2002 GTI New Car Test Drive
The Volkswagen Golf plays many roles and plays them well. It's a practical car. Two people can sit comfortably in the back seats. The hatchback design means you can fold those seats down and cram amazing loads of stuff into the cargo area.
Being in one is pleasant. The Golf is one of the most refined compacts available, exuding precision German engineering, and upscale trim and a high level of standard equipment make it comfortable.
These are also enjoyable cars to drive. All Golfs are agile, built on rigid chassis with carefully tuned suspensions. All are fitted with four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and all come standard with side-impact airbags. Some Golfs are frugal. The TDI diesel boasts an EPA-rated 42/49 mpg. Some are affordable, starting at just $15,050. And Volkswagen now offers a four-year/50,000-mile warranty.
Others are quick, downright fast. The GTI is a true driver's car, born of the German autobahn. Both GTI engines benefited from a power boost partway into the 2002 model year. The 1.8-liter turbocharged engine now boasts 180 horsepower, while the VR6 V6 jumps to 200 horsepower. Available in very limited quantities is a high-performance GTI 337 Edition.
Golf comes is available in two-door and four-door versions, or some would say three-door and five-door because of the access provided by the rear hatch.
Volkswagen offers more engine options for its compact than other manufacturers. Four engines are available for the Golf: a 90-horsepower 1.9-liter TDI turbocharged diesel inline-4; a 115-horsepower 2.0-liter inline-4; a 180-horsepower 1.8-liter turbocharged inline-4, and a 200-horsepower 2.8-liter VR6. The VR6 switched from two-valve to four-valve heads in the spring of 2002 and horsepower jumped from 174 at the start of the 2002 model year to 200 for its second half.
Four transmissions are available: 5-speed manual, 6-speed manual, 4-speed automatic, or 5-speed automatic with Porsche's Tiptronic shifting.
Retail prices start at $15,050 for the two-door Golf GL with the 115-horsepower engine and 5-speed manual. The same car with a 4-speed automatic lists for $15,925. The two-door Golf GL TDI with the 90-horsepower diesel engine is $16,345 with a 5-speed and $17,220 with the automatic.
The four-door Golf comes in either GL or GLS trim levels. GL retails for $15,250. GLS is listed for $16,600 and comes with power windows, a premium audio system, and velour upholstery (in place of cloth) with matching door trim.
The GTI only comes in the two-door body style. It's priced at $18,910 with the 180-horsepower 1.8T engine with a manual transmission, $19,985 with Tiptronic. Add the 200-hp VR6 engine and 6-speed manual gearbox and it's $21,775.
Few options are available. They include 17-inch alloy wheels ($400), a cold weather package with heated seats ($150), leather seats ($900), a luxury package ($1,240 that includes a power sunroof and Monsoon audio system, and a technology package ($755) that is available only with the VR6 engine and includes climatronic automatic heat and air conditioning, a self-dimming rearview mirror and rain-sensing windshield wipers.
The GTI 337 Edition, of which only 1,500 will be offered, is priced at $22,225. The GTI 337 is inspired by the rare 25th Anniversary edition Golf sold only in Europe. The American version comes with the 1.8-liter turbocharged engine mated to the six-speed manual transmission, special 18-inch alloy wheels, 225/40 aspect performance tires and with 16-inch brake discs with red calipers. The car also has special exterior and interior trim treatment, with racing-style Recaro Sport seats.
If you want a Cabrio, you'd better hurry because the last Cabrio for the U.S. left the factory in Puebla, Mexico, this summer (2002). After 23 years and more than 223,000 cars sold in the United States alone, Volkswagen of America is saying good-bye to the Cabrio. Cabrio models are powered by the 2.0-liter engine and have been available in GL ($19,600) with vinyl manual top, GLS ($20,600) with cloth top and power windows, and GLX ($22,300) with leather trim and a power top. It's important to note that the Cabrio is a dated product, based on the previous-generation Golf, and does not offer the levels of quality of the current, fourth-generation Golf models. Volkswagen is replacing the Cabrio with the Beetle convertible, which will be introduced early in 2003.
A new 4-year/50,000-mile warranty covers the vehicle along with a 5-year/50,000-mile powertrain warranty that can be transferred to a second owner. The new warranty plan includes 24-hour roadside assistance.