2010 VW GTI: fast and fuel efficient!

A hot new hatchback is now available in the U.S. market with the arrival of the 2010 GTI from Volkswagen. This is the six generation GTI which was previously known as the Golf. Numerous changes and upgrades have been made to the new 2010 version from VW. I test drove the sporty 2-door version ($23,290) and there also is a four-door model available.

Starting under the hood, the GTI is powered by the familiar and reliable 2.0-liter direct-injection turbocharged four-cylinder engine which is the same engine used in the Audi A4. The new 2010 Volkswagen GTI boasts 200 horsepower and has an impressive amount of torque. With a torque plateau of 207 pound-feet from just 1,800 rpm, the 2.0-liter four pulls strongly throughout its operating range.

The new GTI is comes with the standard slick-shifting six-speed manual or the optional twin-clutch DSG transmission ($1,100) that I tested that acts either as a fully automatic system for urban commuting or as a lightning-fast sequential shifter triggered manually by paddles flanking the steering wheel for those that like to drive and want to get the most out of this car. With the DSG box, the GTI hits 60 mph in 6.7 seconds a tenth of a second faster than with the manual transmission. Its even more fuel-efficient with a rating of 24/32 mpg (city/highway) compared to 21/31 for the manual.

The GTI is just a flat out fun car to drive. VWs engineers came up with a clever suspension geometry that utilizes a limited-slip differential mechanism called XDS, which uses ABS mechanisms to detect slip, and stops that wheel from slipping. They also gave the suspension stiffer springs and a 2mm thicker rear sway bar. The overall result is noticeable in that torque steer is pretty much absent and its handling feels much like an all-wheel-drive vehicle rather than a torqie front-driver.

Acceleration from a stop is impressive, and its amazing how quickly it does accelerate considering 200hp is a pretty modest output by modern standards. Like any VW, the car is at home on anything that resembles an Autobahn, feeling extremely stable at high speed and making 80 mph feel like 50.

There have been many improvements made to the interior of the GTI. The test vehicle I drove for the week had the optional Autobahn package ($2,795) which included partial leather interior, power sunroof, and front sport seats. I found the overall environment to be much richer than expected for a vehicle in this price range. The fit and finish and quality of materials is excellent. A new flat-bottomed three-spoke steering wheel is the focus for the driver, and it's backed up by a clear and tidy instrument cluster. A new dash top, new control layouts, and a two-part center console complete the interior improvements.

VW has kept the sporty GTI wheels with their circular perforations and the high performance 225/45R17 tires. Other options include a four-door version, a Tech package with Bluetooth ($199) and Dynaudio stereo , and an Autobahn package with leather, a sunroof, and special sport seats. A navigation system, xenon headlamps, rear-seat side airbags (for the four-door), and the sunroof will also be offered as stand-alone options.

VW has made advances in improving the sound dynamics in the GTI. Among the measures adopted were the installation of an acoustically damped windscreen and thicker side windows, improved insulation of the engine compartment and interior, a new door sealing concept, and the use of acoustically optimized outside mirrors. With all the improvements made in sound deadening, the noise of the engine is so muffled that VW added a new air intake resonator, which produces a sound like an aftermarket cold air intake. When you push on the throttle, you hear a deep throaty sound, even at high gears and at low rpm.

Those who have enjoyed the past several generations of the GTI will love the 2010 model. It looks better, rides nicer, is quieter, handles better, and has a more premium interior. The GTI can be a perfectly respectable every day driver for pretty much anyone. And to prove it, unlike the competition, VW offers the car with that DSG automatic transmission.

With a competitive starting price and base models that come very well equipped, what might be the most surprising aspect of the 2010 GTI is that it offers value; and that is not what German cars are usually known for.

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