Christopher Little

Quick Spin: 2016 VW GTI

Life doesn’t often afford you second chances. Thankfully, Volkswagen is more forgiving. A disappointing combination of summer tires and winter weather left us feeling slighted the last time around. Under the safe assumption that we wouldn’t experience similar conditions in the summer, we resolved to try again.

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Despite both GTIs being Tornado Red S models, they are as different as can be. Our first GTI was a 5-door with DSG gearbox. This 3-door variant is equipped with a 6-speed manual and the Performance Package. The GTI’s Performance Package increases engine output by 10hp, adds a front limited-slip differential to improve traction, and fits larger, vented front brakes with GTI branded calipers for additional bite in the GTI’s brake pedal.

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We were prepared to discuss the unique appeal of the 3-door GTI, but shortly after our test drive was over, VW announced the end of 3-door production for the US. That’s probably for the better. Access to the rear seats was more difficult, which made it harder to load people and cargo. No doubt the younger audience will be disappointed, but the GTI’s practicality is enhanced with two extra doors.

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Inside, VW’s interior feels miles ahead of the Ford. The ergonomics are near perfect and the cabin materials feel a class above. The red stitching on the wheel and plaid seats add a splash of color and character to the interior. While VW’s infotainment screen is small, the display is sharp and easy to use.

While it’s difficult to discern the extra power, the limited slip front differential eliminates all but the slightest twitch of torque steer off the line and helps put the power down. The 2.0T’s power application is so linear, it almost doesn’t feel turbocharged. That helps the GTI to be predictable in all circumstances. The VW feels more grown up than its primary competitor, Ford’s Focus ST. Its design is less subtle and its dynamics are more balanced. The only detriment was a noticeably spongey clutch. It’s possible that the 10,000 miles on our tester’s clutch may not have been kind.

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The second time around, the conditions were perfect to enjoy the GTI as it was intended. It’s easy to see why this VW is so well liked. As a car, it’s well-built, efficient, and immensely practical. As a hot hatchback, it’s engaging to drive without any surprises. Perhaps that’s why the GTI remains the default benchmark for the one-car-fits-all enthusiast. Just don’t forget your winter tires.

-Christopher Little

2016 VW Golf GTI S w/ Performance Package
$26,490
Tornado Red Exterior  N/C
Titan Black Cloth  N/C
6-Speed Manual Transmission  N/C
Destination Charges $820
As Tested MSRP $27,310

Related:
A Little Extra: 2015 VW GTI
Lady in Red: 2013 VW Jetta GLI
All Smiles: 2014 VW Beetle GSR

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