Volkswagen Golf GTI 16

2021 VW Golf GTI: A Quick Overview of This New Hot Hatch

The 2021 VW Golf GTI is a spicier version of a standard Golf hatchback. You can think of it as the Si model to the Honda Civic and you won’t be too far off. In fact, both vehicles have similar characteristics: a more powerful engine, sporty suspension, front-wheel drive, and hatchback body style. Granted the Civic Si is a great driver’s car, but it doesn’t have the lineage of the iconic Golf GTI – at least not yet.

2021 VW Golf GTI: Setting The Stage

The first Golf GTI appeared at the 1975 Frankfurt International Motor Show (IAA). Since then, VW has sold more than 2.3 million units of the Golf GTI. According to Volkswagen, this new Mk8 (or eighth-generation) is the first Golf GTI of the digital age. Now, we don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing pending a proper test drive, but the Golf GTI has a new electronic architecture. Along with this comes a new generation of hardware, software, and a plethora of gizmos controlling the convenience, performance, and safety aspects of the vehicle.

The good news is that the latest Golf GTI and Golf R are coming to America. The bad news is that VW will not bring in the standard Mk 8 Golf as we might have previously hoped. Also, the new Golf GTI will only be sold as a four-door version, which is not too big of a deal unless you’re really pining for a two-door.

VW Golf GTI. Photo: Volkswagen of America, Inc. 

Mk8 Golf GTI: Why Does It Look Familiar?

That’s because, despite the styling updates, the Mk 8 Golf GTI is similar in terms of size to the Mk 7 GTI. Volkswagen’s press release says the new GTI is lower, longer (by just a teeny bit), and sportier (due to the racier roofline) than the outgoing model.

What Else Is New With The 2021 VW Golf GTI?

We’re talking about a modern iteration of what is probably the most recognizable hot hatch on the planet. This probably explains why VW took a careful approach in redesigning a familiar shape. “Each member of our team is aware of the responsibility on their shoulders when developing a new Golf,” explained Klaus Bischoff, Head of Volkswagen Group Design and the Volkswagen brand’s Design department. “Evolving an icon like this is an enormous challenge but also the most exciting thing that can happen to you as a designer.”

Take a closer look at those front fog lamps – there are ten of them, five on each side. The familiar red stripe in the radiator grille stretches across the entire front end and merges with the front fenders. You’ll find an LED strip in the headlights that mimic the red line on the grille. “The Golf GTI also requires an evolution or even a reinvention of the very specific cues of this sports car,” Bischoff continued. “And I think that we have done a particularly good job with the new Golf GTI.”

Additional Touches Inside & Out

The new VW Golf GTI is equipped with red brake calipers, a bespoke roof spoiler, and standard 17-inch wheels (18 and 19-inch alloys are optional). Standard safety equipment includes automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, and a pedestrian and cyclist monitoring system.

The new VW Golf GTI also has twin tailpipes and chrome/red GTI badges all around. In the meantime, the interior is given a retro touch with plaid “Scalepaper” seats – a feature that came standard in the Mk1 Golf GTI released in 1976. If you prefer leather over cloth, perforated leather upholstery is optional across the board.

Modern interior touches include a multifunction steering wheel with touch-sensitive controls, standard ambient lighting with 30 configurable colors, a 10.25-inch digital cockpit, and an 8.25-inch infotainment display. Also standard are LED headlights, two USB-C ports, LED reading lights, and a single-zone automatic climate control system.  

VW Golf GTI interior layout. Photo: Volkswagen of America, Inc. 

What Engine Does The VW Golf GTI Have?

Powering the Mk 8 Golf GTI is a 2.0-liter TSI turbocharged four-banger with direct injection. The engine produces 242 horsepower and 273 lb-ft. of torque. Power is sent to the front wheels via a standard six-speed manual gearbox (hooray!) or an optional seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.

If you choose the manual, you’ll also get the iconic golf ball shifter. Performance numbers are not available at this point, but the new Golf GTI is good for a top speed of 155 mph. “The Golf GTI has always been synonymous with pure driving pleasure,” said Karsten Schebsdat, Manager, Vehicle Dynamics and Chassis Control Systems. “Few other vehicles in this category offer a similarly finely tuned balance between sportiness and comfort.”

VW Golf GTI under the hood.
VW Golf GTI under the hood. Photo: Volkswagen of America, Inc. 

Ride & Handling: The Total Package

Want to know the real reason why the VW Golf GTI has a cult following among performance enthusiasts? Here’s a hint: it doesn’t have anything to do with enormous amounts of engine power. “Considering the Golf GTI Mk7 already handled great, we aimed to further enhance the driving pleasure of the Mk8 Golf GTI with even more direct steering response and handling,” Schebsdat said.

Success came in the form of reconfigured springs, bump stops, and control arm bearings. The front suspension is seven lbs. lighter courtesy of a new aluminum subframe while the front axle spring rate increased by five percent. Out back, the rear axle spring rate was increased by 15 percent. Adaptive damping is standard on all four corners along with a progressive variable-rate steering system.

But the biggest differentiator is the VAQ electronically-controlled limited-slip front differential. It works closely with the standard Vehicle Dynamics Manager, stability control, and traction control to increase the handling dynamics, according to VW. “Thanks to the combination of new running gear plus the VAQ and the Vehicle Dynamics Manager, we were able to elevate the Golf GTI’s outstanding overall performance to an even higher level,” Schebsdat added.

Photo: Volkswagen of America, Inc. 

How Much Is The 2021 VW Golf GTI?

Pricing for the 2021 VW Golf GTI with a standard six-speed manual transmission starts at $28,695. The seven-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic with Tiptronic starts at $29,495. The destination charge for all Golf GTI models is an additional $995. This free and easy search tool* will help you see which VW dealers in your area offer the best price on a new Golf GTI.

Alvin Reyes is the Associate Editor of Automoblog. He studied civil aviation, aeronautics, and accountancy in his younger years and is still very much smitten to his former Lancer GSR and Galant SS. He also likes fried chicken, music, and herbal medicine.

2021 VW Golf GTI Gallery

Photos & Source: Volkswagen of America, Inc.

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