2010 Volkswagen GTI: The Greenest Hot Hatch?

2010 Volkswagen GTI

2010 Volkswagen GTI

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The front-wheel-drive Volkswagen GTI is a blast to drive. It’s fun slow, it’s fun fast. It’s a lot like a MINI Cooper in that regard, but less cute, way more practical, and many of its attributes are quite nuanced and subtle — unlike a MINI.

More on subtleties below. Fireworks come first. And you experience the latter at all times behind the wheel of the sixth-gen, five-door, $23,890 GTI, where this otherwise reserved VW lets its hair down. There’s the marvelous, clutchless manual six-speed DSG transmission that up/downshifts faster than an eyeblink, perhaps the steadiest and most imperturbable suspension in the segment, and very communicative and properly hefted steering that, thanks to a system called XDS (which brakes the inside front tire in turns) is less easily upset by throttle-induced understeer. And, as has long been the case from VW/Audi, its small four cylinder engines—here, a highly flexible and fuel-efficient in-line 2.0-liter—are some of the best engines on the planet. You can use the GTI’s 200 hp to rocket to 60mph in about 6.5 seconds but this is no high-strung doberman; you can just as happily lope and cruise your way to a fairly impressive 32 EPA highway mileage, too.

Oh, wait.

The needle just skipped off the turntable back there while I was celebrating the joys of raucously driving a “hot hatch”—think Mazdaspeed3 (18 City/25 Hwy), the MINI Cooper Clubman S (26 City/34 Hwy) and the Subaru WRX (25 City/18 Hwy)—rather than first opining on the VW’s low C/D numbers or its (relatively) tee-totaling drinking habits.

Yes, that’s counter-intuitive for this niche on the vast High Gear Network, but think about how important it is that cars that are thought of as fun first are finally also being marketed as fuel efficient. Vehicles that are sold in huge volume getting just slightly better fuel economy (say the Ford F-150) will have more impact on U.S. gasoline consumption than narrower-segment sellers like the Prius. Yep, when there are my hybrid, electric and otherwise choices the planet will be a better place, no question, but until there’s much wider distribution (and sporting spec as well as utility) for cars like the Mini E buyers shopping for fun cars need options that are at least mildly more eco.

Which brings us back, longwindedly, to why I’d argue that the GTI is a little bit green. For the utility it affords (better cargo space and headroom than the Mazda and the Mini) weighed against nearly identical cargo/passenger space of the Subaru but with far superior fuel economy to either the Subaru or Mazda it’s easily the greenest and most useful “hot hatch” you can buy. You might choose to parse the segment more broadly, to include merely “fun” hatches that would get Ford’s forthcoming Fiesta (30 City /38 Hwy) and the Honda Fit Sport (27 City/33 Hwy) into the conversation, but that’s not exactly VW’s competition for the GTI, either in price or buyer profile. Think of the GTI as an alternative model that gets a prospective buyer fantastic fun and decent mileage and maybe forces Subaru to find a way to build more economy into its cars—which for years haven’t exactly been the greenest on earth, despite the crunchy demo that buys ’em.

As for the GTI vs. the WRX? The VW is better in many ways, mostly because it can go hoodlum or uptown—or to the grocery store—and in all cases is perfectly suited to the task. Driven mildly it’s quiet on the Interstate and its suspension doesn’t jostle passengers over every bridge expansion joint. This Volkswagen is still a people’s car, meaning it’s even comfy for those people not behind the wheel.

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Comments (8)
  1. You make good points regarding the GTI's relative "Green"-ness...
    ...but since the TDI has many of the same suspension pieces, etc as the GTI - and gobs more torque - I'd be interested to know which one of those two are the more interesting drive.

  2. I too, would be MUCH more impressed with a vw gtd. VW needs to bring it over also.

  3. Me three, bring the GTD!

  4. VW did bring the GTD to the US! Have you looked at or driven a 2010 TDI Golf? Look at it! 17" Wheels, standard, lower suspension, sport tuned suspension, paddle shifters on the DSG, Sport Seats, Premium 8 Touch screen audio system!
    The TDI Golf is effectively a GTD with 30 less HP. I've driven the thing, it's awesome!

  5. The Golf GTI never seems to disappoint but VW really need to stop cost cutting at the expense of warranty replacement parts and the customers losing time from work.
    I'm on my fourth VW (1985 GTI, 1986 GTI, 1990 Corrado, and 1999 Golf GLS) and only the 1999 has been a pain. I've heard worse stories from other people with 2000 or newer cars.They really do make cars that people want to drive and most of the time they work just fine and the prices are amazing. I'm thinking about a new Scirocco but a Mazda or Subaru could easily replace it.

  6. Green? My 2009 WRX does 0-60 in 4.7 seconds. If it were as slow as the GTI, it too would be green. The GTI doesn't belong in the same class as the WRX or Speed3. And what's this nonsense about rubber buttons? I drive the WRX for performance. Who cares what it looks like on the inside? Real drivers don't. I don't understand why the GTI receives positive reviews. It's a mediocre vehicle. End of story.

  7. 4.7s, that's some quick fun, what do you do after that 4.7s?

  8. Unless you are some fast and furious tard or spend your weekends at a track, 4.7 is more speed than you will ever be able to get away with using in an everyday setting.

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