2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI S Review

The ur-hot-hatch continues to impress the hell out of us.

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August 27, 2015

2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI S Review

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.

Introduction
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.

2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI Interior The new GTI's interior takes the best parts of the Golf experience and adds a bit of unique flavor to the recipe. The result is a comfortable yet sporty-ish cockpit that still keeps the focus on simplicity and readability.

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.
2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI Exterior Dare we say it, this is the best the GTI's ever looked. Non-car-people might look at the seventh-generation GTI and remark on how similar it looks to the sixth-gen, but a discerning eye can pick up on a few key changes. The front end is more aggressive, especially with those black strakes that come off the fog lights. The rear end features slimmer taillights and a distinctive pair of tailpipes. The wheels are appropriately sized and styled for an enthusiast car, and a pair of fender badges cap off the differences between the GTI and its more pedestrian brethren. It retains all that makes the Golf good in the first place - simple styling, a spacious hatchback - and gives it a little bit of spice.
2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI On the Road Simply put, the GTI is a blast. Give the key a turn, and you're met with an ever-so-slightly louder exhaust note, which doesn't really ramp up until you give it the beans. But when you do, after a slight whiff of turbo lag (more if you're really low in the revs), you're sent off towards the horizon, riding a wave of torque that keeps up even if you're not shifting at redline. Our tester's six-speed manual is one of the best we've driven lately; the clutch has a well-defined bite point towards the end of the throw, and the gearshifts are precise while still retaining that slight German numbness we've come to expect. Throw the car into Sport (which firms up the throttle and makes the steering slightly heavier), and the accelerator's response is perfect for how the clutch and shifter react.

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.
2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI Final Thoughts Despite not really paying attention to Volkswagen's 'eco tips' that kept popping up, which included reminders to stay in a high gear and cut down on excessive idling, we managed a healthy 26 mpg average in mostly heavy city driving, with a few highway jaunts thrown in for good measure. These days, you don't need a thirsty car to have a good time; we've had some of the most fun we've had in a while behind the wheel of the 2015 GTI, and we didn't need to ask the bank for a loan for gas money.

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.
2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI Specs & Price Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4

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)

Available Features:

Lighting Package: Adaptive bi-xenon headlights

Driver Assistance Package: Parking sensors, forward collision warning

Individual Options: Six-speed DSG automatic

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