Hot hatches traditionally do well in Europe but here in the U.S. don’t fare so well, at least if past trends are anything to go by. That’s unlikely to be the case with the latest 2011 Volkswagen GTI, which comes packing a punchy turbocharged engine, sharp handling characteristics and an optional dual clutch gearbox.
The GTI badge alone gives this car loads of street cred. Standing for Grand Tourer Injection (from Italian Gran Turismo Iniezione), it literally means a touring car with fuel injection, but today it marks Volkswagen’s hottest models currently sold in the U.S.--think of it as being the ‘AMG’ of Volkswagens.
Based on the latest MkVI Golf, the GTI features a relatively conservative design but look a little closer and you’ll definitely not mistake this for your run-of-the-mill Golf hatchback. All GTIs come with an aggressive bodykit, uprated brakes, 18-inch alloy wheels and dual exhaust tips.
Power comes from a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and peaks at 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque. What makes the GTI so much fun is that this peak torque is available from as low as 1,800 rpm and stays that way all the way up to 5,000 rpm. This translates to a 0-60 mph time of around 7 seconds and a top speed of just under 150 mph.
Transmission choices include a standard six-speed manual or a more finicky six-speed dual clutch unit. You can’t go wrong with either but we’d pick the dual clutch and it not only shifts faster but is also more fuel efficient. You can also brag that your car is running the latest in automotive drivetrain technology.
Unfortunately there’s no all-wheel drive option, which means this model is limited to front-wheel drive. We’ll have to wait until the awesome Golf R
Buyers considering the sporty Honda Civic Si or the MazdaSpeed3, or possibly even the MINI Cooper, should definitely book a test drive of the 2011 Volkswagen GTI.
Where the GTI really trumps its competition is the way in which it feels when out on the road, especially at highway speeds. The GTI has a rock-solid feel that its rivals, including the MINI Cooper, can’t match. The MINI also can’t match the GTI on performance; a similar performing turbocharged Cooper S is around $7,000 more than the Volkswagen.
For the full review, including a detailed look at comfort, quality, features, styling, performance, and safety, check out TheCarConnection’s
take on the 2011 Volkswagen GTI.