If you’re looking for the fastest or the flashiest hot hatch, the 2012 Volkswagen GTI is likely to disappoint. It’s down on power compared to rivals from Japan, and both interior and exterior styling are sedate compared to others in the segment. On paper, it’s easy to skip over the GTI
, but that’s a lot harder to do after a test drive.
For starters, the GTI’s 200 horsepower rating is on the conservative side, and based on running 91-octane premium unleaded. The 2.0-liter turbocharged four stumbles a bit off-idle, but then pulls hard to near redline. The six-speed manual gearbox will likely be the transmission of choice for most enthusiast drivers, but Volkswagen’s DSG dual-clutch automatic actually makes the GTI quicker while improving fuel economy. Opt for the six-speed manual, and the EPA says you can expect 21 mpg city and 31 mpg highway, while the DSG returns 24 mpg city and 33 mpg highway.
Aside from adding LED daytime running lights,...