For the last roughly three-and-a-half decades, the Volkswagen GTI has been inspiring the German company's competitors to create their own sporty compact cars. Among the better known examples are the Honda Civic Si and a variety of Ford Focus variants, but more recently brands like Hyundai have gotten in on the act with the Elantra Sport and Veloster Turbo.
But the GTI remains the definitive "hot hatch," with a nicely sorted chassis, a drivetrain not shared with lesser Golf variants and styling touches like red exterior trim and optional plaid seat upholstery.
Despite all the relative newcomers looking to break into the GTI's space, Volkswagen is still recognized as one of the best when it comes to building quick, small cars. And as always, our favourite thing about the GTI is the way it combines sports car performance with everyday practicality.
For 2019, Volkswagen is offering a limited-availability Rabbit Edition trim package, of which just 900 examples will come to Canada with special Rabbit badging, black 18-inch wheels, mirror caps and rear spoiler, steerable LED headlights, dynamic chassis control, Fender audio system and, yes, those sweet plaid seats.
Other changes for 2019 include an extra 10 hp for the GTI's 2.0L turbo four-cylinder engine, which now boasts 230 horses in addition to its 258 lb-ft of torque. Transmission choices are once again a pair of six-speeds, one a traditional manual gearbox and the option a dual-clutch automatic.
Before you scoff at the idea of a sporty car with an automatic, consider that this one, dubbed DSG by VW, is notable for pulling off super-smooth shifts in a fraction of the time it takes you to shift gears in the manual version of this car. That said, if you simply like the driver engagement that a stickshift provides, the GTI's manual gearbox is one of the nicest we can think of.
Base spec includes 17-inch wheels, eight-way manually adjustable and heated front seats, ambient interior lighting, dual-zone automatic climate control, Bluetooth and a flat-bottom steering wheel.
The Rabbit adds all the features we listed above, and building on that is the Autobahn package, which gets trim-specific 18-inch wheels, bigger brakes, 12-way power driver's seat, leather upholstery all around, auto-dimming rearview mirror, navigation, passive keyless entry, panoramic sunroof, LED daytime running lights and rain-sensing wipers.
Optional in all trims is an advanced driver assistance package that adds adaptive cruise control, blind spot detection with rear traffic alert and lane assist, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, automatic high beam headlights and parking proximity sensors.
Fuel consumption estimates are 9.6/7.2 L/100 km (city/highway) with the manual transmission and 9.6/7.3 with the automatic.
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