Volkswagen’s Golf GTI is the original hot hatchback, and over the past 30 years, it’s become the gold standard for affordable fun performance. Certainly there are faster performance compacts out there, and ones that are more thrilling to drive. But when it comes to a blend of everyday usability, practicality, and all-round fun, the GTI is a tough act to follow.
2016 saw the GTI receive a fairly comprehensive update for equipment and technology. Active safety tech such as lane-keeping assist, emergency autonomous braking, and automatic parking were all added to the option roster, not to mention a brand new set of infotainment systems with USB port and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. As such, 2017’s changes are minor by comparison.
Unfortunately, not all changes included added content – after a two-year run, the range-topping Performance trim has been discontinued. Beyond the 10-horsepower boost, the demise of the Performance trim means that the GTI can no longer be had with adaptive dampers and the trick electronically controlled limited-slip differential. We suspect the reason for this is the increased availability of the Golf R, the hotter, more powerful version with standard all-wheel drive.
There are a few new features included for 2017, though. All GTIs now receive a new sport digital display for the infotainment system, plus a driver fatigue alert system. The range-topping Autobahn trim also gets red-stitched seat belts, floor mats, and gear shift lever, plus black-finish mirror caps.
Powering the GTI is a 210-horsepower 2.0-litre turbocharged and direct-injected inline four. The horsepower figure doesn’t quite tell the whole story – the mill produces an impressive 258 lb-ft of torque that’s always at the ready. The GTI is front-wheel drive, and can be had with either a six-speed manual or a six-speed dual-clutch automated transmission with paddles for shifting. The engine sounds great too, burbling and popping away.
While GTIs are known for their fun demeanor and smile-inducing handling, the sporty hatchback is also known for its top-notch interior. Materials are excellent, and the GTI comes loaded with high-end touches including contrast stitched accents, illuminated sill plates, metal pedals, and fabric-lined map pockets. Sports seats are upholstered in either tartan plaid, or fine-grain leather.
Offered in three- and five-door body styles, the GTI offers excellent interior space. There’s plenty of head and legroom for passengers in front or in back, and there’s more cargo space than its closest rival, the Ford Focus ST. A flat-folding rear seat and a high roofline allow large objects to be easily carried on board.
Equipment levels for the GTI are comprehensive and include 17-inch wheels, eight-way manually adjustable seats, ambient interior lighting, dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth, heated front seats, flat-bottom steering wheel, reverse camera, USB audio input and more.
The uplevel Autobahn trim adds 18-inch wheels, automatic headlights, auto-dimming rear-view mirrors, adaptive xenon headlamps, blind-spot monitoring, navigation, eight-speaker Fender sound system, proximity key with push-button start, panoramic sunroof, LED daytime running lights, rain-sensing wipers, and more.
This vehicle has not yet been reviewed