Urban dwellers looking for a sporty compact hatch have a number of options, but none are as quick and agile as the Volkswagen Golf GTI. It’s a commuter for those who like to have fun on the drive to and from work. We think it fills a need for performance enthusiasts who don’t want to spend $40,000 to $50,000 on a high performance model. For around $30,000 you get a hot hatch that’s high on the fun-to-drive meter.
The Golf GTI remains unchanged for 2018 except for the packaging and available equipment for each model. It does get new LED tail lamps and a different infotainment system is available.
Features & Options
Our 2018 Golf GTI SE ($31,165 as tested) came with a leather-wrapped steering wheel, power-reclining front seats, leatherette upholstery, 17-inch alloy wheels, a moonroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, and ambient cabin lighting. Our GTI SE tester also had LED headlights, an eight-inch infotainment screen, blind spot monitor, and automatic emergency braking.
There’s plenty of soft touch materials throughout to make it comfortable, and we would describe it as distinctly European. The SE trim is especially sporty. The seats provide ample support and comfort for longer trips in the hatchback. There’s a handy bin ahead of the shifter, perfect for a cell phone.
The power-reclining front seats offer up the perfect driving position for a compact hatch. The rear seats offer plenty of room for average-sized adults and are also comfy for longer trips. There’s ample head and shoulder room too, thanks to the higher hatch roof. There’s also a convenient folding rear armrest/cupholder with a pass-through to the back. Behind the rear seats, it comes with 22.8 cubic feet of cargo space, easily accessible through the rear hatch. With the seats folded flat, it offers up a class-leading 52.7 cubic feet of space.
Engine & Fuel Mileage Specs
The front-wheel drive 2018 VW Golf GTI SE is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 220 horsepower and 258 lb-ft. of torque. It comes mated to the optional dual-clutch direct shift automatic gearbox (DSG). EPA fuel economy estimates are 24/32 city/highway and 27 combined with the automatic gearbox.
Our tester came with the dual-clutch DSG automatic and it made us forget about wanting the 6-speed manual rower. The DSG comes with steering wheel shifters for crisper gear changes simply by touching the paddles. VW’s DSG is sweet and one of the best automatics on the planet. They call it an automatic, but mechanically and internally, it works like a manual gearbox; in a practical sense, it’s a super-sharp automatic.
The GTI trim is fun to drive in the city and we could easily get around slower traffic. We chucked it around the tight corners on our commute from the mountains west of Denver where the GTI feels right at home. The GTI’s steering was responsive and the upgraded brakes made it far more capable and enjoyable in the curves. We pushed the GTI hard and it accelerates quickly when the turbo spools up to utilize every bit of the available 220 horsepower. The turbocharged 2.0-liter engine makes this hatch one of the quickest compacts in its class.
The 2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI is a fun hatch that’s also practical with plenty of utility. It absolutely dials up driver engagement, and we like the DSG automatic better than the 6-speed manual. There’s a lot to like and we would recommend it for those wanting a sporty commuter and a fun drive to and from work. Overall, the Volkswagen Golf GTI lives up to its hot hatch heritage and instills plenty of driver confidence.
Denis Flierl has invested over 25 years in the automotive industry in a variety of roles. Follow his work on Twitter: @CarReviewGuy