2003 GTI New Car Test Drive
Volkswagen Golf offers driving excellence and high levels of refinement. It's agile and responsive, making it fun to drive. Yet it's remarkably practical, and offers admirable gas mileage. Upscale trim and a high level of standard equipment make for a comfortable and sophisticated experience.
Two people can sit comfortably in the back seats. The hatchback design means you can fold the seats down and cram in an impressive amount of stuff.
Some Golfs are affordable, starting at just $15,295. Others are frugal. The TDI diesel boasts an EPA-rated 42/49 mpg. Others are quick or downright fast. The GTI is a true driver's car. The 1.8 T delivers 180 horsepower, while the VR6 boasts 200 hp.
According to Volkswagen of America, the Golf continues to be one of the safest cars in its category. The four-door Golf earned the best Federal safety rating a vehicle can receive: a dual five star frontal crash test rating for the driver and front passenger.
Volkswagen Golf comes in two-door and four-door versions. All are hatchbacks. Three trim levels are available, GL, GLS, and GTI. Four transmissions are available: 5-speed manual, 6-speed manual, 4-speed automatic, or 5-speed automatic with Porsche's Tiptronic manual override.
Volkswagen offers more engine options for its compact than other manufacturers. Four engines are available for the Golf: 115-horsepower 2.0-liter inline-4; 180-horsepower 1.8-liter turbocharged inline-4; 200-horsepower 2.8-liter VR6; 90-horsepower 1.9-liter TDI turbocharged diesel inline-4.
GL two-door ($15,295) is extremely well equipped for a small car, with standard air conditioning, cruise control, power windows, power heated mirrors, a premium sound system with CD player, and neat woven-cloth upholstery. Golf GL comes standard with the 115-horsepower engine and 5-speed manual transmission, but is available with a 4-speed automatic ($16,170). The two-door Golf GL TDI features the diesel engine and comes with a 5-speed manual ($16,720) or four-speed automatic ($17,905). The four-door version of each of these cars retails for an additional $200.
GLS ($17,520) is only available as a four-door and comes with a power sunroof, 15-inch alloy wheels, and velour upholstery with matching door trim and a center armrest. A five-speed manual transmission is standard in both the GL and GLS. A four-speed automatic costs $875 to $1185, depending on model and engine choice.
Options on GL and the GLS include the Monsoon Audio System with eight speakers ($325). Also available is the Electronic Stabilization Program ($280), a system that uses sophisticated sensors and microprocessors to stabilize the vehicle in a sudden emergency maneuver. A third option, currently offered on the GLS and available later in the model year on the GL, is the Cold Weather Package ($150) with heated front seats and heated windshield washer nozzles.
GTI is the hot-rod of the line and comes only in the two-door body style. It's comes with the 1.8 T engine and is available with the manual transmission ($18,910) or Tiptronic automatic ($19,985). It's also available with the 200-hp VR6 engine and 6-speed manual gearbox ($21,775). The Electronic Stabilization Program (ESP) is an option on the 1.8 T model and standard on the VR6. GTI 1.8 T comes standard 16-inch alloy wheels, while 17-inch alloy wheels are an option on the 1.8 T ($400) and standard on the VR6.
Options on both the GTI 1.8 T and the VR6 include the Cold Weather Package; the Leather Package ($900), which includes leather upholstery and items in the Cold Weather Package; and the Luxury Package ($1,240), consisting of a power sunroof and the Monsoon sound system. Available as an option only on the VR6 is the Technology Package ($755), which includes electronic climate control, a self-dimming rearview mirror, and rain-sensing automatic windshield wipers.