Expert Reviews

2024 Volkswagen Golf GTI Review

8.2
10
AutoTrader SCORE
This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car
  • STYLING
    8/10
  • Safety
    8/10
  • PRACTICALITY
    8/10
  • USER-FRIENDLINESS
    7/10
  • FEATURES
    8/10
  • POWER
    9/10
  • COMFORT
    7/10
  • DRIVING FEEL
    10/10
  • FUEL ECONOMY
    8/10
  • VALUE
    9/10

Alas, road trips will never be the same.

The 2024 Volkswagen Golf GTI marks the end of the line for the manual transmission in this perennial favourite after nearly 50 years. This essential piece of the celebrated hatchback will be missed by a small but excessively vocal minority of driving enthusiasts – especially those of a specific vintage.

But all things must end. So, tease your hair high, grab your Van Halen cassette tape, and join us as we review – and bid adieu – to this cult favourite.

Fuel Economy: 8/10

The Golf GTI is more joy-toy than friend of the environment. But never underestimate the power of rationalization. Its fuel economy numbers – officially 10.1 L/100 km in the city, 7.0 on the highway, and 8.7 combined – aren’t that bad.

With its optional seven-speed automatic transmission, the GTI renders slightly better numbers. But driving with the manual gearbox is so much more satisfying. It’s like the difference between gum and sugarless gum.

Power: 9/10

The Golf GTI features a responsive turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder under the command of that six-speed manual transmission. Its curb weight is 1,441 kg (3,177 lb) soaking wet, while output peaks at 241 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque, so it offers plenty of pep.

User-Friendliness: 7/10

First of all, there’s no place to play your Eagles Greatest Hits on 8-track. How’s that for user-unfriendly? Additionally, a low-to-the-ground hatchback like this can be frustratingly blind when stuck behind almost anything but an e-bike.

Practicality 8/10

Considering it’s such a small hatchback, this Volkswagen is surprisingly utilitarian. Don’t go opening a weekend mover’s business, mind you, but with 564 L behind the back seats, you could transport a lot of equipment – or groceries – and a handful of humans. On the other hand, measuring out at a length of just 4,287 mm (168.8 in) and a width of 2,073 mm (81.6 in) from mirror to mirror, it’s fun-sized enough to squeeze through many obstructions in city traffic.

Beware if you order the cloth interior package with the classic tartan pattern like you’d find on a Scottish shortbread tin. Sure, it’s charmingly nostalgic; and there’s no charge to choose it in this top Performance trim instead of leather. But your first coffee in the car threatens to spoil the effect permanently.

Driving Feel: 10/10

Forgive the gushing below. If you live somewhere with lots of hills and turns, add another half a point to the score above and don’t put out the for-sale sign on your lawn for a few more years. Offer to drive the kids to piano lessons and soccer practice – even visit the office more than your compulsory post-pandemic once-a-week.

The excitable engine leaps to attention like a Jack Russell who just drank espresso. The shifting is satisfyingly chunky but easy to move between. You enjoy plenty of feedback from the road. Ventilated brakes allow for pinpoint-accurate stopping.

The GTI dances across the tarmac on 19-inch wheels. It handles angles and curves so well – imagine a protractor on wheels – you might start circling roundabouts a couple of times before exiting, just for kicks.

Comfort: 7/10

Spoiler alert: nobody buys a GTI to live in it. Comfort is not a word that springs to mind, even among those desperately rationalizing excuses to purchase this last of a dying breed. Otherwise, the seats are heated and ventilated in this top trim, while the rear ones are heated and so is the steering wheel. There’s also tri-zone climate control.

Now, sit up straight, put it in sport mode, and pay attention to the ride.

Styling: 8.5/10

Sure, the GTI has evolved from its early days, but who hasn’t packed on a few pounds? It retains its fun soul and sleek, unadorned design.

This tester’s optional red paint ($495) shines like wet lipstick. Within its contrasting black rooftop space sits a power sunroof, which shows off the interior to its minimalist best.

We’ve already impugned the cloth seats for their impracticality, but let’s pause and acknowledge their cuteness. And while we’re there, let’s note those brushed steel pedals and enjoy the customizable 30-colour lighting.

Features: 8/10

The tactile leather-wrapped steering wheel makes you want to grip wholly and hard when not shifting gears. The eight-speaker stereo provides decent acoustics, and there’s subscription-based satellite radio and built-in navigation. Not that you’ll mind getting lost on quiet country roads.

There’s also wireless mobile phone charging and fast-charging USB-C ports, plus a 10-inch touchscreen and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Safety: 8/10

Plenty of advanced safety goodies here, like adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keep assist, and automatic high-beam control. The top trim also includes a head-up display and front and rear parking sensors.

Value: 9/10

The Volkswagen Golf GTI made its reputation on cheap thrills. Starting at $36,745 before tax but including a non-negotiable $1,950 freight fee, it doesn’t feel cheap anymore to this old cheapskate. From there, the Autobahn trim rings in at $38,845, while the Performance is priced at $42,945 before options and extras. That includes the automatic transmission that’s offered for $700 or $1,400 more, depending on trim. (It’s standard on the cheapest version.)

The Verdict

It’s heartbreaking to say goodbye to the stick shift offered in the 2024 Volkswagen Golf GTI. And if all of the above seems a bit too much like an aging Gen X’er yelling “Get off my lawn,” I apologize. But while you’re moving off the grass, “don’t touch my car.”

 

 

 

Competitors
Specifications
Engine Displacement 2.0L
Engine Cylinders Turbo I4
Peak Horsepower 241 hp @ 5,000-6,500 rpm
Peak Torque 273 lb-ft @ 1,750-4,300 rpm
Fuel Economy 10.1 / 7.0 / 8.7 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb
Cargo Space 564 / 977 L seats up/down
Model Tested 2024 Volkswagen Golf GTI Performance
Base Price $40,995
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,950
Price as Tested $43,540
Optional Equipment
$495 — Kings Red Metallic paint w/black roof, $495; Cloth Seats package, $0