• May 26, 2010
2010 Volkswagen GTI – click above for high-res image gallery

In 1983, Run-DMC was fresh (which meant dope), Volvo 760 Turbos weighed 3,300 pounds and the 2,200-pound Volkswagen GTI made its U.S. debut. In 2010, the Rabbit-turned-Golf entered its sixth generation and attempted to draw a clear line to the first-generation car. The historical link has been made especially clear in the 2010 Volkswagen GTI, though it's gone through the typical changes you face when you hit your 30s. The GTI is now 1,000 pounds porkier, but it's still as slick as a greased pig when it comes to handling.

Inside, there's plaid seat upholstery and higher-quality materials. Just like it was back in '83, the underhood motivation is only available from a four-cylinder, a change from recent generations that could be stuffed with Volkswagen's VR6. At a glance, the 2010 model promises to be more visceral than its direct predecessors, but does it come anywhere near the primal magic of the original, or is it just playing dress-up? Click through to the jump to find out.



Photos by John Neff / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.



By the time the GTI came Stateside, with its square headlamps and NHTSA-approved bumpers, the sharply-creased hatchback was no longer in the business of breaking any new stylistic ground. That much holds true for the 2010 Volkswagen GTI as well. It's handsome and smoothly styled with the instantly-recognizable profile of a Volkswagen two-box.

In truth, this latest generation of GTI doesn't appear hugely different than its predecessor. The front and rear light clusters are revised, with less startled-looking headlamps and more horizontal taillights. The front fascia and grille are also redone on a more horizontal theme and red stripes at the top and bottom of the new grille are a touch deftly lifted from 1983. While evolutionary, changes wrought between MkV and MkVI are successful in smoothing and modernizing the GTI.

Inside, it's more of the same updated-retro theme. The standard seats fitted to our tester arrived finished in Interlagos Plaid upholstery. Tartan fabric still carries echoes of the 1970s and is as polarizing as the Bacon Explosion. Some love it, but if you don't, VW offers upgraded sport seats with partial leather upholstery as part of the $2,185 Autobahn package, which also adds a power sunroof.

Very few people will complain about front seat space in the GTI, though anyone who has to climb into the back might gripe about the hike. In two-door form, that means climbing in and over the sill, so carpoolers or family users would do best to choose the five-door version, although it costs around $600 more. Once gluteals are planted on the cushion in the second row, passengers will find it relatively comfy back there, but claustrophobes will definitely want the extra doors. The 15.3 cubic feet of cargo space is useful and accessible thanks to the GTI's classic hatch profile; this a well-rounded little hellraiser that can haul both people and cargo at ascot-flipping speeds.

Build quality both inside and out is typical Volkswagen – meticulous. The materials inside feel like what you'd find in a car costing $40,000 versus the $24,414 entry fee on our test car. The design is clean and uncluttered, with a center stack that puts an emphasis on symmetry. There are twin HVAC outlets at the top, with the touchscreen for the audio system just below. The switchgear feels high-quality and without slop, and the chunky, flat-bottomed steering wheel is wrapped in leather, carries redundant controls and feels purposeful underhand. Simple, clear analog gauges keep drivers informed at a glance.

The center stack's ergonomics are first rate: there are three simple knobs for the HVAC, and the control relationships are just right. Even if you don't opt for the navigation system and its attendant Dynaudio-sourced stereo upgrade, there's still a big 'ol touchscreen for the audio controls. For our money, the standard system sounds darn good already, and nav might be anathema to the GTI's mission, anyway, especially as it drives nicely enough that you won't mind getting lost. Since it starts as an Everyman errand-runner, the GTI doesn't earn many demerits in terms of visibility, or even cupholders and cubbyholes. Despite being easily goaded into rowdiness, the GTI knows how to hold your large coffee during the morning commute, too. For a starting point under $25,000, the GTI is comprehensively equipped and materials and fit-and-finish are significantly better than vehicles like the MazdaSpeed3 and Subaru WRX.

Niceties aside, how's it go? That is, after all, the point of a GTI. Though this VW kicks it with 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque sent through the front wheels from its 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, it's not a torque-steering monster. Available power is well down vis-à-vis the frothier 'Speed3 and WRX, though the resultant 6.8 seconds it takes to get to 60 mph isn't exactly leisurely. Taken as a whole, the GTI outclasses most comers: It's plenty quick, and with the new XDS differential that gets subtle brake application into the action, you can get yourself out of corners with more speed and less understeer.

The standard GTI without the optional adaptive suspension is tossable and supple, feeling like Volkswagen sent this car off to a weekend handling seminar at BMW. Since we didn't have the opportunity to sample the different modes of the upgraded package, we can't comment on any improvement that setup brings, but the standard car is plenty satisfying to wring out. Planting your right foot brings a snarl and a tug from the engine bay, and the chunky wheel rim lets you in on what the tires have to say.

While the modern way to play racecar driver is to get the dual-clutch DSG and its attendant wheel-mounted shift paddles, the standard six-speed manual gearbox is no downgrade. Action is solid and slick, and pedals allow heel/toe shifting without double-jointed ankles. Despite being a relatively small powerplant with a turbocharger, lag isn't so much an issue with peak torque available from 1,800 rpm. The way the GTI launches with aplomb, only mildly afflicted with wheelspin, may be due to some initial softness until the turbo comes up to full wail, but that works to your advantage.

Of course, nobody would turn down a GTI with thirty or forty more horsepower, and given the chassis' good manners in town and poise on curvy roads and highway strafing runs, the platform is certainly up to the job. All-out horsepower or even superior track numbers aren't everything, though, as driving the GTI shows time and time again. It's a polished package that may sprint a little less fleetly than its peers, but the VW's popularity with aftermarket tuners should quickly remedy any output deficiency for less than the price of those leather seats, anyway.

A stomp of the middle pedal brings easily modulated rapid deceleration. This car's reflexes are the stuff of hot-hatch daydreams, and while 3,000 pounds isn't featherweight anymore, neither is it as portly as most mainstream cars. The GTI feels nimble because of this, and while older VR6-equipped GTIs may have been more rapid, the six-cylinder certainly exacted a weight and handling penalty. The other demerit to the bigger engine was thirst, and the 2010 GTI provides relatively cheap thrills with fuel economy of 21 mpg city, 31 mpg highway. We're happy to see that the old first-generation frisky/frugal dichotomy has once again found its mojo.

Since its inception, the Volkswagen GTI has never been the least expensive car in its class. The iconic first-generation has proven to be a tough act to follow, though, and enthusiasts have rightfully worried that with each successive generation, Volkswagen was losing its way a little more. The 2010 GTI restores our faith that the GTI can still do the things that made the original one of the all-time enthusiast greats.



The competence and sheen of careful assembly might prod you into an excitedly Ron Popiel-esque "Now how much would you pay?" The answer to that boomingly voiced question would be a surprisingly reasonable twenty-five large. Just like the Jetta TDI is five grand cheaper than you'd think, the 2010 Volkswagen GTI strikes us as a bargain for the refinement and performance it offers.



Photos by John Neff / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.



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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 94 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      VW = chick car
        • 4 Years Ago
        Sounds like someone is a little insecure about their manhood...
      • 4 Years Ago
      The GTI has always been the best looking hatch back, period. I don't know if it has been as reliable as the Japanese Cars, but who gives a crap. If Your into performance, fit and finish, quality interior, seats that are miles ahead better than any Toyota Mazda or Subaru, a galvanized solid chassis and performance that puts a smile on your face every time you mash that pedal and crank that awesome steering wheel, then this is the car for you. If you want the car Toyota, Subaru, Mazda, continually purchase only to tear the MK6 to pieces to aid in their design in structural rigidity, welds and construction techniques, Interior finishing, Then you will have to settle for a car that might be GTI like but not even close.

      It's hilarious, nobody has ripped the 911(as much) for its incredible engineering, but countless automakers have tried to carbon copy the original hot hatch, from VW
        • 4 Years Ago
        Your a moron, nothing less....
        • 4 Years Ago
        Like to repeat your ridiculous posts much?
      • 4 Years Ago
      I test drove the civic si and the mazdaspeed 3 and coming from all japanese cars i really loved both. But after test driving the gti and amazed about the comfortability and the refinement it brought me over to the "dark" side haha. I really love my car, its beautiful and everything just fits and it WILL make you smile. Although i will miss my lexus sc300 5spd and the rwd i think its a major upgrade hah This is coming from someone that hated german cars, you never know how something is unless you try it and i definitely scored a big one :)
      • 4 Years Ago
      Hey people, $500 for an ECU flash and you have practically the same power as the MS3. And still no torque steer.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I'll trade you the plaid seats for decent reliability and honest dealers. VW makes some cool cars, but I ain't buying one. I don't need the aggravation.

      Also, once you've driven nicer rwd its hard to enjoy the fwd cars quite as much. The feel just isn't there.

      Nice car still, and the hatch gives is some practicality others lack. Decent value if you lay off the options. Otherwise, go buy a privately sold used BMW 3 series or perhaps an Audi quattro with the $30K.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I still wish it lost a few pounds, but it's still a hell of a car. I dare anyone to find a car that is as refined and fun to drive for the money. Hopefully the reliability is better these days or you might develop a pretty close relationship with your mechanic like I did, but hey, it's totally worth it when you're on the road.



        • 4 Years Ago
        I have an MKV and even it is a fantastic car. The updates to the 2010 model must make it just that much better.
      • 4 Years Ago
      wish you didn't have to get leather to get the sunroof.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I'm not sure you actually have to. I think you can get a moonroof separate from the Autobahn package (though whether you can find one like that in stock or not, I'm not sure).
        You shouldn't have to give up the plaid if you don't want to, since it's such a unique feature.
        • 4 Years Ago
        you don't. My MKVI has cloth seats and sunroof (plus Dynaudio with no Nav)
        • 4 Years Ago
        You can get the sunroof as a seperate option, which is what I did. Didn't want the leather, did want sunroof and nav. Ended up having to order it. Took delivery over the weekend - so far I'm in love.

        And I'll probably still be in love with it when shit starts breaking. =)
        • 4 Years Ago
        wish you didn't have to get the sunroof to get the leather ;)
      • 4 Years Ago
      I love those rims, to the point i get upset when i see other rabbits without them, are they an option? or just a choice?
        • 4 Years Ago
        Ha, its funny that you say that, because the wheels are the only thing I don't like about this car :P They just **look** heavy. I think the MK IV wheel choices were 10X better.
        • 4 Years Ago
        the best wheels for this body are those which came on the MkV R32, someone with a new MkVI put 'em on and they look fantastic
        • 4 Years Ago
        sk:
        I should've been more specific. The last time I looked, there was the choice for an 18" version of the same wheels, plus one other 18" set that was OK, but not worth an extra $1500. I was hoping for an alternate 17" set that looks more like a rally wheels, something with 15 thin spokes or so.
        • 4 Years Ago
        nothing from VW in this area beats the last year of the Gen IV GLI. head and shoulders above everything else. the look, the ride, the BBS wheels. it had it going on
        • 4 Years Ago
        @ Zamafir

        Completely agree with you on the wheels.

        Also, almost anything BBS looks great on the GTI/R32.
      • 4 Years Ago
      well . . when a golf can go 200k miles on reg maint. and high abuse, i'll get one, until then japanese cars will still be tops , sorry VW fan boys . .
        • 4 Years Ago
        You mean like my 1987 Golf GT which lasted 624,000 miles?
        Or my current 320,000 mile 1997 Jetta?
        Or my old 250,000 mile 1975 Scirocco?

        You're obviously a young-un. Get some more practical automobile ownership experience and do a little less reading of the automotive mags.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Both the WRX and the Speed are faster and neither is as nice a car. The thing is, people in this segment want speed. What I can't fathom is that they can't get another 50hp out of this as a dealer upgrade for $500 and keep the warranty. Just seems like a winwin.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @NightFlight, if it's outright power you want, then buy another. I certainly don't feel 'cheated' in the least - I knew what I was buying and it's the package rather than the torque steer I was after. Most I speak to owning GTI's feel they've enough power and like the package... really that simple.
        • 4 Years Ago
        can't fathom? is that because you already can with statis? or are you some kinda plant speaking rhetorically and hoping someone mentions it?
        • 4 Years Ago
        Yeah, I agree but why should you have to pay an extra $800+ on top of what you've already paid for your vehicle just to get it to be nearly as fast as the competition?

        I don't agree with that.
      • 4 Years Ago
      is there any real purpose to this vehicle besides ricing it out? I mean, the first poster said it all.
      Eric
      • 4 Years Ago
      I've owned a 07' Civic SI and have test driven GTI's plenty of times. GTI's have neat little tidy interiors and all but nothing head and shoulders better than the Mazdaspeed3. After taking an MS3 for a test drive I realized just how agonizingly slow the GTI really was in comparison. I decided the MS3 had by far the better overall package after test driving it back to back with the GTI. It's so much quicker than the GTI it's ridiculous plus a simple air intake yields like 20whp right off the bat!

      The so called "Torque steer" some journalist love to whine about is grossly over exaggerated, this is for sure! The steering wheel DOESN'T get jerked out of your arms when accelerating unless maybe you're an extremely feeble individual. The proper way to drive is to keep both hands on the wheel between shifts, when you do this "torque steer" isn't at all an issue with the MS3. The people saying there’s massive “torque steer” most be taking their hands off the wheel and flooring the throttle.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @Eric
        My brother owns a MazdaSpeed3. We both agree that if you could take the engine and suspension from his car and mate it with the interior, DSG transmission and fit/finish quality of the VW you would have one incredible car.

        They both have their pro's and con's
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