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, changing the wheels on Autobahn models and shuffling some option packages around, Volkswagen hasn’t made any significant modifications to the GTI from 2011. There’s a new Convenience and Sunroof package that adds a power sunroof, steering wheel audio controls, a touchscreen stereo interface and an in-dash CD changer, but otherwise the GTI soldiers on largely unchanged.
Inside, Volkswagen delivers good value for the money. Base models come with cloth seats (wrapped in plaid fabric as an homage to GTIs of old), but they’re comfortable and reasonably supportive, even for spirited cornering. While the GTI uses hard plastic in spots, most of the dash is a textured, soft-touch vinyl. Metallic trim around the instruments and vents adds an upscale feel, and even base models come with amenities such as Bluetooth phone integration, an iPod cable and an auxiliary in jack.
manages to retain the fun-to-drive factor that has made it a hot hatch favorite for decades. The car corners with enthusiasm, exhibiting very little body roll, and while the suspension is firm, the ride is never uncomfortable, even over broken pavement. Even when pushed hard, there’s almost no torque steer, something that can’t be said of the rival Mazdaspeed 3.
Volkswagen builds the GTI in both two-door and four-door variants, with prices beginning at $23,995 for a base two-door. Opt for a fully-loaded four-door Autobahn edition, and the sticker price will break the $32,000 barrier, which pits the Volkswagen GTI against a wide variety of competitors. If you’re in the market for a hot hatch, we say it’s worth taking the GTI for a test drive.
For complete details on the 2012 Volkswagen GTI, see our comprehensive review on The Car Connection