to the wrx stock which does it sub 6.... but for the price of the stage 1 you can get an sti which will do it sub 5, and you can still drive it in the snow...
      • 8 Years Ago
      Were you taking pictures of this fine automobile in the parking lot of "Zumba" in Royal Oak this morning around 7am? If so, I spotted you as you were setting up your tripod...excellent lighting this morning for pictures!
      • 8 Years Ago
      A coworker has one of these. He's had it for some time.

      The transmission is wonderful. It's as close to perfect as any tranny could come.

      And the car is good as day-to-day car, it's semi-luxurious, and he got it for a lot less than an A3 (which he started looking at).

      But despite being sport, it falls flat if you really try to wind it out. It just doesn't have enough grip for acceleration. If you turn the wheel more than a few degrees and drop the pedal, it starts to hop the inside wheel. It might not be a problem on the track where you are in high gears and high speeds a lot, but on the street where you're zooming around corners and such, it's kind of a killjoy.
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