Vital Stats

Engine:
Turbo 2.0L I4
Power:
210 HP / 258 LB-FT
Transmission:
6-Speed Manual
0-60 Time:
6.5 Seconds (est.)
Top Speed:
130 MPH
Drivetrain:
Front-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight:
3,031 LBS
Seating:
2+3
Cargo:
52.7 CU-FT
MPG:
25 City / 34 HWY
Base Price:
$24,395
As Tested Price:
$26,915
The whine of the turbocharger. The gentle whoosh of the hatchback's hydraulic lift supports. The mechanical ratcheting and clack of the parking brake. The growling exhaust note with that occasional gurgle.

The unmistakable sounds of the modern hot hatch are just one of the genre's delightful qualities. This class of car, beloved by enthusiasts for its amplitude of sensory stimulants, low curb weights, potent engines and superior handling, traces its lineage directly back to the MkI Volkswagen GTI, which debuted at the Frankfurt Motor Show back in 1975. Upon its unveiling, the GTI was a near-instant success, spawning its own subclass of vehicle – a basic, mass-market commuter vehicle with a high performance package – as well as a plethora of new hot hatch suitors from automakers like Ford, Peugeot, Renault and Fiat.

Since that day nearly 40 years ago, the GTI has won awards, fended off rivals, undergone numerous tweaks, nips, tucks, redesigns and refreshes, but rarely lost its way. The GTI has always, first and foremost, provided its owners with an entertaining, confident driving demeanor full of those wonderful sights, smells and, of course, sounds, all for an attainable price.

We've been waiting a long time for our first crack at a US-spec model (it's been on sale over in Europe for some time now and we actually first drove an overseas-spec example over a year ago), but that day has finally arrived. Has it been worth the wait?
2015 Volkswagen GTI2015 Volkswagen GTI2015 Volkswagen GTI

Perhaps the biggest contributor to the new GTI's fun is a reduction in its curb weight.

Up and over the towering hills outside Berkeley, CA and along the dusty streets that create a patchwork of industrial complexes beside the San Francisco Bay, our bright red GTI was a crimson blur as it tore over the asphalt. Even with the air conditioning on full blast – outside, the mercury had reached 96 degrees – the little hatch flew off the line and nimbly tackled every corner with such competence and confidence that one could swear the car was physically affixed to a set of tracks. The GTI has always been a hoot to drive, but with new design and engineering tweaks for the seventh generation, the car has reached a whole new level of playfulness.

Perhaps the biggest contributor to the new GTI's fun is a reduction in its curb weight. Coming in at 3,031 pounds, the MkVII is 82 pounds lighter than its predecessor. That's particularly laudable in light of the fact that it has become larger in nearly every dimension, with the savings coming mostly through the car's new lightweight MQB modular chassis and more compact engine.

The engine, called EA888, is technically new, but remains a classic 2.0-liter turbo. With this new powerplant, the GTI is capable of producing an additional ten horsepower versus its antecedent, topping out at 210 hp at 4,500 rpm. More importantly, it comes with a whopping increase in torque: from 207 pound-feet on the MkVI up to 258 lb-ft on the new generation. Volkswagen achieved these new power figures through a number of tweaks. These notably include employing the latest cam phasing system and upping the pressure of the direct-fuel-injection system to 2,900 psi.

2015 Volkswagen GTI

It comes with a whopping increase in torque: from 207 lb-ft on the MkVI up to 258 lb-ft on the new generation.

Whether it's mated to its quick-shifting six-speed DSG dual-clutch gearbox or more engaging six-speed manual, the 2.0T gets the GTI gets up to speed in a hurry – 0-60 in about 6.5 seconds, according to VW – while being more efficient than ever. When equipped with the six-speed manual, it can achieve 25 miles per gallon in the city and 34 mpg on the highway, substantial improvements over the MkVI's 21 mpg city and 31 mpg highway. When equipped with the DSG, the fuel economy is 25 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway.

Power, though, has never been the main defining characteristic of the GTI. Sure, its moderately aggressive acceleration off the line is a good time, but where it has always shone is in its handling. With the MkVII, that continues to be the case in a very big way. The GTI's aforementioned new chassis is stiffer and lighter, with ten-percent more torsional rigidity. It has also been lowered 0.6 inches compared to the standard Golf and it employs a larger 24-millimeter anti-roll bar on the front suspension and a 20-millimeter unit in the back. But that's only part of the story here. Volkswagen has gone to great lengths to outdo itself when it comes to handling, with a number of new and improved technologies.

2015 Volkswagen GTI2015 Volkswagen GTI2015 Volkswagen GTI2015 Volkswagen GTI

The Performance Package increases the car's power output by 10 horsepower and adds bigger brakes, all for $1,495.

All 2015 GTI models come equipped with VW's latest generation of XDS, the company's electronic riff on a conventional mechanical limited-slip differential system. The technology, which works by acting on the brake of inside front wheel in corners, helps negate understeer and enhance traction. While no substitute for a mechanical LSD on the track, for the street, XDS provides the right amount of intervention in corners. Additionally, the GTI now comes with an ESC Sport function, which allows the driver to dictate the level of traction control intervention, as well as the level of stability control, in the event that experienced drivers desire more control than the VW's electronics will otherwise allow.

The GTI employs a progressive electric power steering system, which offers just the right amount of weight and is super responsive. Spacing the teeth on the rack more tightly in the center, it now has a much lower steering ratio, allowing the driver to make use of different steering rates at various speeds and in varying driving conditions. Selectable drive modes (Normal, Sport and Individual) noticeably alter this electronic steering system's heft, as well as the engine's throttle response.

Opting for the late-availability Performance Package is the icing on this delicious little cake. Included in this upgrade suite is an electronically controlled, torque-sensing mechanical limited-slip differential, VAQ, that takes the place of the brake-based XDS system mentioned earlier. Monitoring data from each wheel sensor, the car is absurdly quick to react when it senses slippage, transferring torque to the opposite wheel with more traction. The Performance Package also nominally increases the car's power output by 10 horsepower and adds bigger brakes, all for a very reasonable-sounding $1,495.

2015 Volkswagen GTI2015 Volkswagen GTI2015 Volkswagen GTI2015 Volkswagen GTI

The increase in power and the new handling technologies allow the GTI to maneuver around corners as crisply as a skier in fresh powder.

Of course, specifying the Performance Package also gives buyers the opportunity to pony up a further $800 for the latest version of Volkswagen's Dynamic Chassis Control adaptive damping system, which improves chassis dynamics by managing the suspension's rebound and compression rates through electrically adjustable dampers. The system is also acted upon by the GTI's driver-selectable system, meaning that the car's ride can also be user-tailored to fit the situation at hand.

The GTI is perfectly capable without this package, by the way, but it allows the driver to push the car a good deal harder. All in all, the combination of weight reduction, the increase in power and the new handling technologies allow the GTI to maneuver around corners as crisply as an expert skier in fresh powder, with the payoff being a back end that's about as easy to safely bring around as we've experienced in a front-drive car. Indeed, on a winding, mountain road, one gets the impression that the GTI has already begun preparing you for the next turn before the current one is even over. It's a wonderful balance between a car that is so foolproof that it feels as if it could outdrive you itself (like a Nissan GT-R) and one that cedes all control to its operator (like an SRT Viper). Volkswagen found the middle ground that kept our pleasure synapses firing, yet our mind consistently at ease, even while taking turns a thousand feet up above the bay.

2015 Volkswagen GTI2015 Volkswagen GTI2015 Volkswagen GTI

From most angles the GTI remains typically clean and understated.

Changing gears, we arrive at something assuredly less compelling to experience, but also entirely new for the GTI: Its looks. The MkVII has achieved the rare designation of being a car that is instantly recognizable yet is also very different. It's like running into an acquaintance you haven't seen since high school, their overall appearance similar to what you remember, but with welcome, conspicuous changes due to years of maturing.

The bodystyle, stance and many exterior cues on the new GTI are very similar to the previous generation. The most notable change is with its front fascia, which has angular new headlights and a slimmer grille. The car has grown in every direction but up, though its larger size is really only apparent to the keenest of observers. There are bold new 18-inch wheels, which make up our favorite part of the exterior. From most angles the GTI remains typically clean and understated, largely eschewing the bold aerodynamic visual aids often favored by its Japanese and American rivals. For some, that may be a missed opportunity, but it's pretty well par for the course for the GTI, which has always been reserved. If anything, the front end has a bit more going on in its lower extremities than before, with those contrasting black strakes making us a bit uneasy.

2015 Volkswagen GTI2015 Volkswagen GTI2015 Volkswagen GTI2015 Volkswagen GTI

Besides being delightfully retro, the plaid seats are properly comfortable and supportive.

Inside, we're happy to report that the GTI's signature "Clark" plaid seating is still offered. We don't see why you'd ever opt for it, but black leather is available, as well. Besides being delightfully retro, the plaid seats are properly comfortable and supportive, offering a nice amount of bolstering. Importantly, interior space has been improved in every dimension, with shoulder space increased by 1.2 inches in the front and 1.1 inches in the back, and elbow room has been upped 0.9 inches and 0.8 inches, respectively. Legroom in the back still isn't great, especially if the front seats are pushed rearwards a bit. Fitting five adults inside is a stretch, but it's not out of the question, particularly for shorter runs, and especially if the car in question is the five-door model.

The controls have been moved around a bit to improve ergonomics. The new cabin has been designed to be more driver-centric, with the center stack angled more dramatically toward the operator's seat. Aesthetically, the GTI's interior is sporty, with red ambient lighting, illuminated door sills, a GTI-specific instrument cluster, sporty aluminum-look pedals, a variation on the GTI's legendary dimpled golf-ball shift knob, and a flat-bottomed steering wheel. We'd stop just short of calling the cabin "luxurious" or even "premium," but it still has hints of the finer things, including a plethora of soft-touch plastics and a high level of sound dampening which contributes to a surprisingly quiet ride.

2015 Volkswagen GTI

The GTI still remains a truly affordable performance buy.

The GTI includes a new 5.8-inch touchscreen, which houses its new infotainment system. In terms of its look and feel, it's among the least-remarkable systems we've tested, employing plain graphics and a thoroughly uninspired black background. But the system does as it's asked, and it does so with minimal lag and frustration. Considering the bulk of maddeningly sophisticated systems we've tested in the recent past, we don't actually mind this sort of functional simplicity.

The GTI is truly better than ever. New technology, a new engine and new weight savings have made this hot hatch into something every auto enthusiast should try.

The car starts at $24,395, which represents an impressive $700 decrease from the MkVI (it's now assembled in Mexico, which helps trim costs). There are more options than ever with which to bloat the bottom line, but the GTI still remains a truly affordable performance buy. The fact that this car can be so much fun – and yet still be easily attainable – might be its best quality of all.

This hot hatch has changed a lot over the years, most of it for the better, but for now, the GTI continues to retain the basic formula that has kept us so enamored with its nameplate since that day it changed automotive history nearly four decades ago.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 319 Comments
      Joe Liebig
      • 6 Months Ago
      Let's take action! Email to: volktalk@vw.com Subject: Give us Navigation, Sunroof with plaid cloth, or else...! Message: [Explain why you wouldn't buy a GTI without plaid] We're the consumers, we have the power here!
        mdcwave
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Joe Liebig
        Plaid cloth is an essential part of the GTI identity no matter where it's sold, VW should not limit it to low-spec cars. In Europe there is even a plaid-leather combo, why not here too?
        thecommentator2013
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Joe Liebig
        I do not like sunroofs!
        Jnaythus
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Joe Liebig
        The Canadian VW site shows you can add the tech package to the cloth and get navigation. I think the only thing you'd give up is the sunroof. Personally I can live without a sunroof.. it's nice to have, but not a deal breaker if I don't have it.
      usa1
      • 6 Months Ago
      I distinctly remember VW promising a 100 KG (220 lb) weight reduction from the new platform. This shows only an 82 lbs reduction. Anyone know what happened?
        JulioG
        • 6 Months Ago
        @usa1
        The US spec 2-door is about 150 lbs lighter than the outgoing version, weighing 2972 lbs. Full specs: http://media.vw.com/doc/948/15012859415370d15b81c21.pdf
        JulioG
        • 6 Months Ago
        @usa1
        This article is about the 4-door. The new 2-door only weights 2976 lbs, which is about 150 lbs than the outgoing model.
        oRenj9
        • 6 Months Ago
        @usa1
        That's what happens when marketing makes claims.
        Cayman
        • 6 Months Ago
        @usa1
        Maybe the European model.
      brgtlm
      • 6 Months Ago
      This base model appears not to get the red strip that runs across the base of the HID headlights that models above it get. It is too bad we have had cost cutting from the European model: not getting the better LED tail lights or the larger 8" LCD on any of the models, even as options. 6.5 seconds is super conservative. It should easily do under 6 seconds and close to 5.5 with the DSG. Flash the software and I bet you could get it easily in the low 5's doing nothing else. I wish VW had a better array of levels and options. Only the base comes with the plaid, but no sunroof. Many people want plaid with the sunroof - no can do. Then the top of the line Autobahn version only comes in the 4DR. And the Autobahn gets the auto, dual climate control - the GTI should have that standard at least on the non-base versions. Mystifying decisions! Even so, it is on my list of cars to drive for my next vehicle along with the 228i, Mustang GT, WRX, and A3. I'd like to see the Golf R come out asap as that would price next to the 228i.
      bofdem
      • 6 Months Ago
      Spell check - it's Berkeley, not Berkley.
      razorpit
      • 6 Months Ago
      If VW does pull its collective head out of its you know what here in the States, this is the car that started the turnaround...
      Bispo Guerra
      • 6 Months Ago
      Old design ! - Profile looks like a car 90s.
        billy_sims33
        • 5 Months Ago
        @Bispo Guerra
        VWoA should have imported the Scirocco badged as the MKVII GTI and left the Golf brand for the cheaper models.
      yo
      • 6 Months Ago
      i would NEVER spend that kind of money on design that looks just like a 1979 Rabbit. VW really needs to step up their game. totally lame and boring designs
        ravenosa
        • 6 Months Ago
        @yo
        It appears Toyota and VW are in a battle for making the most boring interiors/exteriors on the road. Right now VW seems to be determined to be the winner. I haven't seen that drag and uninspired interior in a very long time as this GTI. I can't believe they still do the picnic table pattern on the seats and the flower pedal design for the wheels. Really tired tooking.
          BodyBlue
          • 6 Months Ago
          @ravenosa
          Toyota at least TRIES to make their cars look interesting now.......German wrecks look the same over and over.....buy why try when the lemming fall over the cliff one after another buying them...or should I say LEASING them.
          BodyBlue
          • 6 Months Ago
          @ravenosa
          Toyota at least TRIES to make their cars look interesting now.......German wrecks look the same over and over.....buy why try when the lemming fall over the cliff one after another buying them...or should I say LEASING them.
      Prez
      • 6 Months Ago
      Outdated styling in and out. Ugly seating. Nothing impressive aside from some updated performance. Move along.
      dohc73
      • 6 Months Ago
      I'm looking forward to driving one of these--in two-three years when, hopefully, VW has addressed whatever issues a brand new car may, and will, have. Until then, I'll be fine with the German-made '14 GTI that I just got a screaming deal on two days ago. Last one at the dealer. No frills, just a 6-speed manual, no sunroof (which I'll never use) and the base radio, which sounds a helluva lot better than I was anticipating. I am looking forward to the new GTI, but I'm more interesting driving the Performance Pack. But the VW salesman says it's almost unnecessary with the XDS. Don't care, I still want it.
        carguy1701
        • 6 Months Ago
        @dohc73
        "But the VW salesman says it's almost unnecessary with the XDS" Oh look, a salesman lying through his teeth. XDS is complete and utter ****.
          Joe Liebig
          • 6 Months Ago
          @carguy1701
          XDS isn't bad for the daily commuter, but not enough for a true performance car. This again shows the biggest VW has: incompetent dealers! They sell VWs as if they were Hondas. Terrible!
      Joey Franklin
      • 6 Months Ago
      LED tailights won't be here anytime soon, lighting package doesn't get them either. PP is available on every trim level but the DCC is only available on SE and up. cloth/plaid seats only on the S model but you can get the lighting pack and PP on the S which is what i'm doing. Hope this clears some things up
      what
      • 6 Months Ago
      "We don't see why you'd ever opt for it, but black leather is available, as well. Besides being delightfully retro, the plaid seats are properly comfortable and supportive, offering a nice amount of bolstering." You're forced to get black leather in any trim but the 'base' S. Thanks VW!
      bleexeo
      • 6 Months Ago
      Unfortunately, it looks like the Performance Package won't be available until early 2015. Bummer. That's about the same time as the Golf R gets here as well.
        billy_sims33
        • 5 Months Ago
        @bleexeo
        Considering the 2-door GTIs are late this year (maybe) and the PP is 2015, it looks like waiting for the 2016 MKVII is the only sure way of getting exactly what we want in our GTIs. Apparently VWoA is happy to bait and switch early GTI adopters with 4-door street slugs.
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