2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI S Review
The ur-hot-hatch continues to impress the hell out of us.No Comments
Despite being larger than before, it's also lighter and quicker than the previous generation. But that only scratches at the surface of what makes this car good.
We have driven several iterations of Volkswagen's new MQB modular platform - from the lowly Golf TSI S to the fancy-and-unbelievably-quick Audi S3. But now that we've had our porridge both too hot and too cold, it's time to dive into something that feels just right - the Golf GTI. The GTI has been around almost as long as the Golf itself has, and this hot hatch has helped define a small, enthusiast-backed segment that has more competitors than ever before. Thankfully, this car's better than it's ever been.
The seventh-generation GTI brings many things to the table - five percent more horsepower, 24 percent more torque, 18 percent more fuel efficiency, and those beautiful plaid seats that, if we had our way, would be standard across the entire lineup (do yourself a favor and don't get the leather seats). Despite being larger than before, it's also lighter and quicker than the previous generation. But that only scratches at the surface of what makes this car good. Numbers on paper only tell some of the story.
Yes, yes - the seats are plaid, and they're wonderful. VW's cloth texture is next to none, and there's ample room, front and back. We need to stop ourselves here, because otherwise we'd be singing about these seats for another 1,000 words.
The rest of the interior, as we said, keeps it simple for the benefit of the driver. There are two large gauges flanking a colorized version of VW's information display. The screen adds a bit more skeuomorphism than the black-and-white version, but it's still quick and easy to switch between pages without too much distraction.
Most of the interior plastics aren't as hard as the competition, but a general lack of flamboyant styling and use of multiple materials leaves it all on the boring side of the spectrum. That's bad if you want to compare your GTI against the hyperstylized fancy rides of the 21st century, but if you care more about driving than gawking, you'll appreciate the low dashboard line and ample forward visibility. The steering wheel is wrapped in a smooth, soft leatherette, and the dimpled shift knob is equally fine to the touch.
Volkswagen's MIB infotainment system relies on a mixture of touchscreen and physical buttons, and like the center information display, it's snappy and moves between pages relatively quickly. That said, the lack of USB ports (it's being fixed in 2016 ... promise) is still a huge drawback with this car. Nobody likes buying proprietary cables.
The suspension is not adaptive, and being a sportier car, that means you're going to have a bit of a stiff ride. It was a well-supported kind of stiff, though; the car didn't feel unsettled going over rougher patches of road, but you're definitely going to feel that movement; a luxury car, this sure ain't. The steering, however, is adaptive, adding weight in Sport mode and also as the wheel moves off-center. It was plenty precise for the back-road driving we undertook, although it might be light on feeling for the more old-school drivers out there.
If you're not quite ready to give up on having fun behind the wheel, but you still need to worry about things like cargo capacity and efficiency, it's hard to top the GTI. It's fun, but it's the sensible, German brand of fun that keeps you rooted in the real world. The GTI has been a stalwart of the segment ever since it helped give birth to it, and with this all-new seventh generation, we think the GTI will continue to reign supreme for some time to come.
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Drivetrain Layout: Front-engine, front-wheel drive
Power Output: 210 horsepower / 258 lb-ft
Fuel Economy (mpg): 25 city / 34 highway
Base Price: $24,395
As Tested: $25,215 (incl. $820 destination)
Lighting Package: Adaptive bi-xenon headlights
Driver Assistance Package: Parking sensors, forward collision warning
Individual Options: Six-speed DSG automatic